UPDATE: Rhodes squatter continues to squat

Noseweek readers will be familiar with the frustrations of hotelier Nigel Owles who lives in the hamlet of Rhodes in the northern part of the Eastern Cape. He sold his business in 2009 to smooth-talker Pieter van Wyk for R4.69 million. But a tranquil retirement has eluded him for the past four years; Van Wyk failed to pay up, then refused to vacate the premises.

Owles, who’s been living in a borrowed caravan, has turned to the courts repeatedly – and won. But after each ruling, Van Wyk has played for time by appealing. Eviction orders were of no use because the state had failed to appoint a local sheriff, so they went unserved.

Last May things began to look up for Owles when a new sheriff arrived to eject the interloper, but it soon transpired that Van Wyk had transferred the hotel’s liquor licence into his wife, Annette’s, name, to whom he had also leased the bottle store and space in the hotel to run a coffee shop and bakery.

Owles found an East London couple willing to lease and operate his hotel, but then Van Wyk contrived to get the electricity account transferred into his wife’s name and had the electricity supply to the rest of the premises disconnected. Likewise the phone lines. Telkom and Eskom are in no hurry to sort out the mess.

Annette van Wyk said she refused to pay the Owles’ utility bill and insisted that Owles owed her and her husband R1.5m – the sum they claim was spent on improvements to the hotel. 

The court date for the next round is September 2014. Meanwhile the couple from East London have fled the battlefield saying they’ll return when the lights come on again.

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