When Shaik Abdulla “Abe” Parker bought 8.9 hectares of farm land in Philippi for his retirement in 1987, he never dreamed he would be fighting the City of Cape Town and thousands of squatters who have invaded his property nearly 30 years later.
The area became known as Jim se Bos, which 3000 people now call home.
But the pensioner says he will not evict the squatters, even though he’s been left with a whopping municipal bill of R400 000.
Abe, 65, who is the owner of Abe’s Gas & Motor Centre in Surrey Estate, believes it’s the City’s duty to provide homes for the mense of Jim se Bos, situated in Olieboom Road, Schaapkraal.
As he did during apartheid, when he defied the regime and bought land owned by whites, so he is now defying the local government by refusing to evict his squatters.
The landowner has allowed the City to install taps and toilets for residents, which was set up on the perimeter of his property, while illegal electricity connections provide power to the camp.
The City has also slapped Abe with a bill every time there is a fire on his property, for which emergency services are dispatched.
The most recent utility bill reflects services rendered for a fire on March 22, 2015, for which he was charged R4148.84.
Last week the City dispatched services when 17-year-old Mark Smit was electrocuted while attempting to reconnect illegal electricity cables for Jim se Bos.
“Up till three years ago, I used to pay the accounts but now I just pay the water and refuse, I do not pay for the fire services. They began threatening me and I paid R100 000 but that’s all.”
The City took him to court for the unpaid bill and the matter is ongoing.
Meanwhile, residents see Abe, who regularly visit them, as their “messiah”.
Abe says the story of Jim se Bos started in 1986, when he and a partner bought the land for R100 000 under their business Musina.
He bought out his partner hoping to retire on his plaas some day.
“My intention was to retire there with a nice homestead and give a few workers a piece of land, and in exchange they would farm vegetables or cattle for three to four hours a day for me, and the rest of the day would be theirs, as I don’t have the experience in farming.”
Asked how he felt about his legal woes 30 years down the line, he says with a shrug: “I take it in my stride, I didn’t think I would be doing this in my 60s.”
He says when he bought the land, there were only two shacks on the property, and one of the inhabitants was a man named Jim.
“Jim was a Xhosa and he and no more than 10 persons were living on the farm,” Abe explains.
“But as soon as I owned the farm, I received pressure from the whites to remove them.
“Because of my pan-Africanist background, I refused because you can’t just put people off the land they were inhabiting.”
He says he provided Jim and his people with “a big pot of water [watertank] and one toilet.”
In 1987, the City ordered him to evict his squatters, while neighbouring white farmers also piled pressure on him.
Abe says he appealed to former Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool to buy the land from him, or to allow him to sub-divide it, but he never received an answer.
In 1994, Jim se Bos suddenly exploded with new squatters, freshly evicted from Grassy Park.
“In 1994, I thought things would get better but the City Council evicted squatters in Grassy Park and where did they go to? They migrated to the biggest plot [available to them].”
City authorities advised Abe to hire two security guards on a full-time basis, and also fence off the property to stop more squatters coming in.
He says the matter of eviction came to a head 16 years later, in 2011 in the Cape High Court, where Judge Seraj Desai ruled in Abe’s favour saying it was not reasonable of the City to expect him to pay for a guard when he was not charging people rent for use of the land.
“I don’t have a heart to evict people. If I charge them [rent], I must provide them a service,” says Abe.
“In 2011, Judge Desai said housing wasn’t my problem. He said the City should thank me for housing people.”
Abe says he has offered to sell his land to the City, provided Jim se Bos se mense get to stay on and get proper services like running water, toilets and electricity.
Responding to a Daily Voice enquiry on Friday, the City of Cape Town would only say: “The City is currently looking into the matter.”