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Land occupants won’t budge

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The Galeshewe residents are refusing to move to Ivory Park and are first awaiting judgment on their application for leave to appeal their eviction order.

THE LAND occupants in King Senare, Forestview in Galeshewe are refusing to move to Ivory Park and are first awaiting judgment on their application for leave to appeal their eviction order, before a full bench of the Northern Cape High Court.

A community member, Abel Sebeela, stated that while the Sol Plaatje Municipality was supposed to install communal taps, clear the vegetation and provide portable toilets at the new relocation site in Ivory Park, no development had taken place on the site.

The community has also complained that the relocation site is too close to the railway line, is situated too far from schools and that sewage spills pose a health hazard.

In terms of the eviction order, all illegal shanties in King Senare Street had to be vacated by October 31.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet said that occupants at the new site were being supplied with water, portable toilets and erven.

“There are currently 480 occupants already at Phase 1. There are 120 erven that are still vacant and we will start occupying those erven in the new year, from January 13,” said Riet.

She added that once both Phase 1 and 2 were fully occupied, new occupants would be moved to Phase 4, which can accommodate approximately 560 vacant erven.

“All residents will be serviced with water and portable toilets.”

Sebeela stated that the evicted persons had appointed a new legal representative, who they are paying for themselves.

“We have laid a complaint against advocate Jackie Labuschagne, who represented us in the eviction order, to the provincial Legal Practice Council,” said Sebeela.

“Our advocate told us that the relocation was the best offer for us and that we must be happy because they are doing the case for us for free.”

Sebeela added that the residents’ mandate to the legal representative was to prove to the court that they were the lawful occupants of the land.

“As the residents, we feel and believe that our case was not a priority for our legal representatives and they did not have our best interests at heart in representing us, despite having all the evidence that we provided them with to prove that we are the legal occupants of the land.”

Labuschagne, who was approached by Lawyers for Human Rights to represent the evicted persons in replying papers, indicated that, as the referral advocate, she took instructions from the attorneys and did not consult or take instructions directly from the public or clients.

“The complaint that I failed to respond to communicate (with the client) is thus fabricated to put me in a bad light and is far from the truth,” said Labuschagne.

She also noted that the property was allocated to other people and the evicted persons did not have the authority to occupy the property, where basic services could not be installed at the property until the area was cleared.

She added that there were contradictions that emerged regarding how long the evicted persons had been residing on the property.

Labuschange stated that she was unable to establish if the community was in fact entitled to accommodation and if they were placed on the housing waiting list.

She stated that she had made every effort to ensure that the land occupants were moved to a habitable property that was equipped with basic services and were provided with transport for the relocation process.

She denied that she had told her clients “to be happy with the judgment” as the Lawyers for Human Rights had provided legal services to them on a pro bono basis.

“It is very sad and I take note of Sebeela’s belief that this case was not a priority for their legal team, even after myself and Mr Afica (from Lawyers for Human Rights) bent over backwards to assist.”

She added that she was “fully prepared for the matter and did more than what was expected her” to assist the respondents.

“I even, on request by the respondents, made a site visit to their current place of residence as well as to Ivory Park. I can confirm – with my own vehicle and at my own expenses.

“It is sad and unclear how Mr Sebeela can now with a good conscience state that this matter was not dealt with as a priority”

Labuschagne pointed out that undue attempts were made to discredit herself and Afica after they had spent “numerous hours on this matter”.

“It is my submission that the matter was properly adjudicated on August 23 and that Sebeela’s complaint is of bad taste and malevolent.”