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‘Illegal’ residents evicted

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“The eviction notices stated that we have only seven days to move off the land. How can we be served with eviction notices when we have been notified that we own the land?”

EIGHT Jacksonville residents have seven days to vacate the plots they are staying on after being informed that they are not the rightful owners of the land.

The eight residents said yesterday that they were told that they are illegally occupying plots that were allocated to other people who had previously stayed on the land.

They were issued with eviction notices on Wednesday.

According to one of the evicted residents, Ntshidi Lekgari, she has a letter stating that she is the rightful owner of the land and she pointed out that her shanty has even been connected with electricity.

“I have been staying in Jacksonville for many years. I now hear that I have to move and that I am not the owner of the land I am staying on. This is very unfair as there are so many people who never used to stay in Jacksonville who are now suddenly moving to the area. There is a lady who moved in right in front of my shanty about four months back. That woman literally moved onto my doorstep after she cut my fence and erected her shanty. She does not have electricity whereas I have got electricity as well as papers showing that I am the owner of the land,” said Lekgari.

She added that it is painful that she is now seen as the “intruder”.

“The eviction notices stated that we have only seven days to move off the land. How can we be served with eviction notices when we have been notified that we own the land?” she asked.

Some residents in the area said that many people from different areas were “opportunistic” and were moving to Jacksonville to benefit from the services.

“People see that we are getting services now. The municipality is currently busy laying the sewerage pipes. Many can see that we will soon be getting services and we already have electricity. There are those who want to be forcefully included in that process,” said one Jacksonville resident.

“We have been staying here for many years and have been fighting the municipality to let us stay on this land. Our fight to remain on the land did not go smoothly and the matter even ended up in the Northern Cape High Court. The court luckily ruled in our favour and we were allowed to remain on the land. Where were those people when we were fighting for basic services and going to court? We now have an overflow of about 40 shanties and occupants who were not here from the beginning. Why is the municipality not taking action against those people?”

According to Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie, the eight residents were served with the eviction notices because they have not been “occupying the land from the onset”.

“In the beginning there were people who were occupying the land and there was a court process where the municipality wanted to evict the occupants because the land was meant for development. The people won the court case and they were allowed to stay. Months later the people on that land were requested to move temporarily to afford the municipality an opportunity to survey the land. Some of the people adhered to that request and moved in order for the surveying process to commence. It was then that the current people staying on the land came and occupied the plots allocated to other people. That is the reason why they have been served with eviction notices,” Matsie explained.

Matsie pointed out that as much as the current occupants feel that they have been treated unfairly, they are, however, infringing on the rights of those who were staying on the land first.

“It would be unfair to those people who were merely adhering to the municipality’s request to move temporarily in order for the survey work to be done. They were there from the onset and cannot just be scrapped from the process. Those who came later know that they wrongfully occupied the land and need to give the rightful owners their plots back,” he said.