People cook on camp fires in Stellenbosch settlements

By Barbara Torresi, CORC

IMG_0655

On the 22nd of March 2011, a delegation of government officials, community members, and professionals set out on a visit of selected informal settlements in the Stellenbosch-Franschhoek-Pniel municipalities, and in particular in the Kylemore area. The visit started at 3.30pm and lasted approximately 1 hour, during which 2 camps were surveyed.

Guff is a gathering of 15 shacks on the side of a gently sloping escarpment four kilometres outside Pniel. The shacks are mostly in poor condition, with some being entirely unhabitable and at risk of collapsing. There are no services: no portable toilets, electricity, or even water points (there is a tap of water at the other side of the main transit road). People cook on camp fires and throw refuse in a gully that runs along the settlement and is by now full to the brim. There is also a makeshift and dangerous looking footbridge over a small crevice in the middle of the settlement. The earliest settlers have been on the site, which they cleared by felling trees, for about ten years, with others joining later after losing their houses. Some of the settlers, all Afrikaans speaking, are employed as seasonal workers on nearby farms or as domestic help, but they also engage in the sale of wine and drugs. People do their shopping in either Stellenbosch or Paarl and use the services of a mobile clinic located 4 km away in Kylemore. The provision of regular services with perhaps the exception of portable toilets is out of question and relocation must be considered.

Jeug camp is located at the back of a school in Kylemore and consists of four large shacks in which 17 families live. The shacks were built a few years ago by the Department of Education to be used as a church youth camp. The area is fenced and the shacks are solid-looking and with raised foundations. They have electricity but no toilets, either flush or portable, and the community uses the bucket system. There are no taps, but the settlers draw water illegally from the nearby school. The garbage is not collected by the municipality on the site, but the settlement looks well maintained because people take their trash to the school’s pick up point. The settlers, all Afrikaans speaking, have been living in the barracks for up to 12 years. They are all on the housing waiting list even though some people might end up not qualifying for the subsidy. There are plans for the whole area to be redeveloped but the final approval is yet to be granted.