Home free: BLF backs group that occupied empty house
These friends are in a legal fight after they moved into an abandoned house, but thanks to Black First Land First, they're not budging
Self-employed artist Amanda Mjindi, 30, did not consider it an extreme act to simply move her few items of furniture into an empty house in the swanky Pretoria suburb of Brooklyn.
The house is said to be worth about R3m, but for her living under its roof is priceless.
“I remember one policeman said: ‘Why would you do something so extreme?’ My answer was: ‘Is finding a roof extreme? Is compelling me to sell my body to make a living for myself not more extreme?’”
Of course, it was an act of “desperation”, she told Times Select. But the house has no owner.
“We actually also took initiative to find out whose house it belonged to. We learnt he had passed on.”The double-storey house was recently at the centre of a court battle in the High Court in Pretoria. The executor in the estate of the deceased owners launched an urgent application to have Mjindi and four other occupants, including a six-year-old child, evicted. The Citizen newspaper reported that Judge Nelisa Mali ruled that the application was not urgent and struck it off the roll. The house had apparently been standing empty for years, and the deceased owner’s children live abroad.
When Times Select visited the dilapidated property on Wednesday, Mjindi was there with a Pretoria University student, who is one of the five occupants. Mjindi did not want to disclose exactly when they move in, but said she started eyeing the house around January.
She was living in the area and it was obvious that the property was empty. “We saw it as an abandoned space.”
The grass was “very high” and “we had to do some serious cleaning”. She and her friends arranged for their furniture to be transported to the house.The high walls outside the house are cracked, the property is in dire need of a paint job, the garden is unkempt and the swimming pool is empty and dirty.
But its new occupants do not mind.
“We’ve already made this our home,” Mjindi said, adding that they did a lot of work on the house.
Mjindi said the executor of the estate arrived at their new home in July and “made quite a scene” about the five of them living there.
A trip to the police station followed, where they explained their situation to a lieutenant. The police eventually let them go, and apparently advised the executor to go to court.
“Our intention never was to step on anyone’s toes,” said Mjindi.Neighbours spoke to Times Select on condition of anonymity.
Their sympathy levels with Mjindi and her friends are low.
“I am worried about the value of my property going down,” said one of the neighbours.
“What kind of people just move into a house and think it’s okay to do so?”
Another neighbour had safety concerns. “This house has a thatched roof and they use candles for light,” he said.Mjindi said she and her friends had not received any utility bills since they moved in.
A third neighbour doubted Mjindi’s claim that she and her fellow occupants were poor. He wanted to know how they could afford an advocate to represent them in the high court.
The answer, said Mjindi, is simple. She approached Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama for help and he arranged legal help.
“We approached a number of people for help after receiving the eviction notice and Andile was the only one who responded to us,” she said.
But even though the matter was struck off the urgent court roll, she knows it is not the end of the matter.
“We’ll wait and see what happens next.”