Centenarian fights on in land claim battle

The centenarian who has been fighting since 2001 for transfer into his name of a modest piece of land near Pietermaritzburg (nose213) so that he, his family, and his nine goats can live there in peace and contentment, has won a significant court battle to speed up the transfer.

Zabalaza Mshengu, who is 103 years old, was officially declared a labour tenant in 2007 after having lodged his claim in 2001 for a 5-hectare portion of a farm near Ashburton and the N3. 

In nose213 we reported that either gross incompetence or a deliberate ploy was at play to delay transfer. The big issue: if the land is not transferred speedily and Mshengu dies before transfer can take place, his family could be evicted legally.

Hope for Zabalaza Mshengu

The land potentially holds significant value for development as many farms along the N3 are positioning themselves as possible locations for logistic warehousing due to their proximity to two airports, two seaports and the highway to Gauteng.

Mshengu was born on the property on 11 January 1914. First his father, then he, were labourers on the commercial farm where part of their remuneration was the right to cultivate a parcel of land for personal benefit. His family, including his father, are buried on this small acreage. 

The problem: the farm is owned by Shockproof Investments 71 (Pty) Ltd, whose directors Dr Nomsa Dlamini, Roshan Morar and his wife Jyoti are extraordinarily politically connected (see nose213) and wealthy individuals who have owned the farm since 2006 – and are reluctant to part with five hectares to an aged labourer, despite what ANC-created law might say.

Mshengu is being represented pro bono by attorney Muzi Mzila.

On 31 July, in the Pietermaritzburg Land Claims Court, Judge Thami Makhanya ordered both Shockproof and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to submit affidavits within 30 days and prove what they had done “regarding attempts made by them in respect of settling this matter”.

Also within 30 days, they must appoint land valuers, who have to submit their valuations to Mzila within 30 days of their appointment.

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