For Immediate Release: Friday 1 March 2019
On 28 February 2019 the Mthatha High Court granted a final interdict against ex-Headwoman Nosizwe Maxhwele and four members of her previous traditional council as well as a contractor working on her instructions. They have interdicted them from destroying the properties and unlawfully evicting six residents of Bhongweni Location, Phase 1 of the Zimbane Administrative Area in Mthatha.
The ex-headwoman and her previous council members were also interdicted from threatening and intimidating the applicants and preventing them from accessing their properties and have been ordered to restore undisturbed possession to the applicants’ properties.
The applicants were represented by the Legal Resources Centre – Makhanda.
Ms Maxhwele, who has since been removed as headwoman, and her committee members have embarked on a process of forcefully evicting people from the land in Bhongweni Location in order to sell the property to developers. The land forms part of Erf 912 which belongs to the King Sabata-Dalindyebo Local Municipality and is the subject of a land claim in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act.
In March 2018 the headwoman and her committee informed the applicants that they had to vacate their properties as the plots belong to the chiefdom and had been sold. They were advised that their properties would be destroyed to allow for a contractor to start building on the properties. It is believed that, as with other plots in Bhongweni, the land will be used to build flats that are then rented to students.
The contractor, Mr Sisa Manyadu, proceeded to destroy the fence around one of the properties and erect a wall.
On 18 July 2018 the contractor destroyed the house of one of the residents which resulted in their effective eviction from their home. He continued to build a wall around the property of the first applicant, and barricaded the property to prevent the applicants from entering the property.
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Occupation of Land Act prevent the eviction of any person from property without a court order. It is common cause that the headwoman and her committee members never obtained a court order. In terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act no person may sell, exchange, donate, or develop land that is the subject of a land claim without the written consent of the Chief Land Claims Commissioner. The applicants also hold informal rights in the land under the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, 31 of 1996 which aims to protect informal land rights holders in the former homelands.
The application was opposed by Ms Maxhwele and her council members and the contractor. Plasket J found that the respondents’ denial of the allegations against them were “woefully inadequate” and did not establish a genuine dispute of fact. He was therefore inclined to accept the facts of the events as alleged by the applicants and grant the final interdict. The respondents were also ordered to pay the cost of the application.
This is an important case in light the abuses suffered by informal land rights holders at the hands of traditional leaders. The community of Bhongweni, and in particular the applicants, had their homes and their informal land rights threatened by the unlawful actions of the respondents. They were effectively dispossessed of their rights in the land without any compensation and by people who themselves had no legal authority over the land.
Ms Nomakhwezi Mthizana-Base, the first applicant, was ecstatic about the outcome of the case: “We are very happy that after so much humiliation that we had to suffer at the hands of the respondents, the court finally came to our assistance. We hope the case will show other traditional leaders, developers and contractors that they cannot simply evict people from Bhongweni without consequences. There are so many of these unlawful evictions happening in Bhongweni. People are losing their homes because of the greed of others who make money from building flats on the land from which they tried to evict us. They specifically target women-headed households or widows who struggle to defend themselves.
We would like to thank the LRC, Makhanda for helping us to make sure justice is served.”
Despite being joined to the proceedings, the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality did not participate in the case.
NOTE: For more information please contact:
- Cameron McConnachie (LRC attorney): 083 387 8738
- Cecile Van Schalkwyk (LRC attorney) – email@example.com
The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.