Lack of services in Grabouw’s informal settlement negatively affects women

Siyanyanzela informal settlement is home to most of the striking farmworkers of Oak Valley Estate. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Inadequate water and sanitation services in Siyanyanzela in Grabouw is an extra burden for women who are residents of the informal settlement. More than five women who spoke to Elitsha complained about having to fetch water from taps that are on average 700 metres from their houses. To relieve themselves, they have to go to the bush because the toilets are not clean and few. In making his way to the top of a hill for a good view of Siyanyazela, our reporter had to step cautiously around the human faeces strewn all over the hill.

Siyanyanzela was established in May 2016 after a group of backyarders occupied a piece of land alongside the N2. The piece of land, according to Hugo Geldenhuys, the Theewaterskloof municipality’s spokesperson, belongs to the national Department of Public Works. According to a report by GroundUp, the department got an interdict against the occupation but Geldenhuys told Elitsha that the department did not exercise the interdict and the occupation continues. Many of the striking workers at Oak Valley Estate stay in the settlement.

Water and Sanitation

We met Lindelwa Welile outside her one-room shack doing laundry in a plastic basin. She, like most people in the community, is a some-time farmworker. “I worked at Oak Valley in 2016 before I got sick. I got so sick that I stopped working. We moved in here in Feb 2017,” she said. “I fetch water from the communal tap down the road and because it is far and also just like in the rural areas, I have to carry the bucket on my head,” said the 43-year-old Qumbu native.

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Nonelikhaya Sokomane arrived in Grabouw last year to join her husband who was working at Oak Valley at the time. Sokomane is from Matatiele, a town in the northern part of the Eastern Cape. “Like most women in this area I have to fetch water from the tap and carry a bucket on my head. The toilets are usually not clean and there are few of them. Most of the time we have to go to the hill. By doing that we run the risk of being raped,” she said.

“You have to get someone to accompany you to the hill all the time,” said the 39-year-old mother of one.

28-year-old Nosiseko Tshatini complained about how dirty the chemical toilets can be. “One can pick up a disease from the toilet seats and that is why we prefer going to the bush,” she said.

According to the municipality’s spokesperson, the area has just 8 water points because “there is no bulk service to run the water from and that the settlement is too close to the reservoir.” Geldenhuys admits that the taps are not enough for the growing population of Siyanyanzela but he added that they are planning to “install a rudimentary service for the area.”

When our reporters were covering the community protest in solidarity with the strike at Oak Valley Estate, they noticed water running down the dirt road from a leaking tap.

When Elitsha visited the area two weeks later the tap was still leaking and the furrows the water flowed down, deeper. Asked about why the leaks are not fixed given the drought in the Western Cape, Geldenhuys blamed the strike and the protests.

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“We have an arrangement with the committee to report to the office if there are any broken pipes, and we respond as soon as we can. However, the last three weeks was a bit of a challenge due to the labour-related protest actions. We will never allow water to run for weeks on end. People should report it to the office and we send our people out to repair those broken pipes,” he said.

But according to Mapoloko Nkhoesa, who stays about 30 metres from the leaking tap, the situation has been like that since “November last year.”

No power, no security

“It is not safe to walk at night because it dark and one cannot see properly,” said Dumisani Sokomane, a worker at Oak Valley who is on strike. According to crime statistics of Grabouw, crimes like murder and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm went up from 2017 to 2018, 41 cases to 48 and 168 cases to 187 respectively. But there are no street lights in Siyanyanzela which has obvious safety implications. The area was according to Geldenhuys electrified “during the latter part of 2018” and he claims that the municipality is “in the procurement process to deploy two high mast lights.”

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