More than 250 people evicted from a Kraaifontein farm spent their first night in Stellenbosch, despite receiving a cold greeting from local farmers upon their arrival at the gates of the state-owned land.
Wendy Pekeur of the Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement said vehicles were used to block the road when the evictees arrived at Mesco, a state-owned farm.
On Monday, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Mcebisi Skwatsha said Mesco was “readily available to accommodate these people as quickly as possible”, on a temporary basis while a permanent solution to their housing predicament was sought.
On August 19, 263 people were evicted from Klein Akker which, according to Agri Western Cape, hadn’t been farmed for more than 20 years. The land was used as a bus depot from 1996 and the current owner was a developer, it said.
A total of 93 households, which included children and the elderly, were left homeless after the eviction order granted by the Western Cape High Court was carried out.
Pekeur said Skwatsha had intervened on Monday when the Klein Akker residents arrived at Mesco, as police and law enforcement had also been part of what, to her, looked like a blockade.
When they eventually dispersed, people started moving in after dark, she said.
Most of the people had moved into the “huge farmhouse”, while others had occupied the numerous small buildings on the land.
Others, who did not want to share a room, were living in tents.
There was no water and sanitation, as the pumps on the land had been stolen, Pekeur said, but a team had been established to assess the situation and provide emergency resources.
Annie Geldenhuys, 68, said the first night in Stellenbosch had been “alright” compared to living on the side of Botfontein Road after the eviction.
She has had opted to live in a tent at Mesco.
Agri Western Cape said on Tuesday that it believed the state-owned land was a failed land reform farm.
CEO Jannie Strydom said the relocation of the families to a “rundown farm illustrates the inability of government to provide sufficient housing and ownership”.
“The department must actively seek a permanent and humane solution for these families. Minister Skwatsha should also focus on getting Mesco back into production to create jobs,” he said.
“Before the farm was taken over by government, shortly after the 2017 harvest, the farm pressed an average of 800 tons of grapes annually. The farm has since been looted and the farmworkers lost their jobs.”
Pekeur believed there was much potential on the land for subsistence farming or other opportunities.
Annelize Crosby, Agri SA’s head of land affairs, said the Klein Akker case “demonstrates the very complex nature of illegal occupancy and evictions, and underscores the fact that the greatest need with regards to land reform is for land and housing in cities and towns”.
“Much more needs to be done by municipalities to proactively make land available for housing,” she said.
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said the City had, on two occasions prior to the eviction, offered the occupiers alternative land.
Only one family had accepted the offer, he said.
Plato said their offer was still open to the families, as it had subsequently been made an Order of Court.