Farm workers in Robertson’s “dumping ground” call for better services

CSAAWU demands that Langeberg Municipality install taps, electricity and toilets for Oppiekoppie community

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Deneco Dube of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) led over 200 people on Wednesday through Robertson, demanding the Langeberg Municipality provide basic services for farm workers living on the outskirts of the town. Photos: Ashraf Hendricks

Oppiekoppie informal settlement, on the outskirts of Robertson, has been dubbed locally as “the dump ground” for farm workers and dwellers who have nowhere else to go.

The community is home to about 150 people. Despite pleas to the municipality for help, their homes have been without electricity, toilets, and adequate water points for over ten years.

“We want help. We’re tired of waiting,” says farm worker Abigail Jacobs.

This week, Jacobs was among 200 people supported by members of Commercial, Stevedoring, Agriculture & Allied Worker Union (CSAAWU) and affiliated unions who marched through the small town. Among their demands was for the Langeberg Municipality to provide residents of Oppiekoppie and surrounding settlements with sanitation, more water points, dirt 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 farm evictions and dumping people at Oppiekoppie,” said Dube.

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

Meanwhile, the conditions for Oppiekoppie families remain dire. Most people living here have been evicted from farms and can’t afford to pay rent for backyard dwellers while some want to escape overcrowded rural homes.

Jacobs, who has been living at Oppiekoppie for over ten years, said she can’t afford to pay rent for herself and her four children anywhere else. “I had no food for my children at the end of the day,” she said.

She said all of the residents share one water point and “every now and then” the municipality brings black bags and takes away their rubbish.

Jacobs believes that the lack of adequate sanitation and toilets is making people sick.

Another Oppiekoppie resident Koos Plaatjies said that for the past few years, he has been managing with collecting firewood to cook and he grows his own vegetables. “I want to sustain myself because the government can’t help us,” said Plaatjies, adding that they’ve appealed to the municipality for help for many years.

Langeberg Municipality did not respond by the time of publication.

Oppiekoppie is an informal settlement on the outskirts of Robertson, Western Cape, that is just over 10 years old. Residents here don’t have electricity or toilets, and there aren’t enough taps.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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