High court reprieve for Ncera villagers

An earlier court decision that their 21 homes should be demolished on Wednesday was overturned on Tuesday.
An earlier court decision that their 21 homes should be demolished on Wednesday was overturned on Tuesday.

Residents from Ncera village sighed with relief as the East London High Court saved their homes at the 11th hour.

An earlier court decision that their 21 homes should be demolished on Wednesday was overturned on Tuesday.

Nine shacks were destroyed last week, with a further 21 set to be demolished on Wednesday after they allegedly erected their informal structures on a piece of land that has been the subject of dispute between a traditional leader, Princess Nomaxhosa Jongilanga, and the villagers for several years.

Judge Bantubonke Tokota granted the latest order and told residents they could go back home while their legal representatives found a solution.

The residents’ lawyer, Loyiso Godongwana, told the Dispatch on Tuesday that his clients homes were unlawfully demolished last week.

“The community wants to be allowed to erect their structures where they were unlawfully demolished. In our order we are saying the conduct of Jongilanga in demolishing the structures is unlawful.”

When asked about what will happen to the nine people whose structures had already been demolished, he said: “We want the people to be allocated land to build on in the area within seven days.

“If they are not then they will erect their structures where they were before.”

He said Tokota’s ruling meant no more evictions and demolitions until the community and Jongilanga met to resolve the issue. He said there was a misunderstanding over a moratorium between Jongilanga and the residents issued in 2015 in which there was an agreement to stop demarcating plots to people in the area.

“Nomaxhosa [Jongilanga] went to court saying people were being allocated plots in Ncera village without following proper procedures. She said the people had violated that.” He said demarcation was stopped on the understanding that there was going to be an audit of all nine villages to see who had taken plots after 2016. “A decision was taken that those who took land after that would have their homes demolished.

“Last week, without any proper engagement, they demolished the structures of my clients while their structures were built before 2016.”

 

Jongilanga could not be reached for comment at the time of writing on Tuesday.

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