Ingonyama Trust Board blames lawyer for ‘negligent’ eviction of Umnini resort owner

Umnini holiday resort. (Rogan Ward)

Umnini holiday resort. (Rogan Ward)

The Ingonyama Trust Board has denied responsibility for the illegal eviction of a KwaZulu-Natal South Coast resort owner, who is suing it for the nearly R6.5-million investment he lost as a result of the eviction.

READ MORE: Owner of ruined resort sues Ingonyama Trust

Instead, the board has blamed its lawyer, saying she had been negligent when carrying out the eviction.

Edward Mpeko developed the Umnini holiday resort at Umgababa on land leased from the local inkosi and the board. After he was evicted in 2008, he successfully challenged the eviction in the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

But by the time the court ruled in his favour in 2015, he had lost everything he had invested in the 21-chalet resort, which he bought in 2005 for R8 000.

Mpeko had become involved in a dispute with inkosi Phathisizwe Luthuli, whose supporters looted the resort and vandalised what was left.

His claim cites the board,to which he was paying R800 a month in rent at the time of his eviction, sheriff Mandla Mkhize and the board’s lawyer, Sushila Keshav.

In court papers, the board said Keshav had “breached the duty of care” by failing to provide services lawfully.

The board denied liability, saying that, should the court award the damages, which have escalated from R2.3-million to R6.5-million since the initial claim was lodged, Keshav was liable for the amount.

Keshav had, the board said, failed to secure a “properly issued writ for [Mpeko’s] ejectment” from the resort In failing to comply with legal practice and procedure she had caused the board harm and damages, it said.

In her responding papers, Keshav denied having acted illegally, saying that a “warrant of ejectment was authorised and issued by the clerk of the court”.

Keshav said she had acted on the instruction of the board at all times and had not departed from the mandate it had given her.

Mpeko’s attorney, Charles Reece, said the dispute among the respondents as to who was responsible for the unlawful eviction would be argued as part of the damages application.

The board’s chairperson, Jerome Ngwenya, did not respond to phone calls and emails from the Mail & Guardian.

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