George Municipality in conjunction with the Department of Human Settlements made it possible for 29 families to move into new temporary structures after the Minister of Human Settlements visited the area of Geelhoutboom.
The Honourable Minister of Human Settlements in the Western Cape, Mr Bonginkosi Madikizela, the Executive Mayor of George, Councillors, Officials and delegates from Eskom attended the handover of the new structures on Friday in Geelhoutboom.
Minister Madikizela addressed the beneficiaries saying, “The new structures are not ideal, but it will at least better their circumstances. He said the land belongs to private owners and the Department could not build on the land. The Minister said the time has passed where farmworkers were treated like aliens. He said they have a right to housing just like any other citizen.
Ald Melvin Naik, Mayor of George, said George Municipality is looking forward to more projects like these where they can take hands to better the circumstances of our people.
Van Greunen Boerdery purchased the farm during 2006 from Power Developments with the intention of developing the land. During a visit by the Minister to Geelhoutboom on 29 February 2016, it was ascertained that approximately 80 families were residing in this area in structures that were, in some cases, totally uninhabitable and posed a serious threat to the inhabitants. It was the view that intervention was necessary to improve the living conditions of these persons albeit it would just be a temporary solution.
Meetings were held with officials from DoHS, the Municipality, the owners of the farm and the community consultant to map out a plan to provide these families with adequate accommodation and basic services. The owner of the farm granted permission for the erection of temporary structures where needed.
A thorough inspection was conducted on all the structures on the farm. It was found that there are 59 structures of which a total of 28 structures were found to be life threatening to the inhabitants, unhealthy and unfit for human habitation. In some instances, some of the structures were in remote areas of the farm where it is extremely difficult and inaccessible to emergency services.
It was agreed upon that the 30 structures would be replaced with an emergency 4 x 5 structure with a paved floor and the remainder of the structures would be rectified where needed. As a 1st phase of the project, the 28 dilapidated structures were replaced at a cost of R16 900 including the paving. The electrification of the structures in Geelhoutboom was approved by Eskom and the roll-out has commenced. The 2nd phase of the project which entails the rectification of existing structures will be rolled out soon.
The farmworkers previously occupied run-down houses, with no access to electricity on the farm. The new structures provide better protection from bad weather elements, in addition to electricity for all houses on the farm. Residents also have access to water and other basic services.