'We want a better life, maybe a brick house'

2016-12-02 06:00
Rosy and Koos Isaacs were moved to New Rest in Wellington after being retrenched from their farm jobs. (Zoe Schaver ,GroundUp)

Rosy and Koos Isaacs were moved to New Rest in Wellington after being retrenched from their farm jobs. (Zoe Schaver ,GroundUp)

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Cape Town - About 300 residents of New Rest temporary relocation area in Wellington received electricity last week, after waiting almost a year for the service.

“Our appliances were just standing there,” says Rosy Isaacs, 64, in Afrikaans.

She and her husband, Koos, sit on plastic buckets in the shade of the communal toilets, trying to keep cool. There are no trees in New Rest, and the tin shacks get muggy in the spring heat.

The couple was relocated here last December from the nearby Soetendal farm, where they worked for 35 years. They were one of the 23 families evicted when the farm was sold to a new owner.

Isaacs and her husband remember a time when they were paid in wine for their labour. After apartheid ended, they began receiving cash, but electricity, rent, and water expenses were deducted from their paychecks. Now, the couple survive off their R1 500 monthly state old-age pensions.

The residents of New Rest were lawfully evicted from the farm under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), says Christian Julius, an attorney at the Legal Aid Clinic at Stellenbosch University who handled the case along with Lawyers for Human Rights.

ESTA states that people who have residence because of an employment agreement lose their right to residence if they resign or are dismissed legally. Because the farmworkers of New Rest were granted housing through their place of employment, when the farm changed hands, they lost their homes and jobs.

The municipality stepped in to provide temporary housing.

Constant fear

The official New Rest community is comprised of 23 tin shacks erected by the Drakenstein municipality, no more than a metre apart. The small front yards are separated by barbed wire, which double as a drying line for socks and underwear. These state-built homes are surrounded by other informal dwellings, which some New Rest occupants say breeds conflict between the close-knit farm community and their new neighbours.

When ambulances come to New Rest, residents in the surrounding shacks stop them from entering the settlement, says Alvina Abrahams, a member of the Independent Civic Organisation of SA (Icosa). One of the three water taps meant to provide for the 300 people of New Rest was recently stolen.

“I can’t sleep at night. I’m in constant fear,” says resident Suzanna Demas, 73.

She is raising three grandchildren - aged eight, nine, and 12 - who share a room with their grandparents. She worries the children may fall into a life of crime here.

Overcrowding and poor ventilation

“Nobody’s working. It’s easy to sell drugs.” Her husband contracted TB earlier this year, and Demas worries about his health and his risk of passing on the illness.

Dr Francesca Conradie, a TB specialist at Wits University says she is very surprised that the children don’t have TB.

The main environmental factors facilitating the spread of TB are overcrowding, poor ventilation, and medium to high heat. New Rest has all three.

Of the residents who do work, most are employed as farmhands. They board lorries early in the morning that transport workers to vineyards in this famous wine region.

“We want a better life,” says Rosy Isaacs. “Maybe a brick house.”

Drakenstein municipality spokesperson Lochner van Rensburg says he is still waiting for an explanation for the nearly year-long delay in service to New Rest.

Read more on:    cape town  |  service delivery

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