Cape Town - Farm dwellers at Simonia Village, living on land belonging to Stellenpak, a fresh fruit export packing and cooling business, are unhappy after the company cut their water supply because of an outstanding water bill owed to the municipality.
The group of 21 households at the village, located along the R45 between Franschhoek and Paarl, reside on land belonging to the Stellenpak Trust.
A group of women picketed outside Stellenpak on Tuesday and vowed to lay charges at the Paarl police station against the Stellenpak Trust.
The Women on Farms Project (WFP) has been assisting the group.
WFP organiser Madelein Herwil said the community’s water had been disconnected in August.
Herwill said their electricity costs were “astronomical”, with 16 units costing R100.
The bulk of electricity payments goes towards settling an outstanding bill of R96 000 that is owed to the Drakenstein municipality by the trust.
“They were using borehole water all of their lives while staying there in Simonia in Stellenpak but then they asked the owners to connect them to the water mains and since September 2021, they were using municipal water,” Herwil said.
Stellenpak general manager, Robert Saunders said: “As far as I know, the water supply has not been cut off.
“The piece of land on which their houses are on, did at one stage belong to Stellenpak, it is now in a Trust with the people that stay there as beneficiaries of the Trust.”
Saunders said the trustees were responsible for paying the municipal costs and confirmed the amount that was owed was close to R100 000.
“As we understand, the municipality will not cut the water off.
“All that they’ve done is, when people load up their metres (electricity), a portion of that money is used to pay for the water costs that are outstanding.”
Simonia resident Jo-Anne Johannes, 53, said their water had been disconnected since June 1, 2021. Johannes said they paid rent to Stellenpak but she said it had been stopped by Stellenpak over housing complaints that occurred in 2017.
“We have elderly people, disabled people, single mothers and jobless people who can’t contribute to the water bill. Our houses are in a very bad shape and it is also a health risk.
“When we went to the municipality for help with our houses, we were told that it is private property.”
Drakenstein municipality chief financial officer Bradley Brown however said the municipality did not switch off the water supply, and that this was done by Stellenpak themselves.