Category Archives: Report

The Buffeljags is running dry

“This is the first time in 30 years the river has been this low,” reports Bertrim Oliver, who lives in Suurbraak, a small village that straddles the Buffelags Rivers on the way to or from Barrydale in the Western Cape.

Where I live, in line with the confluence of the Caledon and Buffelags, neither river seems to flow anymore, and the Buffeljags is fast drying up.

Where the Caledon River meets the Buffeljags in Suurbraak

“Never seen it this bad,” comments Matthew Mentz, “but we have had worse droughts, which makes me think water tables are disappearing.”

The Municipality of Swellendam administers Suurbraak and supplies farmers and all of us who live ‘oor die rivier’ (across the river from the village) with irrigation water from the Buffeljags, which they pump to a storage dam up the hill.

When the level falls below the pump feed we on this side of the river will be in trouble as the irrigation dam water is our only source – unless we have rainwater tanks of sufficient capacity.

Buffeljags in line with the pump station in Suurbraak

Organic farmers, Mark and Dori September, are therefore at risk.

Dori and I spoke with the Suurbraak Municipal Manager, Desmond Marais, about the situation. Marais confirmed that bulk water is available from Swellendam (purchasable via the Municipal cash office).

Caledon River that runs close to the plot where I stay in Suurbraak

Update, Wednesday 2018-11-21

Two days later the heavens opened (see below), and it then poured throughout most of the night.

Rain collecting around the cob house

The next morning, what do we see:

The Buffeljags flowing strongly over the weir in Suurbraak

In view of the comment below by Carol Browne in response to Matt’s hypothesis about groundwater levels mentioned above, it will be interesting to monitor for how long the flow continues.

The featured image at the head of this post is of Dori and Mark’s and my goats surveying the new geography of the Buffeljags

This is a developing story.


Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

Commentary on the march held in Suurbraak Sunday 14 May, 2017.

This report provides:

  1. commentary on the march
  2. commentary on the period shortly after the march ended
  3. commentary on the handover of the list of demands
  4. update on the racial incident
  5. ruminations about  where this is all heading

To read about and see footage and images of the march for housing, upon which this report is based, please go to: Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

1. The march itself

Politics vs the community: Whereas earlier I had had grave misgivings about the possibility of party political interference in community affairs and/or the stoking of pockets of discontent within the Suurbraak community the march was, instead, from the outside, community driven; kudos therefore to the organisers for getting the community behind them on the matter of housing. Continue reading Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

‘Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

This report gives you a taste of the day as it happened and is divided into three sections:

  1. The march itself
  2. Shortly after the march ended
  3. Handover of the letter of demand

For commentary on the day please go to: Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

1. The march itself

The organisers of Sunday’s protest march in Suurbraak (14 May 2017) were the SYM (Suurbraak Youth Movement chaired by Donovan Julius) and the SCA (Suurbraak Civic Association chaired by Burton Beukes). Both these organisations can feel justly proud of what they achieved. Apart from one troubling incident, about which I’ll report below, the march was efficiently managed and executed.

The organisers amassed an impressive Suurbraak-style turnout comprising children, young men and women, middle aged and the elderly following in cars, bakkies and on a truck. In fact I felt quite sorry for the kids who must have been forbidden by their parents to take part and who watched the passing cavalcade with longing.

Click on the window below in order to see footage of the march.

2. Shortly after the march had ended

Continue reading ‘Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

Reasons for, report on, and thoughts about the Suurbraak protest

I reported earlier how I came away troubled from a meeting I had attended two weeks back called by the Swellendam executive mayor, Councillor Nicholas Myburgh, to address a host of community-related issues.

Flowing from that meeting was a protest action this past Sunday 7 May 2017, which ended in the symbolic burning of a banner depicting Swellendam Municipality.

As has repeatedly been demonstrated, Suurbraak is a microcosm of the whole. This being so, I believe this current protest enables us to understand why this country is imperilled. I therefore urge you to read my earlier post (Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine) as background to this report.

In order for this all to make sense I shall:

  • briefly describing Suurbraak, its history and its people
  • provide some background to some of the issues that surfaced during the protest
  • provide a synopsis, from memory, of what happened during the protest
  • try to pull together all the threads and show, as I see it, why this process holds significance for Suurbraak and South Africa as a whole

Continue reading Reasons for, report on, and thoughts about the Suurbraak protest

Housing protest in Suurbraak

A demonstration is planned (at 14:00 on Sunday 7 May 2017) on the Suurbraak braak (village green) to which the press has been invited in order to protest the non-delivery of housing because (as I understand the talk) of alleged routing of sums of money meant to be utilised for Suurbraak (an ANC-controlled ward) for use in Swellendam (run by the DA), to the detriment of the people of Suurbraak, and of housing.

Insinuations along similar lines were levelled during a report-back called by the Swellendam mayor, Nicholas Myburgh, on Monday 24 April 20917, to respond to a range of Ward related issues (see an earlier post).

Yesterday afternoon I took a look see, was warmly welcomed by members of the Birds of Xairu who, when asked who was the boss and from whom should I seek permission to take pictures, replied that the community was in charge and that I was welcome to take these pictures of preparations for Sunday’s protest: Continue reading Housing protest in Suurbraak

Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine

I came away troubled from a meeting I attended on Monday 24 April 2017 in the Suurbraak community hall called by the Swellendam executive mayor, councillor Nicholas Myburgh, to address a host of community-related issues.

After prayers the meeting immediately turned ugly when Myburgh laid down the rules: only three questions allowed for each point on the agenda, the meeting would end promptly by 21:00, if we didn’t abide by these rules he would pack up and drive off.

There was an immediate outcry slamming Myburgh’s attitude. Somewhat chastened, Myburgh adopted a more conciliatory approach although his persona slipped at times within a context where it appeared that there was at least one individual present whose goal seemed to be to stoke emotions.

The dark mood of the meeting constellated around five issues: heritage, services, oor die rivier (over the river), housing and fluisteringe (whisperings)

Heritage

There were repeated references to Suurbraak’s heritage. For instance, the aforementioned gentleman complained about hideous Eskom electricity poles which he believed detracted from the character of Suurbraak. Heritage or precedent underpinned many of the other issues raised, as in: this is the way it has been for generations why these incursions, fences and/or rules? Continue reading Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine

‘Enter’ wins a South African Independent Publishers Award

Friend and writer, Ken Barris, put me onto Darryl Earl David, language lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and initiator of a number of literary festivals that are helping keep reading, writers and publishers alive in South Africa.

arryl Earl David co-organisers of the Booktown Richmond Literary Festival
Darryl Earl David co-organiser of the Booktown Richmond Literary Festival

Continue reading ‘Enter’ wins a South African Independent Publishers Award

Thanks guys for helping launch ‘Enter’

‘Enter’ saw the light of day almost a year earlier but when the Book Lounge declined to include the book in their launch programme the books remained in their boxes under the bench in the lounge for close on a year.

Continue reading Thanks guys for helping launch ‘Enter’

Puff-adder

Somewhere out there, more than a metre long puff adder.

Yesterday Shire my bull-mastiff started barking in the direction of the thicket on the other side of the fence. She wouldn’t stop and as it’s difficult to see into it, and as I’ve learnt to trust her barking I took her the long way round to investigate. She was careful, but we found nothing. I thought that she might be going on heat and that it could be a brak (mongrel) from the village of Suurbraak across the river trying his luck and that I had better keep an eye on her.

Continue reading Puff-adder