Cape Town – The May family, living on the side of the road across from the Windmeul Kelder winery, from which they were evicted in April, were dealt another blow as their case at the Land Claims Court was dismissed.
Zonwabele May, his wife Nomabongo and their nine family members have been living next to the R44 with their belongings for almost 90 days, after armed security guards evicted them from the place they had long called home.
May worked on the farm for 28 years, until his employment was terminated in 2008 for allegedly selling alcohol illegally on the farm.
No criminal charges were brought against him. Winery owners have reportedly attempted to evict the family since then. Formal proceedings got under way in 2015.
The family were offered temporary accommodation by the Drakenstein Municipality at the New Orleans Caravan Park campsite, but rejected this after seeing living conditions there.
Family member Elna Brown said they were not informed by their lawyer about the judgment.
“We’re still living on the side of the road and had hoped to be back in our home before winter started in full,” she said.
Brown said she was devastated by the news and had to inform the rest of the family they would not be returning to Windmeul Kelder’s property.
Farm and rural community rights activists estimate eviction court orders will affect about 20 000 farmworkers and families living on farms in the Cape Winelands.
Acting Judge Justice Canca dismissed the Mays’ application to rescind the eviction order granted last year.
Judge Canca found it “unconscionable” that the adult occupiers would, at the start of a harsh winter, elect to make a “standpoint or coerce” the municipality into granting them benefits they were not entitled to, and said that the matter required investigation by the SAPS Child Protection Unit.
Women on Farms project co-director Carmen Louw said the court could have ordered the family to return to the farm for six months, until alternative arrangements could be made.
“We’ve maintained that the conditions at New Orleans Caravan Park were not suitable for people, and have met with the municipality.
“They have admitted to not having alternative land for the evicted. This is why we’re continuing to appeal for a moratorium on farm evictions, as Drakenstein can’t accommodate any further evictions,” she said.
Drakenstein Municipality spokesperson Riana Geldenhuys said they remained willing to provide the Mays with emergency accommodation if required, even though the court had ordered them not to.
Windmeul Cellars lawyer Martin Oosthuizen said the ordeal had had a negative effect on Windmeul Kelder, its management and employees.
“Windmeul Kelder is satisfied that this end result is preferred to the situation prior to the eviction, when, as is undenied on the part of the erstwhile occupiers, Windmeul’s employees and others were subjected to the unscrupulous selling of illegal drugs and alcohol from the premises, including to children, to threats of physical harm and the deprivation of access to accommodation and services that these erstwhile occupiers had taken unlawfully for their own,” he said.