Misery on state farm: Mesco farm residents lack toilets amid impending eviction
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Cape Town - Residents of the state-owned Mesco farm in Stellenbosch say they have been left in the lurch by the government, complaining that although they have been accommodated on the farm, they have no access to toilets while they are faced with eviction in the next few months.
While the group of around 75 people has been fighting an eviction notice from the farm’s tenant, a week ago their portable toilets were taken off the property by the Housing Development Agency’s (HDA) sub-contractor Sanitech after its contract to provide the group with toilets expired at the end of March 2021.
Community leaders and residents in the makeshift settlement say they are at their wits end, trying to understand why their human rights are violated by people meant to help them.
The group’s Angeline Louw said: “It is not right what we are being made to go through. Must we struggle for even the simplest of things in life? Now we have to use bushes as toilets, and the one toilet that Sanitech left is full and inaccessible.
Louw said within the group some of the elderly were frail while some had existing ailments that could become complicated due to the situation. She said: “We are afraid for ourselves, our children, and elderly people living here, some are sick and cannot withstand such conditions.”
A 59-year-old resident, Dorathea Fern, said: “I have been sick for the past week. I am in pain and have lost all hope. People say we are subjecting ourselves to a life like this but that is not true. If I had a gun right now I wouldn’t choose to live. We are tired of living like this, in between animals like we are not human,” said Fern.
Sanitech branch manager Tracey Roos said that while the situation was unfortunate the contract for Sanitech’s services had expired on March 31, 2021, and the company had been told by the housing development agency to withdraw their services.
Meanwhile, the HDA, which is an agency of the Department of the Human Settlements, said that it could not renew the contract for the toilets or continue to provide services to the group as it had only agreed to provide interim services.
HDA project manager Warren Marian said: “Unfortunately without instruction or agreement from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development we cannot make the decision to renew any contracts. We were only supposed to provide interim services and over time we have extended support three times.
"The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development have for months been silent and no meetings about the way forward have been held. For us to make any decisions we need to have been in consultation with the department,” said Marian.
When asked for comment the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development redirected the Cape Argus to the occupant’s representative in the eviction proceedings.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said that upon enquiring about the situation with Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha, a meeting had been set for later this week to discuss a way forward.
Nissen said: “What is happening on that farm is a gross violation of these people’s human rights. We are demanding for those toilets to be returned back on site immediately. There can be no excuse as to why there were taken away in the first place, and all these inter-departments within the government need to be held accountable.
"I have scheduled a meeting with Deputy Minister Skwatsha, we will sit down and discuss how best these people can be assisted, and I am talking about a sustainable long-term plan. These families along with kids cannot continue to live like this, especially with winter approaching,” said Nissen.