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Craft gin meets sobering poverty: Two worlds in a West...

DM168

ADRIFT IN VELDDRIF

Where craft gin meets sobering poverty: Two worlds in a West Coast fishing dorpie

Waynique Carolus, one of scores of children living in abject poverty in Noordhoek, Velddrif, faces a bleak future and is not sure when she will get her next plate of food. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

Velddrif, a fishing gem about 150km from Cape Town, was the venue for Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s recent State of the Province Address. When Daily Maverick visited the area, they found a town that prides itself on its warmth, its hospitality industry and its famous bokkoms. But they also found families living in dire circumstances, waiting for government help. Photos by Joyrene Kramer.

Entering Velddrif, the majestic Berg River is immediately visible. Then one sees the bright white buildings with their painted green roofs.

The town is famous for the river, its fishing community and bokkoms – a small fish (Southern mullet) that is dried and salted, a bit like fish biltong.

On 15 February, the town hosted the Western Cape’s State of the Province Address, in which Premier Alan Winde said: “I think especially of the fishing communities like the one right here in Velddrif, and how, despite the greatest of challenges, you still get up, get out and ‘set sail’.”

Partially sighted Eva Daniels (84), the oldest among 10 people who received title deeds in Noordhoek, Velddrif on the West Coast on Tuesday, 22 February 2022. She was overjoyed and in tears when she received hers. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

On the town’s clean streets, DM168 was greeted with smiles, waves and open conversations that went beyond the activities hosted by the provincial government.

In the suburb of Noordhoek, after a title deed ceremony, we overheard a woman questioning why the streets were clean. Was it because of the premier’s visit?

St Helena Bay resident Freddie Kearns is one of many fishermen left destitute due to limited fishing quotas. He says he has lost count of the times he has been arrested for poaching, but he gives different magistrates the same reason for doing it: to put food on his family’s table. His family has been fishing in the area for generations, but due to a lack of fish, the inadequate quota system and a lack of jobs, his son has become a drug addict. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

But Winde’s focus was on Eva Daniels, an 84-year-old woman on Albatross Street who was one of 10 recipients of title deeds handed out by the premier and Tertius Simmers, the MEC for human settlements.

“God is good. I’m glad I became a house owner before I closed my eyes,” she said.

About 7,000 people live in Noordhoek, home to who were known under apartheid as Velddrif’s coloured community. Twenty-seven years after the dawn of democracy, there are still households living in either extreme poverty or with problems with basic services. Or both.

More than 100 households on Almal Avenue in Noordhoek, Velddrif still use outside toilets. Romario Galant (10) said it is very dangerous for children and women to go to the toilet alone at night. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)
Poverty is real and tangible in 23-year-old Caroleen Andrews’s home in Noordhoek. It is a constant battle to put food on the table. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)
Bergrivier, Ward 6
Bergrivier, Ward 7

Edward Rooi (62) has been waiting for more than 10 years for a toilet to be installed inside his home.

“At night I have to accompany my wife to the toilet. It is just too dangerous for any woman to go alone to the toilet at night,” he said. He was aware of the premier’s visit and said he would like to ask Winde: “When am I getting a toilet inside my home? It is disgusting that old people in this day and age must still use outside toilets.”

Jacoba Andrews (59) lives in a cramped, government-built, one-bedroom home with her daughter Caroleen, her unemployed brother and more than four children from her late sister. The household’s only sources of income are from Andrews, who gets R150 a day for domestic work, and her daughter, who receives a state child-support grant for her child.

Christiaan Engelbrecht (25) works at Charlie’s Brewery in Velddrif. The premises house a brewery and a gin distillery. Between these, a restaurant and accommodation, about 100 people are employed from the region. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)
An emotional Margaret Barends – one of the 10 title deed recipients in Noordhoek on Tuesday, 15 February 2022 – says that after years of waiting she can finally be called a proud homeowner. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

“Without the food we get from the soup kitchen in our area, we would be going to bed at night on empty stomachs. I only work three days a week and get paid R150 a day,” she explains.

With that R150, she buys bread, two packets of chicken or two tins of sardines, a packet of rice and R10 worth of electricity.

Sleeping in the dark has become the norm for the family, and neighbours said they try their utmost to help them.

The fishing community of Steenberg Cove in St Helena Bay, in the Saldhana Bay Municipality on the West Coast, is reeling owing to reduced fish quotas. Some have resorted to poaching, while others have been left destitute while waiting for quota allocations to be approved or extended. This problem is also compounded by drug use due to unemployment. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

Hanlie Linde, Bergrivier’s municipal manager, said she was fully aware of the enormity of the challenges she faced in coming up with workable solutions. “We are unashamedly pro-poor. It is the work of the municipality to work for the poor and, if that works, then for everybody.”

Fisherman Abraham de Bruyn with his rooster outside his house in Steenberg Cove on the Cape West Coast. De Bruyn says he was waiting for a boat to arrive so he could go out to sea to fish. Fishers like De Bruyn struggle as fishing quotas restrict their income. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

Although there is poverty, there is a luxury side to life in Velddrif – complete with water activities, as well as a booming hospitality industry that includes a gin distillery and a brewery.

Richard Laing, general manager of Charlie’s Brewhouse, said people didn’t “really know [about] Velddrif”, which was why the company had decided to market the town as an adventure destination. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here

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