ABOUT 300 people have had no choice but to make the abandoned Mesco farm their new home. They were evicted from Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein in August. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
ABOUT 300 people have had no choice but to make the abandoned Mesco farm their new home. They were evicted from Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein in August. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

PHOTO ESSAY: The plight of 50 families evicted from Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein

By Dominic Adriaanse Time of article published Nov 6, 2019

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Three months ago about 300 people, including children and the elderly, were evicted from Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein and left destitute. The 

landowner had successfully initiated eviction proceedings because it had plans to develop the land into an industrial or semi-industrial property.

After the families had slept on the side of the road for a few days, Deputy Minister of Rural Development, Mncebici Skwatsa, intervened and they were relocated to Mesco, an abandoned state-owned farm.

Dominic Adriaanse visited the families who shared their experiences with him.

It’s difficult being forced to eke out an existence in a new place you never expected to find yourself.

It’s even more difficult when you have nothing to start that new life with.

The families evicted from Klein Akker farm in Kraaifontein in August are doing their best on the abandoned state farm, 5km from the home they knew for almost 20 years.

It’s a warm summer’s day on Bottelary Road, and Willem Gouws, 50, is sitting in agony because an infection on both his legs is swarming with

flies.

He has no access to medication to treat it.

Abandoned buildings on the land, including a former main house, and what residents say are former horse stables and pig pens, have been occupied by people.

Some of the pens are occupied by more than one family.

Mathys Swanepoel, Anna Geldenhuys and Johan Swanepoel next to their tents on state-owned farm Mesco. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Anna-Marie Schoeman is staying in an old water pump house with her kids. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

 Anna-Marie Schoeman is staying in an old water pump house with her kids. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Residents said they were provided with four water tanks and four portable toilets to share among the 50 families.

They heard there was a mobile clinic on another farm, but were unsure of its schedule.

A hospital in Stellenbosch is half an hour away by car.

All over the farm people are heating water on open flames, which is being fuelled by pieces of furniture and other materials found among ­discarded ­mattresses and damaged items.

The smell of animal faeces is strong, almost unbearable, in parts where residents try to live.

Children as young as a 2 are playing in the yard area, where community-based organisation Foundation for Community Work arrived and provided meals, water, and home-based foundation learning training for unemployed parents.

Elder residents living in tents donated by NGOs and members of the public said the humidity inside

the tents during the day was unbearable.

A member of one of the 11 families occupying the farmhouse, Isaac Warries, 56, said it was surreal sleeping in the house because he had worked at as gardener for 15 years for the former owner.

“I lie in bed and think about how I used to work here before the farm was sold to the government. It was beautiful, with vineyards and olive groves, but its been allowed to fall into such a state. Thieves stole all they could - wiring, pipes - we have to use candles and make fires as there is no electricity.”

Isaac Warries, 56, stands in the yard he used to tend for 15 years as a gardener. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

ANNA Paulse, 53, reads the Bible as she sits at the entrance to her structure, which residents say was used as a pig pen. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

ANNA Geldenhuys collects water from one of the tanks supplied for the 50 families because they have no running water. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

Walking through the unkempt yard he used to tend, Warries warned of snakes and field mice, and looked at the fields where cows grazed.

He said he often thought of the old baas.

He was happy to have a roof over his head, because only a few weeks ago he was facing life on the side of the road.

In August, the Western Cape High Court upheld a court order to evict the Klein Akker farm dwellers.

The City offered the families its emergency housing site known as Kampies, in Philippi, which not all the families accepted because it was far from everything they knew.

Deputy Minister of Rural Development Mncebici Skwatsa intervened and the families were relocated to the abandoned state farm. Josef “Swanie” Swanepoel, 66, and members of his family were some of the first nine families to occupy Klein Akker in the early 2000s.

Swanepoel, who is in a wheelchair, now lives in a structure on the veranda of the farmhouse, where he has the bare minimum.

“This is a hard life. We have no running water and there is no electricity. You see how I am living. Some of the people are living in pig pens because we have no other place to go. Klein Akker was much better than this place, but we hear they want to send us to Philippi if we are unhappy here,” he said.

One of the younger residents, Melicia Hektoor, 27, who lives with her family in a room, said she felt grateful to have a roof over her head.

“This may not be perfect, but it is a place we can make home. We were told that Nutec houses would be bought for us on a piece of land at the farm’s entrance, but we received a lawyer’s letter telling us that the person leasing the farm from the national government wants us off,” she said.

Hektoor said residents did not know whether or not this would mean they would leave the property soon.

The department of rural development and land reform had not responded by deadline.

Clothes hanging to dry between vineyards at Mesco, state-owned farm in Kraaifontein. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

A woman is dressing a baby inside a house shared by approximately 10 families. People are living in harsh conditions on state-owned farm Mesco. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Times

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