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Man to be evicted from tribal land

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Independent Newspapers

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Pretoria - A Hazyview man who was paid R700 000 to leave tribal land earmarked for a luxury hotel complex next to the Kruger National Park is to be evicted, the High Court in Pretoria ruled on Monday.

It granted an urgent eviction order against 60-year-old Frank Mhlongo, three of his children and other “farmers”, who forced their way onto the land and started erecting dwellings last week.

Judge Natvarial Ranchod ordered Mhlongo and the others to immediately vacate the property, to stop interfering with the developer's use of the land and to remove the structures they had erected.

They were also interdicted from having any contact with trustees of the local Hoxane tribe and inflicting any bodily or other harm on members of the tribe and employees of the developers, The Elephant Corporation (Pty) Ltd.

The police, sheriff of the High Court and the security company employed by the developers were authorised to use force, if necessary, to get rid of the illegal occupants.

Peter Foaden, of the developers, said in an affidavit his company had. in 2006, concluded a 50-year-lease agreement with the state, which holds the property in trust for the Hoxane tribe.

This was after the tribe agreed that the property would be developed to establish a hotel and a tented camp business from which the tribe would benefit and derive an income.

When a previous lease agreement was concluded in 1998, no one was living on the land, but when the developers took possession, Mhlongo had moved in and told them he would only leave once his crop had been harvested.

Even though the tribal chief confirmed that Mhlongo had never lived there and had moved in to opportunistically benefit from the land, he stayed put and even convinced other “farmers” to move in and act as a human buffer to his “strategic occupation”.

In 2006, the developers obtained an eviction order against Mhlongo and the other farmers, but he left only after a group of locals marched on the area to evict him.

Mhlongo was soon back, further delaying the development.

Foaden said even a ministerial inquiry, which found that Mhlongo had no claim to the property, could not shift him and the developers were eventually forced to pay R300,000 to 23 of the “farmers” and R700,000 to Mhlongo as a goodwill payment to ensure that they permanently left the land.

Although Mhlongo eventually moved out in 2009 and undertook not to occupy the property again, he first delivered a demand to the developers claiming that he had been promised “five percent shares” and then forcibly invaded the land again last week.

Foaden said Mhlongo and his sons intimidated the guards who tried to stop them. They stormed at the manager of the security company with a shovel and tried to hit him, and backed off only when pepper spray was used.

One of his sons produced a firearm and threatened to kill the security guards.

The police stood idly by while all of this was happening, and later ordered the security company to leave the land. - Sapa


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