“The problem started in 2004 when the private land we have been living on was sold to the new owners (PG Bison), who initially promised to develop our community by providing basic services, but never did,” said Bracken Hill community leader Theresa Janklaas.
“The company used to support us by sponsoring early childhood development centres, but that has also stopped since we refused to accept the R70 000 the company offered in 2011 to each house to move,” she said.
Janklaas is one of 385 people who live in 81 modest houses on the underdeveloped Bracken Hill land, surrounded by plantations and indigenous forests.
The community has been trying to raise funds to pay a lawyer to assist them to take PG Bison to court.
However, Janklaas said this has been been very difficult. “The company keeps doing things to frustrate us and they don’t even want us to go into the veld to collect wood,” she said.
“A house was also burnt down recently after a candle accident, and when we called them for help because they had the resources to put the fire out, they didn’t come,” she said.
She added: “One of their managers had given me permission to add an extra room to my house to use as a kitchen, but now they have taken me to court to remove it because he is denying he said it.”
Janklaas has also been accused of inciting the community to start a veld fire in the area recently. It left some residents jobless. “I have since been personally summonsed to pay R100 000 for the damage caused by the fire,” she said.
PG Bison CEO Gary Chaplin refused to respond to the allegations made by Janklaas.
However, he said: “PG Bison recognises the rights of individuals living on its property, and as such has been engaged in detailed discussions with the relevant community and municipal representatives.”
He added that PG Bison recently launched a home ownership scheme to assist communities to acquire houses in areas where sustainable and comprehensive basic services were in place.