Pretoria - Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama assisted unauthorised people to occupy a mansion in Brooklyn in the city. The house had been standing empty for about three years after the owner died.
Lawyer Michael Potgieter, the executor of the estate of the late Willem and Dorothea Serfontein, turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to have the people evicted.
In his application, Potgieter asked the court to urgently evict two people from the house, identified as Amanda and Dlozi. He also asked that any other occupants of house 253 Brooks Street be evicted.
In her answering papers, a person named Amanda Mjindi, who gave her address as 253 Brooks Street, opposed the application. Mngxitama filed an affidavit in which he supported what she stated.
Potgieter said in an affidavit that Willem Serfontein died in 2011 and he left their luxury home to his wife. She died in May 2015, and the house had been empty since.
The couple’s two children live abroad, but an employee who has been working for the family for years, Mahlatsi Nkawana, is living in an outbuilding on the property as caretaker.
There is a problem in concluding the estate, and the property is the subject of another court action instituted against the lawyer by a prospective buyer.
Potgieter said the security at the property was inadequate and there had been numerous break-ins.
He said it came to his attention that on July 24 a group of unknown people moved on to the property without anyone’s consent.
The caretaker saw the group and noticed a locksmith, who they had hired, was opening the locks. They also opened mail which was in the postbox.
Potgieter went to the house and confronted the people, who included two women.
“I asked what they were doing there. They introduced themselves as Amanda from the Eastern Cape and Dlozi from KwaZulu-Natal. They declined to give their surnames.”
Potgieter said he told them he was the executor of the estate to which the house belonged and he asked them how they gained entry into the house. They simply pointed at the open door.
“They said they were students from the University of Pretoria who cannot afford accommodation.”
They told him their lawyer was on his way. After a while a man who said he represented Black First Land First and who introduced himself as “Andile” arrived at the house.
Potgieter said he returned to the house the next day with the police, who went upstairs.
In there were five people sleeping on a mattress. The police told them that they were trespassing, but they claimed they had been staying there for some time and if Potgieter wanted to get rid of them, he had to obtain a court order.
Nkawana, as well as several neighbours, confirmed that the group only moved in last month.
Potgieter said he was duty-bound to preserve the assets, as it was valuable property worth about R3 million. He feared the “illegal occupiers” would damage the property and that once they got comfortable, they would not move.
The matter was first served before the urgent court on August 24, where Mngxitama told the judge that he spoke on behalf of the group and he said there was a lease agreement in place with the executor of the estate.
He wanted this “agreement” to be made an order of court. The matter stood down for the group to present an affidavit.
Mjindi, in her affidavit, said the matter was not urgent and that they were legally in the house as Potgieter had granted them permission to stay there after they had moved in.
She said the property had been vacant since the owners died.
Mjindi also stated that the property had been subjected to vandalism before and their presence provided security.
“Since we took occupation we have attempted as best as we can to refurbish the property to ensure it is properly taken care of.”
She said they were legally there as Potgieter and Mngxitama had entered into a lease agreement. She said Potgieter was simply acting with malice.
Potgieter denied there was a lease agreement.
Judge Nelisa Mali removed the matter from the roll as she found it was not urgent.