Women march against evictions in Drakenstein
“Share the land with those who work on it”
“Share the land with those who work on it,” read a placard held up by a farm worker as she marched through the streets of Paarl on Friday. She was among more than 150 people, most of whom were women, who marched to raise awareness about unchecked evictions of farm workers and dwellers in the Drakenstein area.
“We want to put pressure on the Drakenstein Municipality to put a farmworker eviction plan in place,” said Colette Solomon of the Women on Farms Project (WFP).
The purpose of the march was to give the municipality a memorandum, demanding an adequate housing plan that addresses the dire conditions evictees often find themselves in.
Before the march, Women on Farms held an open dialogue at the Huguenot Community Hall. Many women took the opportunity to voice their experiences of living and working on farms.
“People who were born on farms are getting dumped in informal settlements. They are not used to that environment,” said Chaleen Arendse, a member of WFP.
Arendse said that evicted farm dwellers often ended up in overcrowded informal settlements, without any access to clean water and proper sanitation.
She said the organisation has also seen an increase in teenage pregnancies and children dropping out of school.
The march marked five years since several Soetendal farmworkers were evicted from their homes in 2015. The eviction order required the Municipality to provide alternative accommodation. However, the families, who were provided emergency housing in the New Rest informal settlement, were exposed to poor and overcrowded living conditions.
On Friday, the memorandum called for an urgent meeting with the mayor to address issues with the Soetendal families. It also noted the death of two Soetendal evictees who burnt to death in a shack fire.
“The community feels that the conditions under which they live increases their vulnerability and threatens their safety. Until policies and legislation is in place, we need to have an immediate moratorium on farm eviction,” said director Colette Solomon.
The Drakenstein Municipality had not responded to questions at the time of publication.
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