Kurland Village, a small green rural township that was meant to be thriving with farming activity has been deprived of this due to divisive politics and the government’s disconnect with the community they serve.
This was the view of The Crags residents and a local group of pig and goat farmers on the outskirts of Plettenberg Bay who spoke to the Cape Times this week about the burning issues of housing needs, access to land and support for potential farmers.
Most residents live in RDP houses, in backyards and shacks made of zinc, scrap wooden planks and asbestos plates.
Liziwe Dayimani spoke about the frustration of living with her three children in a two-room shack with her mother.
“Some people moved here in 1995, others in 1999 and 2008. RDP houses were built in 2004 and families were relocated in 2006.
“There was another development in 2011 but this was still not enough to house people. Families that remained are still awaiting to get a house to date. More than two decades now and people have nothing, (we’ve had) enough of only promises, we want to see action. It is not nice to be an adult that still shares space with parents,” said Dayimani.
She said while residents have been on the waiting list for years, during severe rains, shacks get flooded with no apparent assistance from the municipality.
“People including the elderly and those with disabilities are suffering,” she said.
Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza together with Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi were expected to visit the community on Monday for a ceremony to hand over land title ownership to the Bitou Municipality, however the event was postponed due to inclement weather.
The Kurland land, previously known as Erf 940 and measuring 74 hectares, was donated by the national government to the municipality to build houses for the community.
The land is set to provide about 1 500 erven for the development of both low-cost and First Home Finance housing opportunities.
This is the same land that was leased to Simon Jacobs for farming, where he and with his family of five live. The land will be subdivided for the housing development.
“This is a poor community with high unemployment. Majority of people are farm workers with few in professions like teaching or nursing.
Most people describe it as a farming community however it is not really so, there are a few small-scale farmers.
People have potential and ideas for farming. They want to make a change, but no one is assisting them. A number of factors stand in the way of greater successes and greater participation of black farmers. There is a need for skills development, education, support with resources and training.
“Another major challenge is politics. Those in power or are well-informed about things such as councillors only work with those they get along with. An attitude of ‘I like this person better than the other person or who voted for what’. It’s not spoon-feeding people but assisting illiterate people who are also not tech-savvy,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs was referring to the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) which some small-scale farmers in the area said they only became aware of this year when applications had closed.
The programme was initiated in 2020 to support recovery and sustaining livelihoods of subsistence farmers following the devastating impact of Covid-19 pandemic.
Nosango Rhamncwana, who is part of a group of women pig farmers, said they were disappointed that the ceremony had to be postponed because they wanted ministers there so they could express their frustration about being neglected.
“Since 2020 to date no one helped us, farmers here were left to fend for themselves. I don’t want to mention the municipality. Instead of assisting us they impound our livestock because we don’t have proper fencing and they (animals) escape and end up on the streets. We had to also forcefully farm on this land they own because they don’t want to lease to us and are pointing us to go miles away from our houses and farm in the forest. This is unsafe for women.
“We had to scrabble to make ends meet and feed our pigs. One bag of feed is R300 and this lasts for about three days,” she said.
Agriculture department spokesperson Vuyani Nkasayi said land for housing was already transferred to the Bitou Municipality in April this year and the visit by the ministers was a ceremony to mark the transfer of the land.
“Bitou Municipality approached the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to assist them with land so they can build housing for the people of Kurland.
“The municipality indicated that their housing waiting list was very high and they were struggling to get land.
“The land was previously used for crop production. The land is subdivided into various portions, one portion for farming and other for housing development. The portion for farming is taking longer because the land needs to be prepared as it has a lot of trees,” said Nkasayi.
He acknowledged that the group of Kurland farmers missed out and urged subsistence farmers to approach their offices and be registered for future support.
“We apologise for what happened.
Our district office has already registered them on our farmer register and they will be provided with agricultural inputs once approved.
“In the Crags, there are various groups of people practising farming and we encourage them to approach our offices to be registered in the farmer register, contacting District Director, Ms Lourette Brown via email [email protected].”
Bitou municipal spokesperson Andile Namntu said: "The erven to be developed is 1500 including amenities such as schools, churches and because the budget for any human settlements related projects comes from Provincial and National Government, the municipality cannot commit to any dates for project commencement.
“Bitou Municipality gets funding from the National Government and the mandate to build comes from the Provincial Government, perhaps they are better suited to respond on the waiting list.
“Bitou has an approved Housing Allocation Policy, allocation, is always based on the said policy."
Namntu said they were still trying to ascertain whether the pig and goat farmers applied for a lease or not.
* The Cape Times’ Big Friday Read is a series of feature articles focusing on the forgotten issues that often disappear in the blur of fast news cycles, and where we also feature the everyday heroes who go out of their way to change the lives of others in their communities.
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