Landowner prepares to tear down illegally built houses

Some of the families in Pietermaritzburg are facing risk of losing their expensive homes, which might be demolished as they were built in illegally occupied land.

Some of the families in Pietermaritzburg are facing risk of losing their expensive homes, which might be demolished as they were built in illegally occupied land.

Published Apr 29, 2024


Durban — Houses of 70 supposedly “wealthy” homeowners built on illegally acquired land in an upmarket Pietermaritzburg neighbourhood face imminent demolition as the invaders refused to pay the property owner’s asking price.

Jagath Singh, 75, the owner of Leliefontein Farm in Thornville, previously obtained a Pietermaritzburg High Court order to evict the occupants and have the illegally built homes demolished.

He is now preparing to implement the court’s instruction.

His legal representatives indicated that the order was likely to take effect ahead of the May 29 general elections, but declined to reveal the actual date, wary that the illegal occupants would plan a fight-back.

An employee of Vathers Attorneys said: “We gave them the notice in January last year.

“They are fully aware of it.”

Singh required R150 000 per site on his property, identified as Sub 35 of the Leliefontein No 1175, from the invaders for him to abandon his eviction and demolition action, but they refused.

Instead, they offered a combined amount of R325 000.

Singh’s legal team is mindful that a strong police presence together with private security officials would be necessary to enforce the court order that was obtained in 2017 but has since been gathering dust.

Attorney Udash Vather said they attempted to “reason” with the people occupying Singh’s stolen land, and even proposed they pay R150 000 each, but got no joy.

“These (illegal occupants) are rich people but they just want to occupy the property without paying the owner,” he said.

Vather said Singh exhausted all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with the occupants, and he was now ready to demolish the houses.

He said he and Singh had held several meetings with police and a security company to plan the eviction, which must be led by a sheriff.

According to Vather, the invaders ignored warnings that they were on land that was privately owned, and that Singh was in the process of developing it into a real estate property for sale.

During the Sunday Tribune’s visit to the site, more than 10 plush double-storey houses were noticed, one of them with a swimming pool.

Last week, the residents resorted to protest action, demanding electricity from Eskom.

They alleged that Singh had blocked Eskom from installing electricity lines to their homes and replacing the illegal ones they had been using for years.

The busy R56 was barricaded, affecting many motorists. The road was blocked with rocks, burning tyres, tree branches and even two horse and trailer trucks.

Residents demanded that Msunduzi Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla intervene by using ratepayers’ money to assist with payments to Singh. Singh denied that he had barred Eskom from installing electricity on the site.

“They invaded my land, and Eskom cannot install electricity on the land without the consent of the property owner,” said Singh, who inherited the land from his father and grandfather.

An employee of the law firm said that between 2013 and 2014, Singh was approached by three men who introduced themselves as being involved in estate development and looking to buy the farm, but Singh declined to deal with them.

“They then invaded the land and sold it for R40 000 to R50 000 per site to all the occupants that were there,” said the source.

Thebolla said he had over the years intervened several times to delay the eviction and foster negotiations between the residents and Singh, but the municipality would not provide funds for them to pay for the land.

“There are programmes to help poor people with land and free houses, but can you honestly tell me that those people who own such expensive houses are indigent?” said Thebolla.

Sunday Tribune