The weekend’s planned land invasion: what the law says

Lowveld Media court reporter Helene Eloff.

WHITE RIVER – EFF leader Mr Collen Sedibe’s controversial ‘land occupation program’ has stirred outrage among community members.

“The EFF Mpumalanga Provincial Command Team call on all people of Hillsview, Dwaleni, Mbonisweni, Kabokweni, Mganduzeni, Jerusalem, Chweni and surrounding farms to a land occupation program which will take place between White River and Hillsview on Sunday (January 29) from 08:00,” Sedibe said. Read more on Sedibe’s invitation here.

Read: hundreds trespass on farm to ‘claim their land.’

“What are my rights?” was a question asked by many landowners anticipating Sunday’s planned occupation.

An overview of relevant law suggests that the sooner an interdict is sought, the better.

A landowner threatened by imminent occupation may apply for an urgent interdict to stop the invasion process. A competent court may order that the process be stopped. Those who proceed with an invasion after such an order has been granted will be in contempt of court and may be arrested. Contact your attorney for assistance in executing this application over the weekend, if need be.

Once trespassers are present on a landowner’s property, the following must be taken into account.

The Trespassing Act stipulates that no person may access land or property without the lawful owner or occupier’s permission. Doing so constitutes a criminal offence. If this happens, the police must be called to investigate a case of trespassing.

Once the trespasser has erected a structure on the land and intends to live there, he becomes an unlawful occupant.

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and the Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act will apply.

This means that the person(s) may only be evicted from the land in terms of a court order. Evicting unlawful occupants without a court order is illegal.  Once this stage has been reached, the scenario has drastically intensified. Police intervention while trespassing, and not illegal occupation, has occurred, will prevent such scenarios.

The PIE Act makes provision for a land owner or the person in charge of unlawfully occupied land to approach a competent court for an urgent eviction order.

The applicant will have to prove that there is a real and imminent danger that he may suffer serious loss if the unlawful occupants are not evicted. In addition hereto, the applicant must prove that his potential deprivation is greater than that of the unlawful occupant, should the latter be evicted.

Once such and interdict has been granted, any person occupying the land unlawfully will be in contempt of court.

The police has confirmed that members are ready to react, should illegal activity take place pertaining to land.

 

 

  AUTHOR
Helene Eloff
Legal Adviser & Journalist

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