200 lose their homes

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

About 200 farm residents have described their eviction from land they have lived on since 1992 as "evil".

Farm residents at Heidelberg Farm in White River, Mpumalanga, told Sowetan yesterday that they could not believe it when their tiny shacks were crushed by a bulldozer after the farm owner ordered them off his property.

However, they were allowed to gather their belongings, which included chickens, mattresses and the bicycles most of them use as a mode of transport.

The residents have since been allowed to stay at the local municipal hall.

The municipality has blamed the farm owner, Pieter Knoop, of evicting residents without first providing alternative accommodation for them.

"It is against the constitution to remove people without giving them another place to stay," said municipal spokesman, Vusi Sibiya.

"We have placed these stranded people in the community hall as a temporary measure while we look at ways to find a long-term solution," he said.

Thirty-two people were arrested for being illegal immigrants.

The residents' spokesman, Desmond Mambane, said the matter had been referred to the provincial department of land affairs for intervention.

"Knoop told us to vacate his farm because he had sold it as he was too old," he said.

"Since 1996, we have been paying R30 every month for water but when he told us we should leave this week, there was nothing we could do," he said.

Mamane said municipal authorities told them they could stay in the hall for a few days before being taken to Tekwane North, where land was being cleared.

Mambane said the eviction was executed very effectively.

"It involved immigration officials, the sheriff's office and SAPS members."

Knoop said he had been trying to have the illegal occupants evicted since 2004 because of continual thefts.