ICYMI: ‘Dump’ farm workers want services

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The informal settlement of Oppiekoppie, on the outskirts of Robertson in the Western Cape, has been locally dubbed “the dumping ground” for farm workers and farm dwellers with nowhere to go.

The community has about 150 people. Despite appeals to the municipality for help, their homes have been without electricity, toilets and adequate water points for more than ten years.

“We want help. We are tired of waiting,” Abigail Jacobs, an agricultural worker, told GroundUp.

This week, Jacobs was among 200 people supported by members of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) and affiliated unions who marched through the small town. Among their demands, the municipality of Langeberg was to provide the inhabitants of Oppiekoppie and the surrounding settlements with sanitary facilities, more water points, bins and bags, among other things.

Deneco Dube, deputy general secretary of CSAAWU, said they have been alerting the council to the “urgent needs” of vulnerable communities like Oppiekoppie since 2020. “We want the municipality to stop the agricultural evictions and dumping of people in Oppiekoppie,” Dube said.

Deputy Mayor Johnny Steenkamp received the memorandum. The municipality had a week to respond.

Oppiekoppie is an informal settlement on the outskirts of Robertson, Western Cape that is just over 10 years old. Here, the inhabitants have neither electricity nor toilets and there are not enough taps. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Disastrous Circumstances

Meanwhile, conditions for the Oppiekoppie families remain dire. Most of the people who live here are evicted farm workers and cannot afford the rent of backyard dwellers while some want to escape the overcrowded rural houses.

Jacobs, who has lived in Oppiekoppie for more than ten years, said she could not afford to pay rent for herself and her four children elsewhere. “I had no food for my children at the end of the day,” she said.

She said all residents share a water point and “from time to time” the municipality brings black bags and takes away their rubbish.

Jacobs thinks the lack of proper sanitation and toilet facilities is making people sick.

Another resident of Oppiekoppie, Koos Plaatjies, said that in recent years he has managed to collect firewood for cooking and grows his own vegetables. “I want to support myself because the government cannot help us,” Plaatjies said, adding that they had been appealing to the municipality for help for many years.

The municipality of Langeberg did not respond to GroundUp at the time of publication.

This article was written by Liezl Human and first post by Ground Up.

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