Farm eviction battle in Concourt
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Johannesburg – The Constitutional Court has been asked to come to the rescue of a man who has allegedly been evicted along with his family by farmers he worked for over the last 21 years.
Alias Mtolo, his wife, Maheneng Mtolo, and their eight children found themselves homeless after allegedly being evicted from the farm in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, without a notice.
The Mtolos launched urgent court applications against Theunis Christoffel Lombard and his wife Maria Helentje Lombard following their alleged eviction.
The legal battle between the Mtolos and the Lombards reached the apex court yesterday.
Representing the Mtolos, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC told the justices the matter was brought before them following an unfavourable judgment by a South Gauteng High Court judge.
In this contested judgment, Judge Fiona Dippenaar struck the Mtolos’ application from the roll. They had approached her to seek an order compelling the Lombards to comply with an earlier order.
In that order, Judge Michael Antonie directed the Lombards to return the farm house to the possession of the Mtolos and make it fit for human occupation.
Central in the matter were also allegations that the Lombards had not fixed the house that was damaged during the “eviction” of the Mtolos.
Ngcukaitobi called on the Constitutional Court to interfere with Judge Dippenaar’s ruling.
“Firstly we say that Judge Dippenaar did not consider the implications of homelessness on the part of the Mtolo family, which itself would be an infringement of Section 26 of the Constitution,” he said.
Secondly, Ngcukaitobi said, Judge Dippenaar failed to consider whether the Lombards had complied with Judge Antonie’s order that they should fix the house.
“The facts show that the structure or the house of the Mtolos is a dangerous structure and it is not fit for human occupation,” Ngcukaitobi said.
“To sum up (this matter), we’re dealing with a case of homelessness because of a structure that constitutes a death trap.”
He referred to a report by the Emfuleni local municipality that described the four room house as hazardous.
It said the house’s corrugated iron sheets were not properly installed and risked being blown away by wind.
Ngcukaitobi said a just and equitable ruling in this matter would be one that ordered the Lombards to fix the house and allow the Mtolos back in.
“(It) is not punishment for the eviction that we’re asking for,” he said.
“But what we’re asking for is what would be just and equitable in the case of a farmworker who has worked for the same family for 21 years and then got kicked out without notice.”
Advocate Nadia Smit, representing the Lombards, denied that the Mtolos were evicted, or that they did not have alternative accommodation after vacating the farm house.
“They misrepresented themselves and they misled the court, not only this court but also the high court, by saying they are homeless,” she told the apex court.
“It’s evident from pictures attached to our answering affidavit in this court and before Judge Dippenaar and before Judge Antonie that in fact they had alternative accommodation. They weren’t homeless.”
Smit also denied that Judge Antonie’s judgment was not complied with. She said the house was fixed but the Mtolos had not returned. “We never asked them to vacate.”
Judgment was reserved.