Agri SA welcomes guidelines on dealing with trespassing and land invasions
14 June 2017
“South African legislation protects the rights of legal land owners and Agri SA therefore welcomes the guidelines develop by the police in respect of their role and responsibility to ensure that all police members act within the ambit of applicable legislation and policy when dealing with complaints, regarding trespassing, land invasions and illegal eviction”, said Kobus Breytenbach, chair of Agri SA’s Rural Safety Committee.
Inflammatory statements and the encouragement of supporters to occupy farm land are irresponsible and dangerous. While these statements are often made at public forums, they may also contribute to a climate conducive of carrying out such actions. It has to be kept in mind that a criminal element exists everywhere and such statements may serve to rationalise the invasion of farm land in the criminal mind. These guidelines are supported by Agri SA and will provide a framework within which the police and farmers can take hands to prevent such actions.
These guidelines are further necessary to provide uniformity within the police service on how to deal with these issues. Breytenbach said, “it is also important for land owners to know what the responsibility of police officials are in dealing with these issues and how they should approach the police to lay a charge”.
If it is clear to the land owner that the person in question is trespassing in accordance with the Trespass Act, the police must take the necessary steps to deal with the incidence, which in most cases will be to arrest the person trespassing in order to bring him before a court of law. “Landowners should also note that where persons were allowed to take a certain route in the past over a piece of land and it has become customary practice, it will be difficult to proof a trespass case in such circumstances”, Breytenbach said.
When it is clear to a landowner that persons that are trespassing are doing so with the intension to erect structures which are to be used for accommodation, a charge may still be laid at the police station for trespassing, if such structure have not been finally erected. “It is important for land owners to note that the police may not refuse to register a case of trespassing when it is clear that there is no occupation yet on the land. Even if the perpetrators are still in the process of erecting structures, a case of trespassing can still be opened”, Breytenbach said.
Inclosing Breytenbach said, “it is important that our farmer members work with the police and report all cases of trespassing and land invasions also to their provincial organisations. We strongly recommend that these guidelines be used to put an action plan together at the local level with the assistance of the police so to deal effectively with these situations.
Issued by Thea Liebenberg, Media Liaison Officer, Agri SA, 14 June 2017