Retired businessman Holilal Ajodha has taken his decade-old fight over land expropriation without compensation to the Office of the Public Protector.
Ajodha claims the City of Joburg wants to expropriate his land without compensation.
The 63-year-old has been at loggerheads with the city for more than a decade over his 9 hectares of land in Lenasia, Johannesburg.
Ajodha told City Press that he had tried for years to get his land back.
He said the land was occupied by 600 squatters shortly after he bought it with a R100 million loan in 1996.
He alleged the city had encouraged squatters to settle by providing them with water and toilets after occupying it.
His attempts to evict them, he said, stopped after the city made an offer to give him another piece of land.
After going back and forth with the city, Ajodha said he took the matter to court in 2012 but decided to settle out of court with the city agreeing to make rental payments on behalf of squatters.
However, he said nothing happened following the city’s commitment to resolve it.
He said he decided to take the matter to the PP to investigate in 2013.
Following a number of concessions made by the city – which included giving Ajodha another piece of land in exchange and rental payments for time spent by squatters on his property – the city reneged.
Ajodha said he asked the public protector’s office to review the case in October last year and reopened it in an attempt to find a resolution.
“They want to expropriate my land without compensation. I had a plan to have a multimillion-rand development there, which would have factories to create jobs. I sold my car and two houses for it. This thing has affected me and my family,” Ajodha said.
City Press has seen a letter from the Public Protector’s office senior manager, Sello Mothupi, sent to Ajodha last week Monday.
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In it, Mothupi confirmed that Ajodha’s file would be reopened after it was closed last year.
Citing reasons to reopen it, Mothupi said the legal prescripts stipulated to support the closure of the file were never applied to the facts of the matter by the investigator.
Accordingly, Mothupi said, it was not clear on what legal basis the decision to close the file was made.
Mothupi said Ajodha’s argument was valid that the city’s decision to provide squatters with basic services exacerbated the dispute.
“We find this contestation by you to be valid in that the city had a responsibility to conduct due diligence before providing basic services to persons illegally occupying someone else’s land. Verification should have been done to establish who the land belonged to and there should have been consultation with you as [the] landowner before installation of service; this was not done,” Mothupi said.
From records, Mothupi said, it would appear that the city had, during the course of settlement negotiations, offered monetary compensation to Ajodha in the form of rent.
He said it would have been prudent for the investigator to have enquired with the city on what basis such concessions were made as this created a legitimate expectation on Ajodha that he was entitled to some form of compensation.
City of Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the dispute was in court and therefore sub judice pending the conclusion of the case.
However, Ajoda said there was no such thing as the matter was settled out of court.