AEC press release on behalf of Annandale Farm Crisis Committee Wednesday 4 February, 2009
55,000 is useless if it doesn’t buy a house!
The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Annandale Farm Crisis Committee request an immediate meeting with developer Ronald Shell regarding the illegitimate attempted eviction of residents.
Mavis Lithuli, chairperson of Annandale Farm Crisis Committee, has been living on a small section of Annandale Farm since she was born. Her mother has been living here for over 45 years now. The farm is also home to 26 other families. This is their home. This is the only place they know. This is the only place they want to be and the only place they feel comfortable bringing up their children.
But now, the owner of the land, Mr. Ronald Shell from Bantry Bay, has decided he stands to make a huge profit developing the land. He has brought in investors such as Redefine from Joburg and the multinational Lehman Brothers from the United States to build a massive 4 billion rand development set to rival Century City. This would include upscale residential units as well as retail, commercial and industrial space.
But residents of Annandale did not know a thing about this development and how much Shell stood to profit from it. In May 2008, Ronnie Shell and Toni (a local social worker who also collects the rent on the owners behalf) approached the residents telling people he is offering them land and houses if they sign contracts he will soon give them. When residents saw the contract, it ordered them to leave the premises within 90 days. Residents refused to sign in protest. When Mavis then went to meet with Ronnie and Toni to express her concerns, they offered her a bribe of 75,000 rand to leave and keep quite – she refused saying “give the people houses like you promised”.
Seeing as the residents were not willing to evicted so easily, Ronnie and Toni organised a braai for the residents with alcohol and then got them to sign a contract. They were happy with this document which was based on an Environmental Impact Assessment by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning with the goal of ensuring the least negative impact on the tenants. The document required that the developers provide between 750-1200 square meters of land to each tenant including a home with a school, crèche and church in the community. Residents happily agreed and signed the document. According to the document, if no land was available within 2 km of their current location, the cost of the land including the cost of servicing the land and housing the residents must be offered to the tenants as an aternative.
However, later that year, Ronnie and Tony organised another braai for residents. After ensuring they were all drunk, they told the residents that they cannot find any land and would instead give them money. The residents, most of whom are illiterate and speak only Afrikaans or isiXhosa, were duped into signing a new contract giving them only 55,000 (or 20,000 and a small wendy house) if they left their homes on the land. This strategy is reminiscent of the Apartheid era “dop system” which caused alcohol addiction on many Cape wine farms.
But now, residents have realised that they have been pressured and deceived into signing their livelihood away. If they take the 55,000 and leave Annandale, where will they go? It costs 300,000 rand to buy a house these days so what can they buy with 55,000 rand?
So Mavis and other residents have begun to do their home work. They’ve contacted the Anti-Eviction Campaign which has agreed to work with residents and help them negotiate with Mr Shell and the developers.
The resident’s position is that if the project is slated to cost 4 billion, the developers can do much better than 55,000 rand per family. While both agreements were made under durress, the residents will happily accept the first contract and demmand that the developers honor it or give them a reasonable alternative. As Mavis Lithuli stated in an AEC meeting with the community, “55,000 is useless if it doesn’t buy a house. I’m fighting now for an offer where I can buy a house for my family”.
The Anti-Eviction Campaign requests that Ronald Shell contact Ashraf from the AEC to arrange a meeting with the campaign and the residents to negotiate a just solution.
For more information please contact Annandale Farm Crisis Committee members:
Selmien Kock at 073 234 3264Gys Tietie 076 475 8359
For legal background and other info contact Ashraf from the AEC at 076 186 1408