Squatters invade pineapple farm

East London pineapple farmer Corder Tilney is running low on patience with more than 50 squatters illegally occupying his land. Tilney produces pineapples on about 1 000ha on Shelford Farm near the small coastal town of Kidd’s Beach south of East London.

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According to Tilney, the housing problem that exists in the area was supposed to be addressed a decade ago by the Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) with the building of the Sunny South Settlement Project. But nothing has happened so far.“The BCM is responsible for this whole area as Kidd’s Beach has no allocated place for people who work in town.

So where do they live? They squat on the farms,” said Tilney.Apart from erecting shacks on his land, squatters have also illegally occupied six of the 40 homes Tilney built for his workers. As a result, some of his workers are now forced to live in sub-standard accommodation – something he finds unacceptable.

“People who were born on the farm think they have a life right here no matter what. I have a couple of instances where they’ve left the farm and gone to Cape Town for five to 10 years and come back, saying they’re entitled to live here,” he said. “Our rule is that the monthly employee has a house and his family can work here.” Tilney said he’s given 12 families notice to vacate his property. “But I know they won’t leave unless I get an eviction order.”

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Tandiswa Mali, who allegedly occupies one of Tilney’s homes illegally with her mother and four children, said she’s willing to leave Tilney’s property if she has alternative accommodation to move to. But she has little faith in the Sunny South Settlement Project ever becoming a reality. Farmer’s Weekly couldn’t extract comment from the BCM, but Tilney said his dealings with the municipality have led him to believe that funds allocated for the Sunny South Settlement Project were insufficient. “According to the BCM, the department of housing has said, ‘Sorry, we have no money’,” he said.