Sindane family loses appeal bid against mining giant Exxaro

Pain and anguish have set in at the Sindane household following the court judgment to have them vacate the property they owned for 60 years. They will now have to be content with being relocated to Phumulani Agri-Village, near Belfast in Mpumalanga.

The family held out for a few years to retain their homestead, making it the only household to put up a fight against Exxaro’s expansion plans.

Last week the high court refused the family to appeal its decision, arguing there was no prospect of another court of similar status coming to a different conclusion.

In its original judgment, Judge Susanna Cowen ruled that the family’s patriarch, Frans Sindane had been within his rights to enter into the agreement with Exarro and that such an agreement was valid.

However, the family contradicted the court’s reasoning, arguing that the refusal to leave their home of many years was because Sindane, who died in 2019, did not have the authority to enter into an agreement with Exxaro on behalf of the family to relocate the family’s homestead.

The family will now have to move to be resettled to a community built by Exxaro, a place called Phumulani Agri-Village, estabshed in February 2022.

The project’s was created to develop rural communities and is made up of 246 hectares of residential land and 166 hectares agricultural land.

The family held out for a number of years to retain their homestead, making it the only family to put up a fight after other families were resettled by Exxaro, to make way for its coal project in the area, a process that began in 2013.

The Sindane family’s homestead is situated within 100m of a mining site run by the mining company.

Cowen last week found the Sindane family had no prospects of successfully overturning her judgement, and that changing legal representatives was not a good enough reason to grant the family leave to appeal.

“In my view, the explanation for the further delay in the January period is in part understandable as it is characterised with efforts to obtain new legal representation, which, on the information supplied, was frustrated less by the occupiers and more by their lawyers,” Cowen found.

“In this regard, at least on the face of it, it is not reasonable for a firm of attorneys merely to refuse to assist their clients in the circumstances of this case ‘due to capacity constraints’.

“Moreover, the erstwhile attorneys are still on record and at no stage withdrew,” Cowen said.

“And even if there was a legitimate basis to withdraw, they ought still to have communicated with Exxaro, explained their position and requested an extension on behalf of their clients and once attending thereto, to formally withdraw. But they did nothing, and indeed remain on record.”

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