Refuge for Klein Akker evictees

Anna-Marie Schoeman lived at the Klein Akker farm for 19 years.

More than 300 people evicted from the Klein Akker farm along Botfontein Road have been offered refuge on a state farm near Stellenbosch.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha made the announcement on Monday.

More than 90 households, including pensioners, women and children, ended up on the street on Monday August 19 after a court granted Odvest, the land owner, an eviction order.

In April 2011, Odvest, a private company, bought the 13-hectare plot for R2.5 million from an investment company.

By this time, people had already been on the land since the early 2000s.

According to Odvest’s attorney, Edmund Booth, the company approached the Western Cape High Court in 2012 for an eviction order, which was granted in October 2016, giving those on the land until July 12 in 2017 to move.

But the judgment had also ordered the City of Cape Town to provide the evictees with emergency accommodation on land as near as possible to Klein Akker by June 26, 2017.

The City had made land available in Bloekombos, but the Klein Akker families had delayed accepting the offer until the land was no longer available, said Mr Booth.

Odvest had then been granted a writ of ejectment by the high court in March last year.

Notice had been given to the occupiers who had launched a bid to stay the eviction.

During these proceedings the City had made land in Philippi available for them to move to but they had refused saying it was too far away from work and schools and plagued by crime

Nevertheless, Mr Booth said the eviction had carried out after final notices had been served on the families on Friday August 2.

Mr Booth said Odvest planned to turn the farm into an industrial area.

Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi offered the evictees land in Philippi known as the ‘Kampies’, just off Jakes Gerwel Drive and Old Lansdowne Road where other informal dwellings are already standing.

“Emergency housing kits will be provided and occupiers can be moved there in four-to-six-weeks,” he said.

He said, if the evictees decide to move to the land provided, “transport would be provided for them.”

But at a meeting along the Botfontein Road on Sunday,August 25, more than 100 people refused to move from the side of the gravel road until they were considered for land in Kraaifontein.

Anna-Marie Schoeman said she had lived in her battered wendy house on the farm for 19 years and refused to move to Philippi.

She said the eviction had been cruel; she had lost most of her belongings and she had found her cats squealing under pieces of destroyed wood. A few of their salvaged belongings, she said, were being kept in storage containers on a nearby farm.

The evictees, most of whom are coloured, formed a committee to “fight for their rights”, but Ms Schoeman said she had resigned from it because she felt it had become bogged down by disputes over race.

“I am white, but I do not believe in colour as we are all the same, but people are saying that the white always had first privileges, unfortunately I was not one of them.”

She said she had paid the owner R350 for rent and to use water from a borehole tap.

As the number of people had grown on the farm, everyone had stopped paying rent and their electricity and water had been cut off.

“We depended on daylight, candles, fires and gas stoves to survive and provide light,” she said.

“Now I feel like I am a (vagrant) living under my blankets on the side of the road,” she said.

Michael Swanepoel said he had moved to the farm from Windsor Park in 2003 and had been living in a “stable” all his life. He refuses to move to Philippi because of crime.

“Although the farm wasn’t a really safe place, everyone knew everyone, but now we are supposed to move to a strange place. I will not go there, why take me out of civilization and put me in a danger zone?”

Mr Swanepoel now shares a tent, tied to the fence on Botfontein Road, with his brother.

Christina Rassouw who has been living on the farm for six years said her two daughters were doing well at school and she would not like to move them from Kraaifontein.

“Our kids were crying and screaming when they came to evict us, but we are not moving from Kraaifontein. This has always been our land,” she said.

She said the evictees were bathing in buckets and relieved themselves in nearby bushes. They also relied on organisations to bring food and materials to erect shelters.

The South African Human Rights Commission slammed the eviction saying the evictees’ rights had been violated.

Acting SAHRC provincial manager Bahia Sterris said: “Basic human rights, including the right to adequate housing, the right to water and sanitation, the rights of children, the right to a basic education and, finally, the right to human dignity have been violated.

“We are particularly concerned about the children affected, given the impact on their right to a basic education and in view of the paramountcy of the best interests of the child in our Bill of Rights.”

When Northern News visited the Kampies in Philippi, a woman who did not want to be named said: “We are not happy that they are coming here because the City promised us better living conditions.”