Conditions in Greyton settlement worsen as land restitution process drags on

Madiba Park families still in limbo five years after protests

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There is no sign of construction on the land residents of Madiba Park are to be moved to. Photos: Lucas Nowicki

  • Conditions are worsening in Madiba Park, an informal settlement in the picturesque Overberg town of Greyton, as families wait to be rehoused.
  • The settlement is on land due to be handed over to the historic Genadendal community in terms of a land restitution project.
  • But while the restitution process drags on, there is no sign of progress on their new homes.

Five years after Madiba Park protesters shut down the small town of Greyton demanding housing and basic services, residents say very little has changed despite promises made by the Theewaterskloof Municipality.

Madiba Park is an informal settlement on the outskirts of Greyton, a small, picturesque town in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. People started occupying the land more than ten years ago. There are more than 175 shacks in the settlement, according to the Theewaterskloof Municipality, although residents say there are more than 220 homes. The settlement is on land which is to be distributed to the historic Genadendal community under the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act 94 of 1998, which was designed to transfer land to 23 historically coloured communities.

The Madiba Park families are to be rehoused nearby. But “nothing happens”, says Lawron Juries, who has lived in Madiba Park for seven years. She says every two years the municipality promises houses or land. “When it comes near to the time, nothing happens, we protest and then they promise the same thing”, says Juries.

Lawron Juries (left) and Colleen Phillips outside Juries’s home.

Under the Act, the Genadendal community has set up a Communal Property Association (CPA) as the legal entity to hold the land. The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is the custodian for the land during the handover process. The part of the land on which Madiba Park is located has been earmarked for housing, says Paul Adendorff, treasurer of the Genadendal Transformation Committee, which represents the Genadendal community.

He says the committee is waiting for the Department of Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to finalise the CPA before the land can be transferred. The whole process was supposed to take 18 months, he says, but has dragged on for more than a decade.

Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the Department, did not want to comment but suggested there were still “certain issues outstanding”.

In 2019, residents of Madiba Park shut down Greyton after toilets were briefly removed from the settlement. After the protests, the municipality held a meeting with residents, promising they would be resettled in serviced plots nearby with access to water, sanitation, power and refuse services, within 18 months.

When this did not happen, residents protested again in 2021, after which the municipality promised to build houses, says Juries.

When GroundUp visited Madiba Park in April 2024, there were no signs of any construction at the proposed site. According to Tarren-Lee Habelgaarn, communications officer for Theewaterskloof Municipality, the municipality is still busy planning the project.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) phase of the project is time-consuming as environmental entities are involved and most of Genadendal and Greyton land is under the flood line … The municipality is conducting studies in this regard,” said Habelgaarn.

She said the municipality aimed to complete the civil works this year “but this might not be possible as the residents in the area could not yet be relocated.” She said the municipality expects “the project will gain momentum in 2025”.

The municipality did not answer follow up questions about the specifics of the project. But according to a heritage assessment in 2022, it involves “the construction of a series of small homes on the sides of a shallow valley in Heuwelkroon to the northwest”. According to another assessment document , there will be 548 homes.

But Colleen Phillips, who has been involved in housing discussions with the municipality for more than a decade, said she has little hope left. “Everytime you get the same promises or answers worded in a different way,” said Phillips, who works at a coffee shop in Greyton.

Conditions at the settlement are worsening.

Meanwhile, Juries said conditions have got worse in Madiba Park over the years.

“The toilets are not even in working condition. Only one out of the five in Madiba Park work,” said.

Habelgaarn said the municipality cannot provide services because the settlement is not on municipal land, but the municipality has come to an agreement with the Genadendal Transformation Committee to provide five toilets and water tanks on the boundary of the settlement, which the municipality will maintain.

Adendorff said the committee has spent years waiting for the Department and the municipality to take action regarding Madiba Park but “nothing has happened”.

“We don’t want to evict people, we want to relocate them,” said Adendorff.

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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