18 October 2017 Read: 367
“Since before these houses were here, I have planted my crops in this area.” The 80-year old Anna and her 76-year old friend, Maria, work the land next to the Agatha Road in Flora Park. They plant maize there. Sometimes peanuts too.
Their presence in the middle of a residential area has raised some eyebrows among the locals who have become frustrated with the number of informal traders swarming the pavements and street corners. “In Tzaneen it seems you can do whatever you want. First the municipality allows all these street hawkers to deface the sidewalks of our town, and now anyone can farm on residential land or own a lodge on agricultural land!? What about the municipal bylaws?”
Anna started working the land more than two decades ago. Locals never saw her there because she used to work the land on the other side of the road, hidden from view in the Pompagalana area. She was given the right to use a portion of that available land for her crops, by the municipality during the 90’s.
Because that piece of land was originally designated for agriculture, Anna and Maria’s toil was never an issue. In fact, one long-time resident told Bulletin that they have been living in that area since 1999, and Anna was already there when they moved in.
“The ANC people told me to pick up my things and leave the area three years ago,” said Anna in her best broken English. “They told me I must stop planting my crops there because they are going to build a carwash. When I asked them what I must do now, because this is my only livelihood, all my children are dead so I have to farm to support myself and some of my surviving grandchildren. They told me that I can use the piece of land here next to the road in Flora Park.”
There have been advantages to Anna and Maria’s presence there. Because they ‘skoffel’ the soil and continuously clear the area of shrubbery and other litter, illegal dumping has come to an end. Security companies have also said that the presence of these Goggos has completely stopped house robberies in that neighbourhood, as criminals now no longer have the cover of the bushes to hide in after committing their crimes. Invasive plants species such as Lanatana have been completely eradicated too.
At 80 and 76-years of age, Anna and Maria are doing what they have been doing since before most of the people reading this article were born. Their daily toil is contributing towards the area they operate in. Unlike the street traders who are directly linked to an increase in crimes, piracy and the general downgrading of the formal business sector, Anna and Maria are seen by the majority of residents as positive elements within their area.
“I see them every day, working in the harsh sun, tilling the soil for an income. We wave at them in the mornings and they smile back. They are not bothering anyone and their work has actually beautified our neighbourhood. Well done girls.”