In the heart of winter, a Western Cape family continues to brave the elements, sleeping in a tent on the side of a street in Paarl after being evicted from their home across the road

Nomabongo Sweetness May and her household of 10 have been living rough since being evicted from their house at Windmeul Cellars in March.

On 7 May, the Land Claims Court heard an application to have their eviction rescinded.

But 39 days later, they are still awaiting judgment, said director of the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation Billy Claassen.

“This week temperatures plummeted to below zero degrees in some places around Cape Town and yet [the May family] await the relief of the honorable court. This clearly shows how the Judiciary failed poor people,” he charged on Saturday.

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“We asked the honorable Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to look into this case. It is shocking of a court to take so long to give judgment, knowing people are exposed to such extremely cold and dangerous conditions.”

May previously told News24 that the complex case stemmed from an accusation that they were running a shebeen from their cottage on the farm, because her husband’s friend was seen taking two bottles of beer back home with him after a visit.

Her husband was fired. After a decade of stop-start negotiations as they refused to leave, the winery owners’ order that they be evicted was carried out by the sheriff of the court as private security officials monitored on 26 March.

‘Farm owners patient’

The farm owners, however, countered that they had been patient and have consulted extensively, extended deadlines over the 10 years they have tried to resolve the situation.

They said the relationship of trust had broken down completely with their employee. The family had refused to move and in the interim, sales of liquor and drugs were allegedly emanating from the dismissed employee’s home.

The farm owners alleged that after refusing to move, liquor and drug sales were allegedly emanating from the home. That also accused the Mays of destruction of property.

According to them, the family only engaged a lawyer last year and had agreed to leave on or before 15 January, 2019. Should they not leave, they agreed to be evicted, the owners charged.

When they did not leave in January, they were given two more months to find somewhere to live, but eventually on 26 March, an eviction order was carried out, News24 previously reported.

Claassen called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a moratorium on evictions.

“We furthermore ask farmers to consider other options and mechanisms to deal with evictions. We must all come together and take hands to grow South Africa and leave no one behind. We must stop fighting with each other.”