Limpopo businessman wants property owners to pay up for building luxury houses on his land.

Fresh tension has risen between a Limpopo businessman and property owners over a disputed piece of land at Mamahule, near Dalmada in Polokwane. This comes after Martin Sebesho, the legal owner of farm Kalkfontein No 2 in Polokwane, where some residents have built luxury properties on pieces of land illegally sold by a local traditional authority, threatened to effect a 2016 eviction court order which empowered him to demolish them.

The 70-year-old businessman accuses the residents, whom he says have been occupying his land illegally for the past seven years, of not co-operating with him in his attempt to find an amicable solution. Most of the properties are double-story residential houses and churches, owned largely by public servants.

A national newspaper has proof of the title deed in Sebesho’s name and a 2016 warrant of ejection issued by the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court, paving the way for Sebesho to demolish the houses.

The title deed obtained by Sebesho in 1998 confirms that he bought the land for R340 000 and that he is its legal owner. But the land occupants claim to have bought the land portions from Sebetja Matsaung, who claimed to be the local chief in the area. Residents said they paid between R20 000 and R40 000 for a 700m² piece of land.

But, according to a Constitutional Court ruling in 2017, Matsaung sold pieces of land illegally.

The Concourt ruling reads in part: “The matter concerns the power of the Land Claims Court, if any, to adjudicate under the order; It is unlawful occupation. The owner of the land may nonetheless declare persons living unlawful occupations.”

The land, which is on both sides of the R71 provincial freeway between Polokwane and Tzaneen, has been the subject of drama and tension since the traditional authority officials started selling it off to the residents. At one stage, buyers who were sold the same pieces of land were seen fighting, erecting rival fences, demolishing each other’s houses and building structures on the same pieces of land.

Sebesho initially wanted bulldozers to move in to demolish the houses in the area, but later changed his mind, claiming his conscience would not let him act without engaging the residents and getting into an agreement to afford them an opportunity to save their homes. The businessman said he bought the farm space in 1998 on auction, and only learnt that people were illegally living on it in 2013. Since then, he has been trying to negotiate with them, he said.

He also added that he has now given residents an ultimatum, to be evicted and have their homes demolished or to enter into a purchase agreement with him.

“I will be issuing, through my lawyers, a notice for them (the residents) to approach my lawyers to negotiate how they will be paying me. We will only be able to come up with the amount of money owed to me once we assess the land they have occupied,” said Sebesho.

“I have worked hard for this land, and it will only be fair that I get back what is due to me. I understand that people have already spent their hard-earned money on building their homes, therefore, I want to bring them on board and reach an amicable solution that will suit both parties,” Sebesho said.

His legal representatives, Letsetela and Nkondo Attorneys, confirmed that they were in the process of drafting a notice to all the residents informing them of the offer to negotiate.

Some residents have vowed to fight tooth and nail to protect their properties. One of these residents is Majorie Sejela, who said they were not going anywhere and would rather die than be evicted from their houses.

“I bought this land with my hard-earned money and nobody should take that away from me. This is my family’s home and we should be protected by the law,” Sejela said.

Others, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said they were in consultation with lawyers and claimed they could not trust Sebesho without vetting him, as many people had approached them in the past claiming to be rightful owners of the land.

They insist Sebesho should be reimbursed by those selling land in the area, who introduce themselves as officials from the Mamahule Traditional Authority. Despite the title deed confirming Sebesho as the rightful owner of the land, one Mamahule official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted that the land belonged to his forefathers.

However, the man could not produce proof to back up his claims that Sebesho was not the rightful owner of the land. Asked if the Mamahule Traditional Authority should be selling the land in the first place, the man refused to comment.

City of Polokwane spokesperson, Matshidiso Mothapo, referred enquiries back to the Mamahule Traditional Authority.

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