We live in the middle of a very unique community. Or maybe I should say communities. We are firstly part of the ‘inkommers’. There are about 10 families who live on small holdings on the Montagu Pass. They all moved here from somewhere else. Most of them are small farmers now and often rub shoulders with the larger farming community who live in Waboomskraal (14km from Herold at the top of the Outeniqua Pass), Klipdrift (20km from Herold, towards Oudtshoorn) or in any of the communities in the Langkloof, towards Uniondale (including Heimersrivier, Ezeljacht, Louvain, Buffelsdrift, Noll etc)
We are also part of the community of workers who live and work on the farm immediately surrounding us, being very aware of the socio-economic challenges like unemployment, poverty, alcohol abuse, with the subsequent domestic violence and the very unfortunate Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in children.
During the last 3 years we’ve learnt about the challenges facing everyone living in a farming society and the hope the people have, things we rarely experienced while being ‘city slickers’.
This year we were made aware of how dependent one can be on nature and how unpredictable life really is. First, we experienced THE FIRE (long before the Knysna fire.) that taunted us for 3 months, burning here, burning there and burning everywhere. We saw the community stand together and were all grateful that no buildings were damaged and no lives were lost during that time.
At the time of the Knysna fires and ours were extinguished, Jonathan’s (one of our workers) elderly and bedridden dad and his partner, who lived on the farm next to Over the Mountain, burnt to death in their shack after a candle fell over while they were asleep.
This tragic event highlighted the need for proper housing and electricity for all people living in the farm community.
We also became very aware of the devastating effect of the drought. All along the road from George to Oudtshoorn or towards Uniondale one can see the empty dams. The conditions are so dire that farmers from the Free State, Eastern cape and even the Northern provinces sent feed for the animals of the Herold farmers.
Gerrit and I were moved yesterday in church, when our minister, asked one of the farmers to pray to thank God for the lovely rain that fell during the last week. When he prayed, he spoke about being a ‘LANDBOUER’ instead of ‘BOER” (which unfortunately sometimes have a negative political connotation in our country). The word in Afrikaans literally means ‘building the land’, we were humbled and encouraged to see how, in- spite-of very difficult circumstances, the ‘builders of the land’ are placing their faith in God and still have hope.
Our prayers are also with Hansie, our right-hand-man, who suffered serious injuries after he was assaulted by his neighbor with an axe. Initially he was in ICU and we weren’t sure whether he was going to survive. Fortunately, he is a very strong fighting spirit and after 2 weeks of treatment and care at George Hospital he is showing signs of recovery. Although his skull was cracked and he has not been able to move his feet and one hand, the physiotherapist is positive that he will have a full recovery.
Unfortunately, one cannot ignore the elephant in the room. We are deeply concerned about the alcohol dependency of many of the people in the farming community and the violence that is often the consequence. We can just hope that incidents like this will be a deterrent.
Hansie is going to stay with family in George until he can get space in a rehab centre in Cape Town where he can receive proper physiotherapy. We wish him all the best and a full recovery.