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Visit the Cape’s white squatter camp

Published Jun 17, 2015


Cape Town - The sight of pale-skinned, blonde children scavenging in a dumping site is not common in South Africa.

But at Klein Akker, it is part of the day-to-day struggle of 72 white people who call a small, run-down patch of land their home.

Situated on the outskirts of Kraaifontein, there is no running water and they have no electricity in their homes.

And like in any South African township, unemployment is rife and job opportunities scarce.

The group make do with what they can find, like Joseph Swanepoel whose family live in an old scrap bus and a caravan that has not moved in years.

The 62-year-old wheelchair-bound man says he is the oldest white resident in Klein Akker.

“As the oldest one living here, I feel I need to speak out about the lack of electricity and running water,” says Joseph.

“I spend my days watching my goats from my wheelchair,” he says while pointing to the scrawny animals.

He says his 26-year-old daughter is too embarrassed to be named or photographed because she lives in the broken bus with her mother.

“She has been looking for work for years, even if it is only a cashier job.

“But she only has Standard 7 (Grade 9),” he says.

Annemarie Schoeman, 49, prays that her handsome son can realise his dream of becoming a model.

The mom, who lives in a battered Wendy house, says: “He has a photo on YouTube showing what he can do. But he is shy to pursue his dream because he is scared people will make fun of where he comes from.

“I have been living here for 15 years. I grew up in Wellington but we are suffering here with no lights and water.

“My daily duties include walking eight kilometres with my child to a school in Northpine because there is no form of transport here.

“Three of our generators are broken because the spark plugs don’t last.”

Her neighbour Johan Swanepoel, 52, admits their address is an embarrassment to them.

“When I am in a shop and I have to give my address as Klein Akker squatter camp, people look at you funny.”

The qualified mechanic says he came to live with his children when they started having difficulties and now they all struggle together to make ends meet.

“Poverty knows no colour if you suffer like us here,” he says.

Johan does little things to make life better, like installing a flushing toilet and decorating it with some homemade art.

“At my age I don’t get a lot of work, but if you bring me a petrol or diesel car for a service, then I can at least earn some money to put food on the table,” he says.

But it is not all doom and gloom for Johan, who says he hopes to open up a little shop soon.

He also finds joy and comfort in feathered companion Hans, a crow.

He says the bird can speak Afrikaans and often chases stray dogs off their property: “Hans is spoilt and just wants to give me a kiss,” he says with a smile.

With a serious look washing over his face, Johan adds: “I would like to have a better life here where we don’t get robbed and where we have electricity and water.

“At the moment we have to ferry water from taps in the bushes in five litre containers if we want water.

“And when winter comes, our greatest fear is that floodwaters will wash away the little footbridge we use.

“It’s happened before and we were cut off from the town for about a week.”

For Dorothea Ferns, 53, there is little hope of a better life, and she sometimes has to go for up to five days without food.

She now survives on the meagre spinach harvest from her garden.

“When there is nothing, you can’t expect anything,” says Dorothea.

“People have made many promises to us over the years. People can no longer help me. Only the Lord can make my life better now.”

Daily Voice

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