Lifelong farm tenants evicted

Andries and Lea Joostenberg with four of their grandchildren in front of the house in which they've lived since 1988. They were evicted, with nowhere to go. (Daneel Knoetze)

Andries and Lea Joostenberg with four of their grandchildren in front of the house in which they've lived since 1988. They were evicted, with nowhere to go. (Daneel Knoetze)

In temperatures near freezing, the Joostenberg family were left with little option but to spend the night amongst their possessions on the side of the road. For a second time, they were evicted from their home by a sheriff of the court, their possessions carried out and transported off the farm where the family has lived for 50 years, and dumped next to the R318 outside Montagu.

This time, farmowner Charles Raymond has ensured that the eviction is final by removing the roof of the house in which the family have lived since 1988.

But shortly before dusk, a neighbouring farmer took pity on the family of eight – including grandparents, three teenagers, and two children aged eight and four – and offered them an outside room to stay for the week.

“Then it’s back to the road,” said grandmother to the family Lea Joostenberg. “We have asked everywhere in the Koo, there is no other place for us.”

Raymond had workers remove the roof to the house after the eviction to ensure that the family don’t attempt to reoccupy, as they did after the first eviction in June this year. 

Although they are on the Langeberg municipality’s housing waiting list, at her last inquiry Lea was informed that her claim was around 1 000th in the queue.

Life-long habitation
The Montagu Magistrates’ Court had ordered a legal eviction of the family to take place.
Yet, legal opinions gathered during reporting on the eviction suggested that the court may have made a mistake in issuing the order.

This opinion was supported by researchers Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies and Shirhami Shirinda from the Legal Resources Centre.

Hall pointed to the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, which ensures life-long habitation rights for farm tenants over the age of 60 who have lived on the same land for more than 10 years. Joostenberg qualifies for this right, she said.

That fact is sufficient for an appeal of the court order, said Shirinda.

‘The farm is their life
Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Attorneys in Johannesburg have appointed a panel to investigate the grounds for an appeal. Their opinion and decision on whether to proceed with an appeal is only due next week.

News of the possibility of an appeal came as little comfort to Lea Joostenberg as she spoke to GroundUp from the site of the eviction on Tuesday. For her and her family the struggle for survival is current and uncertain. She said they have no idea where they will go.

“Langdam was our entire life,” she says.

As Hall put it, “New farmowners often struggle to understand that a farmworker does not live on site to be close to their place of work. The farm is their life, not just a workplace. They often have nowhere to go, no chance of survival outside that context.”

Shirinda confirmed that the eviction would not impact on the possibility to appeal the original court eviction order. If the appeal is successful, and the order overturned, the Joostenberg’s would have a legal right to reoccupy their home. 

This article was originally published on groundup.

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