Farm families face uproot

The space which residents cleaned up and turned into a weekly market.

Tyisa Nabanye is a fitting name for an urban farming project that started on a vacant piece of land owned by national government. It means “to feed others”.

Now, however, nine families, including women and children, living on the farm in Tamboerskloof face an uncertain future after being issued with eviction notices.

The site is owned by the South African National Defence Force but run by the national Department of Public Works.

The farm has been a vibrant part of the community for more than 20 years and was started by André Laubscher. For the past three years a weekly market has been run there.

Members of the Tamboerskloof farm, a registered NPO, are appealing to government and residents to save the site, with more than 1 400 people having signed a petition in support of the eco village. It reads, in part: “The eco village provides support for micro businesses through Tyisa Nabanye’s weekly food and goods market, agriculture and agri-tourism, public benefit initiatives, a pre primary school, arts and culture activities and a theatre, and early childhood development through a much loved community animal farm.

“It is also an accessible ‘green space’ in the City Bowl for ecological awareness and preservation of indigenous renosterveld.”

Chuma Mgcoyi, one of the founders of the market, said she had been staying on the site for the past three years. The farm has been in existence for 20 years but was registered as an NPO in 2013.

“Our objectives at first were to have a show garden and produce. We then decided to sell some produce to generate an income. We started cleaning, painting and closing the doors where the market space is now,” she said.

Ms Mgcoyi said they wanted to get entrepreneurs from different communities in Cape Town involved in the weekly market. “We don’t have much to sell at the moment because we are concerned about the security of tenure.

“The main thing is to know that there are people supporting this petition. They might have plans (for the property) but they can come and listen to us. Maybe they can include us in their plans.”

Unathi Dyantyi said that it doesn’t feel fair. “Land is expensive in the city and you need urban farming. We feel like we should be given a chance to present ourselves to tell them what we are about. The landlord is the state but the people are the state. We didn’t take government resources and misuse them. We started something out of nothing. We deserve to be heard.”

Mr Dyantyi added that small-scale farmers needed to be respected and part of the culture of fighting poverty and inequality. “It is important that people empower themselves. Our main intention was to try and help people and we started this farm together.

“Being here helped us establish ourselves compared to when we were in the townships.

“The land was here and not used so it is only fair that we are heard and not thrown away to where there are no resources.”

He said the farm had been beneficial to the communities around Cape Town. “It’s also promoting social cohesion. People come here and meet and they have things to share.”

Erf 81 has had several problems in the past but Mr Dyantyi said this is something they are also affected by. “Something might happen on the other side of the property but it is still in the newspaper as Erf 81, which includes us.”

He said they were hoping to engage with advocacy group Ndifuna Ukwazi, which lobbies for land justice and tenant rights, as well as the relevant government departments about the future of the NPO.

Mosima Pale has been selling his vegetables at the market since 2014. Mr Pale, who grows his produce in Philippi, said that it would be painful to see the farm being closed. “It will be a big disadvantage, I have been trading in that space every Sunday for the last few years.” Mr Pale said that he was able to grow his brand and got to know customers in the area. “Having been part of the military I appeal to the departments of Defence and Public Works to re-look and at least study what is happening at the farm.”

Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Jared Rossouw said Cape Town was experiencing an unprecedented wave of evictions in the inner city by both private landlords and the state. “The courts are required to examine all the relevant circumstances and ask the City to provide alternative accommodation where necessary before granting an eviction order.

“In practice this does not happen unless an eviction is opposed. Tenants can’t afford good lawyers and the rest get an extra three months at most before the sheriff knocks at the door.

“We now see this Erf 81 (eviction) by the national government. You would think we had learned from our past – it boggles the mind.”

The Tamboerskloof farm has also received support from the Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF).

The farm’s Sheryl Ozinsky said there was a great need for a place like this in the community. “There is a growing consensus that public spaces and green spaces in cities have a greater value for society and the environment than the property’s simple monetary value. Cities around the world are trying to preserve natural spaces within the urban jungle because these spaces not only create green havens for citizens to enjoy, but they can also provide a platform for creating jobs.

“More than anything in this city we need a shared community space.”

In response to Atlantic Sun’s queries, Thami Mchunu, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, confirmed that eviction notices had been issued to “the appellant (Mr Laubscher) and all those persons who hold title under him”. When asked why the tenants were being evicted, Mr Mchunu said: “the property is endowment property (owned by Department of Defence) and is required for military purposes.”

The Atlantic Sun also approached the Department of Defence for comment but by the time this edition went to print, they had not yet responded.