Dysselsdorp is a small settlement that lies 23km east of Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. It was established in the 1800’s as a mission station, but has seen steady population growth.
The residents, like many others in the Karoo, face poverty, unemployment and housing shortages.
Dysselsdorp lies against the backdrop of the magnificent Swartberg mountain range. Its surrounded by agricultural and crop farms.
Most residents here are seasonal farm workers. 12 000 residents live in the area, most of them in four expanding informal settlements.
“I’m living here for around about nine years. We were always fighting for houses, but we don’t really get answers here. To me, it’s very difficult because we are struggling. We don’t have power and running water.”
Community leaders like Leon Campher have been fighting for improved service delivery for a long time. Campher says that the apartheid government was better for the town.
“These houses were given to the owners in 1995. Which means the houses were built during the apartheid years and no houses after 1994. That means that the apartheid government was better off for Dysselsdorp than the recent government. That’s why we say there’s no way that they can come and explain to us why they didn’t start building houses over these years.”
About 20km down the road on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn is the community of Rose Valley. Five years ago, it was a massive informal settlement.
Now, nearly 3 000 RDP homes have been built there. Residents say they struggled for eight years before getting houses.
“And so we persevered through the wind, through the rain. Our circumstances weren’t good and we used buckets, but we pushed through,” says Campher.
Campher says it’s a shame that 24 years later, Dysselsdorp residents are still demanding houses. He’s approached farmers in the area who are willing to sell their land to the Oudtshoorn municipality.
“They are not going to use the land for agriculture or whatever. They told me that the municipality can buy the land from them that they can build houses. On that land I know, there were be between five and 700 houses. Up until today, they never contacted the owners of that land.”
Dysselsdorp residents have also approached the Public Protector for answers to their housing crisis.