August 20, 2018
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Land invaders occupy private property in South Africa's wine country

Stellenbosch, South Africa, Aug 8 (efe-epa).- Land invaders have built hundreds of unauthorized shacks on property belonging to a private winery in the heart of South Africa's wine country in the Western Cape, leading to growing tensions as authorities scramble to find a solution to the stand-off, an efe-epa correspondent reported Wednesday.

Rows of basic corrugated iron huts sprung up on the fallow land near Stellenbosch when residents from the town's overcrowded and impoverished community of Kayamandi decided to expand onto adjacent territory, which is privately owned by the Louiesenhof Wines, a family company that according to its website was founded in 1701.

The Stellenbosch Municipality, which was overseeing negotiations Wednesday, said in a statement that members of the Kayamandi community, landowners and local authorities had agreed that "no further land invasions will take place and that no new structures will be erected."

Police earlier in the week demolished several shacks and arrested 10 people as tensions boiled over but the suspects were later released when residents of Kayamandi held a protest march towards the local courthouse.

Stellenbosch is located just an hour's drive to the west of Cape Town in an area synonymous with the country's wine industry, but it remains a divided region where much of the land owned by wealthy farmers while farm workers must often live in impoverished communities.

The cramped living conditions in places like Kayamandi has been exacerbated by a social housing crisis in South Africa that has placed thousands of people on waiting lists for properties as well as an economic downturn in Cape Town, which has forced unemployed people to seek opportunities elsewhere, including on the vineyards.

The Stellenbosch Municipality was currently in talks with the Louiesenhof estate to buy the affected property.

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