Occupiers Of State-Owned Farms In North West Granted Leave To Appeal Against Their Removal… The North West High Court has granted a number of occupiers of government-owned farms leave to appeal against an order interdicting them from residing on the 10 farms worth more than R50m.
In a judgment passed in July last year, judge Samkelo Gura also ordered the farmers to remove their livestock within two weeks from the date of the order.
The court had also interdicted the occupiers from interfering with the allocation process of land to third parties by the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
The government had purchased the farms from existing commercial farmers with the aim of redistributing them to qualifying emerging farmers in the province. This was supposed to happen in August 2019.
However, the presence of the people who occupied the state farms during 2019 made it impossible for the department to give undisturbed possession of these farms to the successful beneficiaries.
The occupants alleged they obtained permission to occupy the farms from department officials at a meeting held at one of the farms, a claim denied by the department. In his judgment in July last year, the judge agreed with the department that the meeting did not take place.
In their application for leave to appeal, heard in November last year, the occupiers argued the final interdict granted by the high court amounted to an eviction order.
In his decision on Thursday, Gura said when the department lodged its application in August 2019, the occupiers were already in occupation of the farms.
“When the court granted the interdict on July 12 2021, [the occupiers] had long been on these farms. It would appear the only practical way for the enforcement of this judgment is to forcefully evict [them] from the said properties,” Gura said.
Gura said a Constitutional Court judgment held that an interdict which has the effect of an eviction order when implemented violates the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act. This legislation provides procedures for eviction of unlawful occupants and prohibits unlawful evictions.
“I am of the view there is a reasonable prospect another court would find the court order dated July 12 2021 has the effect of an eviction order and is invalid.”