Illegal land occupiers and Stellenbosch municipality call a truce

Illegal land occupiers have reached an agreement with the Stellenbosch municipality which stipulates that no further land invasions will take place and that no new structures will be erected on land owned by a Stellenbosch wine farm.

The municipality has in turn agreed that service delivery will return to normal, Stellenbosch municipality spokesperson Stuart Grobbelaar said on Wednesday.

This agreement comes after an estimated 87 shacks were dismantled on Watergang, a piece of land belonging to a family trust that includes the Louiesenhof wine estate.

Lawyers for the trust were instructed to apply for an eviction order and this was granted in the Western Cape High Court on Saturday.

The Red Ants eviction company moved in and started dismantling unoccupied shacks. An altercation between police and illegal occupiers on Monday resulted in the arrest of 10 people who have since been released on bail.

Grobbelaar said talks would resume on August 13 and that an agenda for Monday's discussions had been agreed upon. Discussions would include the land interdict and the role of the municipality in the land issue.

'Nowhere else to go'

He added: "All parties agreed that if the conditions are not adhered to, the full extent of the law will be enforced."

EFF proportional representation councillor Xoliswa Jonas said that the community was happy with the agreement.

"It is fair, because they see that there are entire families living in those shacks. They have nowhere else to go," she said.

"We told the community if they were away at work on the day that their shacks were demolished, they can build their shacks there again. No new people can start building shacks here."

On Wednesday morning, residents took to the streets in support of a community leader who had been arrested for crimes related to the illegal occupation of land.

Midas Wanana was one of the nine community members who were arrested following the demolition of around 87 shacks by the Red Ants on Monday.

March to court

Police detained the 10 people in Paarl, 30km away from Stellenbosch.

Wanana's lawyer, advocate Ayanda Gladile, said that nine of the accused were released on a warning on Tuesday, while Wanana remained in custody.

"He was granted bail and the bail conditions require him not to interfere with police investigations. He can't participate in any illegal protests," he said.

A small group of residents marched to the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court in support of Wanana, EFF councillor Jonas said.

"It was very peaceful. The aim of the march was just to get them to release him. He's released and everyone is back in Kayamandi."

Grobbelaar said the situation in the area remained calm.

Multiple occupations

Before his release, Wanana's wife Nosicelo told News24 that she had been unable to sleep since her husband's arrest.

"Things are very bad. He owns a few businesses and those people aren't getting paid. My 5-year-old son has been asking for his father since Monday – he's even refusing to go to crèche," she said.

"Why was he the only one who wasn't released with the others?"

The illegal occupation of Watergang began last week amid the municipality's ongoing negotiations with the owners for its purchase.

News24 previously reported that the owners of Louiesenhof Wines have had their farm occupied twice this year.

Lawyers for the trust that owns the land have been instructed to apply for the removal of people in the shacks already occupied.

This matter is expected to be heard on August 21.