On the borders of Paarl and Wellington, Zonwabele May, his wife Nomabongo, their four offspring and their partners, as well as three grandchildren were evicted on Tuesday from Windmeul Kelder wine farm where they had been living for 38 years.
They said they were left at the side of the R44 road with their belongings after armed security guards forced them out.
Yesterday, lobby groups and activists, including Women on Farms Project (WFP) and the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation (RFDO), supported the family’s demonstration at the gates to one of the wine farms.
Zonwabele’s son’s partner, Elna Brown, 27, said that 10 years ago Zonwabele was fired for allegedly selling alcohol from his home, and that was when the trouble started.
“Over the past two years we received continuous letters telling us we must leave. We turned to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for help, who provided us with a lawyer.
“The matter finally went as far as the Land Claims Court in Randburg, but we were not happy with the lawyers. The last we heard, the department’s lawyers met with the cellar’s lawyers and reached an agreement in August that we must be out by January.
"We refused and there was nothing until these big private security people came with a thick document and put us out,” she said.
Brown said the Drakenstein Municipality was providing them with temporary accommodation in a hall.
WFP co-director Collette Solomons said it had approached the Rural Development and Land Reform Department to intervene by providing lawyers.
“Solomons said that the Cape Winelands faced a severe eviction crisis with the organisation receiving daily calls for help from farm dwellers and workers,” Brown said.
Early last year, the Drakenstein Municipality acknowledged that it had become “a hot spot for evictions”, with an estimated 20 000 people affected by pending eviction matters.
Approached for comment, the offices of Windmeul Kelder promised to forward a statement. Neither they nor the department had done so by deadline.
Drakenstein Municipality community services acting executive director Jonathan Marthinus said: “The municipality, upon being made aware of the circumstances of the eviction, approached the evictees to help.
"The municipality offered the evictees temporary accommodation in New Orleans Park until Monday, April 1. We also provided them with food parcels and water, which were delivered to them last night.”
Separately, the SCA this week struck two appeals by Tadvest Industrial from the roll on the ground that it did not have the jurisdiction to entertain them.
The investment holding company had appealed the Land Claims Court’s decision to overturn an eviction order of the Hanekom and Jacobs families in Stellenbosch. The Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court had previously granted the eviction orders. On appeal by the families to the Land Claims Court, the orders were set aside.
Tadvest Industrial was then granted leave to appeal to the SCA. However, certain sections of the Superior Courts Act limited the Land Claims Court to the high court in civil proceedings.
This meant that the LCC did not have the power to refer the matter to the SCA. “In the result, the LCC sitting as an appeal court did not have the power to grant leave to appeal to this court. The order is a nullity and this court has no jurisdiction to entertain the appeals.
“When it was clear to counsel for the appellant that this court was unable to entertain the appeals, counsel then asked that special leave to appeal be granted to the appellant.
"The parties were aware by no later than the end of January 2019, in terms of the letter from the registrar of the concerns of this court in relation to the issue of jurisdiction,” the SCA found.
It said there was ample time to bring an application.
“Simply put, no case was made out by the appellant why special leave should be granted, and no attention was paid to the requirements that have to be satisfied, before special leave may be granted by this court.
“The informal request was therefore refused,” the SCA ruled.