“They say my cows stink,” says 90-year-old Domani Plaatjie, one of half a dozen farmers who keep livestock at their RDP houses in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape.
“Stock theft and the lack of land is what is prompting us to farm in RDPs,” says Plaatjie. He lives with his wife, their elder daughter, and four grandchildren in a cramped RDP house in Gunguluza, KwaNobuhle.
“Originally, I come from the rural area of Grahamstown and came to Gunguluza over two decades ago. I came with a herd of five cows and created a kraal next to my shack. This area was open land then and the bush was thick and everyone marked a plot and erected a shack.”
“When my RDP house was built in 2011, I created a bigger kraal in its backyard … because the municipality was busy clearing the bush and left no space on which to create a kraal.”
Today, Plaatjie has 14 cows. They graze some distance away until it gets dark; then his sons herd them back to his RDP home. Plaatjie says if the cows are left to roam away from the RDP kraal, they get hit by cars on busy Rocklands Road, taken by rustlers or impounded for straying and grazing on the land of other farmers.
But tensions are rising between him and his neighbours. People complain about flies and the smell.
“Often I repair people’s gates as they say my cows knock them down looking for grass,” he says.
An angry resident, who didn’t want to be named, said: “They farm in newly built and fresh government houses! We consistently see herds of cows, grunting pigs, chickens and goats invading our yards to graze and munch whatever they see.”
GroundUp visited six farmers in the Gunguluza RDP area. Most of them are elderly.
William Nyiki, 73, says it’s hard to farm among the RDP houses. He came to KwaNobuhle over 30 years ago from neighbouring KwaLanga. He keeps chickens and cows and lives with his four children.
“They [neighbours] threaten to throw boiling water on our cows if they keep knocking down their gates … Since the RDP houses were introduced in Gunguluza after 2000, the government keeps clearing the bush to build more RDP houses … We tried to create kraals far away, but people stole our livestock.
“Social workers often complain to us, saying that it is unhealthy to stay with these animals and that this will cause diseases that could spread … We know that we are not supposed to live with cattle, but where else can we go?”
Republished from GroundUp