No money for water and toilets at Khoisan occupation, MPs told

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, which owns the land, plans to have a meeting with the community later this month

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Theewaterskloof Municipality says it has no funds to provide services like water and toilets to people occupying land in the Khoisan settlement named Knoflokskraal in Grabouw, Western Cape. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

  • Theewaterskloof Municipality says it has no money to provide water and toilets to people occupying land in the Khoisan settlement named Knoflokskraal in Grabouw, Western Cape.
  • The municipality was briefing MPs on Tuesday on the future of the land which has been earmarked for forestation.
  • The 1,800 hectares piece of land was first occupied in 2020 and was intended to be a self-sustaining Khoisan community.
  • On Tuesday, Theewaterskloof Municipality urged the provincial and national governments asked for resources to service the Knoflokskraal community.

Theewaterskloof Municipality has no money to provide basic services like water and toilets to people occupying land in the Khoisan settlement named Knoflokskraal in Grabouw, Western Cape, according to municipal councillor Derick Appel.

Appel was briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment on Tuesday. He said that Theewaterskloof was suffering financially and therefore had no budget to provide basic services to about 4,000 people living in the occupation.

GroundUp first reported on the occupation of the 1,800 hectares piece of land in June 2022. The original occupiers, who moved onto the land in 2020, planned to establish a self-sustaining Khoisan community. Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, told the committee that the land is earmarked for forestry plantations and not human settlements.

Since then, the occupation has grown substantially. The land, which is owned by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), was first managed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE).

However, the DFFE indicated in September last year that it planned to hand management of the land back to DPWI, because it failed to come to an agreement with the residents. The handover is to be finalised by the end of this financial year.

During the briefing on Tuesday, Appel said Theewaterskloof municipality needed the provincial or national governments to give them resources so that they could provide proper services to the Knoflokskraal community.

Penny Penxa, DPWI Western Cape regional manager, told Parliament that since the Grabouw land invasion steering committee was established, DPWI had met with SAPS, the municipality, local farmers, the Grabouw Development Agency (GDA), and the Knoflokskraal Royal Authority, among others.

Penxa said that the steering committee is in talks with Infrastructure South Africa, a DPWI-run programme, about a plan to develop Knoflokskraal.

She said there were many different Khoisan groups at Knoflokskraal. They plan to host a “broader and inclusive community meeting” later this month so that community representatives can be elected to join the steering committee.

The Knoflokskraal Royal Authority, which consists of different Khoisan groups, also briefed MPs. They reiterated the community’s need for basic services like toilets.

ANC MP Simphiwe Mbatha raised concerns over contradictory reports to the committee from the two departments. She said that DPWI must resolve the issue of basic services urgently, and that it would be a “serious crisis” if no resources are provided to the people Knoflokskraal.

DA MP David Bryant criticised DPWI for its slow response to deal with this problem and that the department “really needs to take this up and resolve this issue”.

EFF MP Nazier Paulsen said that the longer they waited, the longer the basic rights of the Knoflokskraal community were being violated.

Chairperson Phillip Modise said that a report would be written, and the matter would be handed over to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure.

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