More and more people want houses as the shortage grows
THE economic hardship of the pandemic, combined with rising unemployment and lack of housing in the Dwars River Valley, have been singled out as the main reasons behind the recent land occupations.
Violence broke out in the small area of Lanquedoc a week ago following the demolition of some structures by the Red Ants and Stellenbosch Municipality law enforcement officers.
A house belonging to a community leader was set alight and offices belonging to the Dwars River Valley Community Development Trust were left damaged in the aftermath.
This week some residents spoke of their pleas for housing "falling on deaf ears" and reasons that led to them erecting structures on a piece of land donated to communities by Anglo American Farms (Pty) Ltd in 2004.
Overlooking and adjoining the 13.5 hectare piece of land known as Erf 10 where some residents built homes recently, are a few rows of houses that were built by Anglo for its employees.
The area is just at the foot of the picturesque Devil's Kloof mountain, where the Khoi people would get their medicinal herbs.
According to community leader Allie Kleinsmidt, a total of 615 homes were built by the company before it ceased its operations there and sold some of its land.
The company donated Erf 10 and the remainder of Erf 1, measuring 3.3 hectares to the five communities in the Valley, namely Lanquedoc, Pniel, Kylemore, Jonkershoek, and Meerlust.
A trust, known at the time as the Boschendal Trust, (and later renamed the Dwars River Valley Community Development Trust) was set up to look after the land, which included another 65 hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of the communities.
Kleinsmidt said the trust was also supposed to look at housing development opportunities for the remainder of the beneficiaries who could not be accommodated in the initial development projects.
After waiting for nearly two decades, Nokwakha Ndongeni was among the first residents of the informal settlement on Erf 10, named after Covid-19.
"My late husband worked for Anglo American for years. Unfortunately we were never allocated a home during the developments. My children and I had to live as backyarders.
"We had tried to highlight the critical need for houses through protest marches. but this all fell on deaf ears.
"When it became difficult to afford rent we then decided to move onto the open land and build our own homes. I don't want to live in a shack forever. I would also like to own a house one day," Ndongeni said.
Although she could now point to her own home among the more than 80 structures, lack of basic services was still a problem as they now had to buy drinking water from neighbours.
"There are no toilets here and there are no taps," she added.
At the entrance to the small tight-knit community are a few more shacks built largely on wetland.
But Busisiwe Skolweni was not perturbed by the prevalence of snakes and other creepy crawlies on the land.
"I had no choice. I could no longer afford to pay R500 rent as a backyarder. I work on the nearby farms as a seasonal worker. Today I did not get a job and had to come back home. Fortunately I got a client who wanted to do braids, that's how I manage to support myself," Skolweni said.
According to Kleinsmidt the area is prone to veld fires in the summer months.
The municipality said there were currently about 16 000 people on the Housing Demand Database.
But the Democratic New Civic Association's Franklin Adams described the lack of housing as a "crisis".
"The delivery of housing in the Lanquedoc area is appalling. I recently asked for statistics from the municipality on delivery of houses over the past 10 years and the track record is very bad.
"The last time houses were provided for the poor in some areas in the greater Stellenbosch area was when the ANC was in power," Adams said.
Nearly every third house in Lanquedoc has a few shacks built on the property.
"Families have expanded and the younger ones have to move out of the parents' homes. They have nowhere else to go, as a result they build on the properties. They need houses of their own and for their own families," said Kleinsmidt.
The municipality said housing was "the national and provincial competency" and municipalities "merely act as implementing agents for housing".
Adams rejected the explanation as "unacceptable".
"They have a duty to assist people. The poor realise the right to decent housing guaranteed in the Constitution", Adams said.
The alleged donation of Erf 10 and the remainder of Erf 1 by the trust to the municipality remained a "white elephant" but still hovered in the minds of the residents.
"We want answers, we have to be told the truth. We deserve the truth," said Ndongeni