Penhill farmers’ dispute with Human Settlements set to continue after failed mediation
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Cape Town - The long-running dispute between the Penhill Residents Small Farmers and the provincial Department of Human Settlements over a portion of the land used by the farmers, which the department owns, is set to continue following the collapse of a mediation process.
One of the farmers, Gavin Gossman, said they had been farming on the land for many years and that recent mediation had fallen through after the department pulled out of the talks.
Gossman said: “We have been using the land for farming and we were in mediation to find alternative land but the department pulled out. Now they now want to evict farmers and take almost all our land.”
Contacted for comment on the collapsed talks, departmental spokesperson Muneera Allie said: “The mediation process between the department and the illegal occupiers, Penhill Farmers, has been terminated since the parties could not reach a resolution.
“The department has completed the temporary relocation area (TRA) and plans to move those that are willing to move, since some residents are keen to move into the TRA. This move is anticipated within the next few months.
“The department has acquired a temporary court interdict to prevent intimidation of those wanting to move. The interdict also seeks to prevent new people from occupying the land once the space becomes available from those that are willingly moving into the TRA,” said Allie.
The collapsed mediation process came on the back of a 2016 Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling that ordered several Penhill farmers to relinquish some of the land they used to the provincial government.
The SCA found at the time that the provincial government was aware of the occupation, and had even provided assistance to the farmers and tried to regularise their occupation through proposed leases at a nominal rental.
The SCA, however, said the provincial government had not agreed that farmers could occupy and farm the entire property.
In July 2019, the provincial department told the legislature’s standing committee that several departmental projects were currently under way through the southern corridor Integrated Human Settlements Programme located in the City, and this would include Penhill Farms.