Farm dwellers dump rubbish at gate to wine farm

Simondium residents picket over uncollected refuse, clean water and threat of eviction

Photo of woman dumping rubbish

Farm dwellers dumped rubbish at the gates to Dawn Mountains wine farm on Wednesday to protest against their living conditions. Photo: supplied

By Barbara Maregele

13 March 2019

A group of mostly women farm dwellers dumped piles of rubbish at the gates of Dawn Mountains wine farm in Simondium on Wednesday.

They are demanding better living conditions for families living in dilapidated farm worker houses, where refuse has not been collected for months. There are no toilets or clean running water.

“We are tired of the living conditions we have been forced to live in. The dirt around our homes is piling up. It’s not healthy to live like this,” resident Maria Scheepers told GroundUp.

She said a wall recently built around their dwellings meant that emergency vehicles could not reach them.

Scheepers is one of dozens of people who occupy a dilapidated house behind the wine farm. Some of the homes are without proper roofs or toilets. The families had gone for months without running water until Women on Farms Project intervened in February last year, and the owner agreed to install a tank and fill it with water three times a week.

Last month, several households received notices to vacate the property. When GroundUp contacted the farm owner, Mohammed Surtee, at the time, he refused to comment and insisted that he had acted within the law. Surtee took over the farm two years ago.

“We are here to show how fed-up we are. We aren’t going anywhere,” Scheepers said.

On Wednesday morning, one farm dweller could be heard shouting at the gate: “Come out and speak to us, Mr Surtee. You accuse us of so many things but don’t want to show your face now.”

By 11am on Wednesday, the group were still picketing at the gates of the wine farm, demanding to speak to its owner.

Attempts to reach Surtee by phone on Wednesday morning were unsuccessful.