Several families living on the Dawn Mountain Farm in Simondium have accused the farm owner of cutting off their water supply to discourage them from living on the property. After calls from the Women on Farms Project, which is assisting the family, the owner has since agreed to switch on the water three times a week.
The Mayoral Committee Member for Rural Development in the Drakenstein Municipality is expected to visit a farm in the Cape Winelands on Tuesday (today) to investigate the families' complaints.
GroundUp joined Women on Farms on a visit to the families on 6 February. Their homes, some of brick and others of zinc and wood, are on the outskirts of the farm. All are weathered and dilapidated, and one home has a black plastic sheet held down by bricks as a roof.
During the visit, Lusie Manyathela, 60, told GroundUp they had been living without running water since January. She was paying someone R10 a day to collect and carry five litre bottles of water for her and her husband from another farm nearby.
"The water was off for a while and then the new farm owner switched it on for about three weeks in December. My husband and I are both old and can't walk nicely so we have to use our grants to pay a guy to fill and carry five litre bottles for us. With less than 50 litres of water, I flush my toilet, wash ourselves, clean my house, give my dog water and wash the dishes and I still have to make food," she said.
Manyathela and her husband have been living on the farm since 1995. She said they had worked on the farm for a few years until it was sold to new owners. The farm has had three owners since then, she said. They had not been asked to pay rent for years. They bought their own prepaid electricity, said Manyathela.
The new owners took over the farm in March 2017.
Most of the people living in the dilapidated houses work on surrounding farms, they said. Only one of the residents currently works at Dawn Mountain.
"Most of the people who live here used to work on the farm, or their parents worked for one of the previous owners. Most of the younger people work on farms around here. We will leave if the municipality can give us a good place to live," said Manyathela.
Carmen Louw of Women on Farms Project answered questions from the residents who mostly feared being evicted "overnight".
"Most of you are long-term occupiers. The owner will have to go to court if he wants to get you out. It's not right that the water was disconnected without any consultation," Louw told the residents.
Rita Andreas, Mayco Member for Rural Development at the Drakenstein Municipality, said she would visit the families on Tuesday. She said the farm owner had visited her the day after GroundUp's visit.
"According to the owner, the water supply was already cut of when he bought the farm. He supplied water to the people again and then after a few months he saw that the people sold the water. So he decided to put up a tank. He told me that he now gives them water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have to go there and talk to the people myself," she said.
"The municipality has decided that 20% of each new housing project must go to farm workers. So we will have to see that the farm workers get on the housing waiting list," she said.
GroundUp did contact the farm owner, who declined to be interviewed or to give his name.