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AfriForum and AfriBusiness released a guide on land occupation in Pretoria today. The civil rights organisation emphasised at the conference that communities must protect their properties themselves and should not count on Government.
This statement is strengthened by changing bills on land expropriation, as well as Government statements that increasingly mirror a Zimbabwean land reform style.
“Illegal occupation and appropriation of land, as well as political attacks on the Constitution are becoming all the more common in South Africa. It is of the utmost importance that land owners familiarise themselves with their rights, as well as how to act in case of occupation,” says Armand Greyling, AfriBusiness’s Law and Policy Analyst.
Ben Freeth, a Zimbabwean farmer, author of Mugabe and the White African and a panellist at the conference, warns that a South Africa without organised communities runs the risk of facing the same crisis that Zimbabwe currently must face.
“Land owners have rights. We can protect our property through legal action where land is occupied and by being proactive by preventing such occupation. When structures are erected illegally and occupants enjoy unhindered accommodation, a civil case should be opened against these perpetrators. In the case of occupants knowing full well that they are trespassing, structures may be demolished, provided that a case of trespassing is opened at the Police. The Police must at all times act in accordance with the Trespass Act, however,” says Ian Cameron, AfriForum’s Head of Community Safety.
Cameron says that Government should be brought to book through legal action, but that communities should protect their properties themselves in cooperation with local security initiatives such as neighbourhood and farm watch systems.
“Prevention is better than cure and property owners have the right to defend their properties against illegal occupation,” says Willie Spies, AfriForum’s legal representative.
Proactive solutions discussed in the guide include vigilance, neighbourhood watches and supervision, as well as occupation and access control. The legal removal of illegal structures, occupied or unoccupied, is also addressed.