Residents told to leave ‘unsafe’ cottages

A PIECE of land at the Fish River Mouth dotted with holiday cottages is completely inhabitable and it is unsafe for anyone to live there.

This according to Eastern Cape Roads and Public Works department spokesman Sisanda George, who said the cottage owners of the popular holiday destination were served with eviction and demolition notices after it was found that having people live there was risky because their homes were built on a wetland.

fish river cottages
RISKY: Fish River cottages resident Donne Birch and her two children Erin, left, and Troy, right Picture: MIKE HOLMES

“We have done a thorough audit of the area and it was found unsafe for habitation.

“Because of the state of the land, the municipality cannot provide even the most basic of services to the inhabitants there, including water and sanitation,” he said yesterday.

Some of the residents of the 47 cottages in the picturesque secluded destination received notices via e-mail from the Eastern Cape Public Works Department to vacate and demolish their premises within two months and they have been scrambling to find answers since then.

They received their notices, dated January 20, last week, and since then the homeowners’ association has been fielding panicked calls from owners who fear losing their homes.

Permanent resident Donne Birch, who lives in the settlement where buck, snake and monkeys are a common sight, said she and her family would have nowhere to go if their cottage was demolished.

“We moved here permanently about two years ago, and before that I have been coming here every Easter and December holiday for 43 years.”

The 43-year-old mother of two said her family has been using the Fish River Mouth for their holidays for 80 years.

“My grandfather used to come here with ox wagon, before the bungalows were built, and now we might have to leave. It’s disappointing and upsetting and I hope we can negotiate with the department.”

Birch, who homeschools her two children Troy, 13 and Erin 11, said she had not received the notice yet as the department did not have her e-mail address but she was sure it was coming in the post.

She hoped the issue would be resolved so that her children could grow up at the settlement.

“Growing up here is the best thing ever, you have a certain freedom that you don’t have in the city. And it is peaceful. I really don’t know where we will go if we have to leave here.”

While some of the cottages are boarded up unless it is holiday time, the residents have made the nature reserve a home, while respecting the grounds and animals around them.

Permanent resident and spokesman for the cottage homeowners’ association Joe Stapleton said they were in advanced negotiations with the Eastern Cape Public Works Department to extend their leases when they were suddenly served with the notices.

He said the department had just completed a survey of the area before the notices were served.

“Since then we have been fielding panicked calls from owners. I don’t understand – why now? We have been taking care of the reserve for years, looking after the animals, clearing the bush.

“So why the change of heart?”

Stapleton, who has been living at the popular holiday and fishing destination for 17 years, said most of the families who owned the cottages were descendents of the original families who had camped at the site almost 200 years ago.

“My wife’s family has been camping here since 200 years ago and I am hopeful that the department won’t make us demolish our homes.”

George said residents, both permanent and holiday makers, have been given enough time to make alternative arrangements.

“They are invading government land and most of them only use the cottages for holidays so they have alternative accommodation and the ones who live there permanently have up to six months to find somewhere else to live.”



  1. The majority of squatter’s shacks are bulit on low lying ground and they get washed out everytime it rains and they are squatting illegally, but they are not evicted. Why??

  2. I’ll be so sad to loose Fish River as a holiday destination and a week-end getaway. It is truly a little of heaven. I’ve been to the Fish River all my life and have taken my all my kids there for their entire lives. One of my son’s was the youngest child ever to go there at 9 days old when we decided to join our family on holiday. We have taken friends with us over the years and everyone falls in love with the Fish River … it truly is an awesome place. Please don’t let the department of Public Works take it away from us.

    • I agree with Megan. I am one of the family members of Mrs Birch and taking away our homes will take away our past and future for our children. I also went there from birth 38 years ago every Easter and Christmas holidays, it will be devastating for all in the close knit community of Fish River. We care and respect the natural environment. First have a look and demolish the many squatter camps around RSA. They are not respecting the environment and are mostly illegal immigrants and ‘home owners’ on government land. Please stop this discrimination.

  3. This thorough audit needs to be examined. people have been coming to this area for 43 years. Why the sudden risk? Has Mr Sisanda George got personal interests here perhaps?

  4. At this rate , we can expect the whole of the Transkei to be demolished. Leave people alone and let them live happily in their traditional way. Nobody has money to build a palace like Zuma !

  5. Please go and visit the Collywobbles Vulture colony in the former Transkei Mr Sisanda George. I was there January this year. Folk are literally building, harvesting, littering and defecating right next to the breeding cliffs. In the 1980s, over 300 breeding pairs were recorded, one of the biggest colonies worldwide back then and nowadays you will be lucky to find a 100 at best and they will no doubt be completely wiped out once the concrete road leading up to to the cliff is complete.

  6. This is victimisation (racism ?)at it’s worst. I am in no doubt that this decision is based on land grab principals.My sympathy to the villagers and I hope that they block all forms of demolition. Squatters rights must apply surely.

  7. Actually it is a good idea currently the unemployment is about 60% lets scare away the Tourists lets make rules that create 100% UNEMPLOYMENT THEN WE CAN HAVE A CIVIL WAR.