South Africa


Families to be kicked off state farm near Citrusdal to make way for private farmer

Families to be kicked off state farm near Citrusdal to make way for private farmer
Dennis Brandt’s family is among 20 who live in farmhouses owned by the Agricultural Research Council, which abandoned operations on the farm years ago. Now the council wants to lease the land and buildings to a commercial farmer. (Photo: Liezl Human)

The fate of about 20 households hangs in the balance as the Agricultural Research Council moves ahead with plans to lease the farm.

About 20 families living on a state farm near Citrusdal in the Western Cape fear they may be evicted. Most of them have lived on the farm for nearly three decades. While no formal eviction process has started yet, residents are hoping they will still be allowed to stay and that their living conditions on the farm will be improved.

The 120-hectare “experimental farm” along the N7, called Proefplaas, is owned by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The council was established in 1990 and is the principal agricultural research institution for South Africa.

Last week, farm dwellers from Proefplaas picketed next to the N7, demanding to be allowed to remain living on the farm. Municipal officials had informed them of the decision by ARC to lease the land to a commercial farmer. The new farmer, who is yet to be confirmed publicly, apparently wants the families evicted from their homes on the property. Most of the residents at Proefplaas are seasonal workers on surrounding farms.

According to residents, the farm is mostly uncultivated and has sat dormant since 2000. They told GroundUp that most families moved to houses on the farm in the 1990s and paid rent directly to the ARC.

Proefplaas residents picket next to the N7, demanding to be allowed to live on the farm and for water infrastructure to be reinstalled on it. (Photo: Liezl Human)

Melvin Bezuidenhout said he has lived on the farm for nearly 26 years. He said households had been paying a fee to the ARC for electricity and rent for many years, and that they stopped paying when conditions on the farm deteriorated. They no longer have access to running water, he added. 

Bezuidenhout accused the ARC of cutting off the water and removing the sewerage and piping from the property a few years ago.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Thousands of farmworkers face eviction once the National State of Disaster ends, activists warn

The families’ first received an eviction notice in 2006. They were informed that the farm would be “resuming operations” and the houses would be needed for ARC staff. But nothing ever came of this, he said.

Fifteen years later, residents face a threat of eviction again.

Labelled ‘land invaders’

“ARC owes this community a fair answer,” said Bezuidenhout. He said that in a meeting with municipal officials, residents were told that the section that houses his family and four others needed to be vacated.

“They can’t just plan behind the scenes. We are the people who looked after this farm for years,” he said. Bezuidenhout said his two children, who are now young adults, were born on Proefplaas, as were many children on the farm.

He said their requests to the ARC that ownership of the farm be handed over to them have been ignored. Instead they had been labelled as “squatters” and “land invaders”.

Another resident, Dennis Brandt, said it was unfair that they had funded the maintenance on the buildings for 25 years and now the ARC wanted to evict them.

“If we hadn’t looked after this farm, it would’ve been a squatter camp,” said Brandt. He said they had been stopping people from erecting structures on the farm.

Anna Pieterse says she moved in 17 years ago. She and her husband, Trevur, plan to grow rooibos in an open space next to their home. She said the lack of water makes farming more challenging.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Judiciary drags heels for 16 months over crucial farm dweller housing judgment

Citrusdal farmer Albert Klaase has been working some pieces of the land for the past seven years. He said he made a deal with the residents. He grows citrus and a variety of vegetables.

Klaase also uses a big storeroom on the property which he fixed up. He employs some of the Proefplaas residents. “I can still create more jobs. But I don’t want to invest in uncertainty,” he said.

Albert Klaase grows citrus and vegetables on a section of Proefplaas. He also uses this big storeroom on the property, which he says he fixed up with his own money. (Photo: Liezl Human)

When we contacted the ARC with detailed questions last week, spokesperson Derusha Crank confirmed that the farm would be leased to a commercial farmer. Crank told GroundUp that no former or current ARC staff members lived on the farm, and “any resident concerns should be raised with the local authorities such as the municipality”.

We contacted the Cederberg Municipality more than a week ago and again on Wednesday. The spokesperson promised to respond by Thursday afternoon but never did. DM

First published by GroundUp.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Change is Good says:

    There are ways that the private farmer can negotiate a deal. The residents who are paying rent would surely be able to collaborate with the farmer and remain on the farm under certain conditions.
    Let’s change the way we do things.

  • Evan Booyens says:

    These people are NOT squatters – they are productive members of our society who have willingly paid rent, maintained the property and even turned it into a productive entity. Give the farm to them or at least allow them to get a 99 year lease.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options