Cape Town - Eight families face the possibility of losing their homes as negotiations with the farmer on whose land they live hang in the balance.
Farmer Reynard Beck said he had instructed his attorneys to apply for an order as he would evict all the families on the farm if negotiations were not amicably resolved by Friday.
Ou Werf farm in Piketberg, which has been fallow for 25 years since sand-mining ceased, was bought by Reynard Beck almost a year ago. Eight families lived on the land in one-roomed brick houses they had built themselves.
Beck wants the families to move to another section of the land to make way for a game farm and guest cottages, but they are demanding he build them replacement brick houses.
Beck said when he bought the farm only one family – the Februaries – had legal right to stay on the farm for the rest of their lives.
Beck has already begun to put up wire fencing around the game farm and guest cottages area.
When Weekend Argus visited Ou Werf this week, resident Jonelline Februarie was in bed in her dark, one-roomed structure. There was no electricity and just a cement floor.
Neighbours said she had suffered a stroke.
Februarie’s husband Johannes, known as Oom Hankie, said the situation was tearing him apart as he had been living on the farm for over 27 years and had raised his three daughters there.
He said he had no intention of leaving the farm as it was the only stable home he had ever known.
“I won’t leave the farm, where will I go? When Beck came here, he found me here and he will leave me right here.”
Hendrik Jacobus, who has been living on the farm for more than 20 years, has tuberculosis. He said he and his family would not leave the farm as they had nowhere else to go.
“This is our home and we will not leave this place.
“Here we even planted some grapes for ourselves so we can pick them right from our door steps and we have our chickens and things here so we will not go.”
Beck said he had offered to build the Februarie family four Wendy houses – one for the parents and one each for the daughters – furnish them and install toilets. There would also be land on which they could farm.
He said he had originally planned to employ the eight families on his game farm, once the wild life had been brought in and the guest cottages built.
Lorraine Februarie, granddaughter of Oom Hankie, confirmed the family had agreed to accept four Wendy houses instead of a single brick house.
But after Billy Claasen, a project co-ordinator from the Farmworkers South Africa Association, advised them not to move into the Wendy houses, the family “realised that this was not really a good deal for us so we did not move into the Wendy houses and we refuse to move into the Wendy houses instead of proper brick houses”.
She said: “He did build the wendys for us like he promised, but why must we live in Wendy houses now when we’ve been living in a brick house? We won’t move to those things.”
Johannes Februarie accused Beck of cutting their electrical supply because they had refused to move to the Wendy houses.
“We first had altercations with his sons who want us to leave the farm, and then because we refused to move to the Wendy houses he just cut our electricity and put up fences and cameras all over the farm.
“He said that a switch in the electricity box had burnt out, but he refuses to let us call someone to fix it so we have been out of electricity for over a month now.”
An angry Beck refuted claims that he had cut the electricity and blamed Claasen for the disruption and bad blood on the farm.
He said negotiations had ceased late last year after the residents met Claasen who “made (them) empty promises”.
“When I bought the farm, which was originally a sand-mining operation, the previous owner told me that one family had a lifetime lease on the farm and I therefore was legally not able to have him leave the land.
“But because the part they live on is where I want to fence off the farm and bring in wildlife, I offered the family a lump sum of R250 000 and to build them one house.
“At first they agreed but then suddenly Oom Hankie came back to me saying he has three daughters who also need accommodation and I would have to build them houses as well.
“That would have been too expensive for me and I told him that.”
Beck took the Weekend Argus team to inspect the four Wendy houses, of which only one is complete and furnished. He stopped work on other houses after the dispute arose.
Beck said Claasen should provide the housing as well as the land to farm which Beck had orginally offered the families.
Claasen has denied he was the cause of the farm troubles, saying he was acting in the best interests of the farm workers.
Late last year the South African Human Rights Commission visited the farm to do an onsite inspection, but this week was not available to confirm outcomes of the visit.