Thaba-Tholo completed and handed over what must be one of the biggest local community projects done by private initiative. The project was the erection of a day care centre at the Skierlik Agricultural Village bordering the old Groenvlei Sentrale skool, nou Groenvlei Secondary School at Sentrum. The centre was officially handed over to the community of Skierlik on Monday 29 July 2019. Permission was granted by the state to erect this facility, which, when the ceremonial ribbon was cut, became the property of the Skierlik community – to preserve, maintain and use.
Skierlik came into existence when squatters started occupying part of the land which was used for agriculture by the former primary school to help provide the school with mainly meat and milk from the cattle farming on the property, managed by the then Transvaal Department of Education through the principal of the school. The school even had its own facilities to slaughter the cattle and ran its own dairy section by separating the milk to provide the cream for making its own butter.
Since farming activities were stopped even before the new dispensation of Transvaal Educational Department, poor people with no basic income started settling on the section which was previously used to grow mainly sorghum as cattle feed.
People living in Skierlik mainly work as farm-help on farms in the surrounding Sentrum district. For men it is no problem to find work as they were not restricted to staying at home to tend the young which were not yet at school going age, a major problem for the womenfolk, depriving them from any income to help sustain the household income.
With this new facility the women are also enabled to find work on the farms with the peace of mind that their young are catered for in the Day Care Centre at Skierlik.
The co-operation between Skierlik and Thaba Tholo started with an incident during 2016 when the community warned security at Thaba Tholo of two men carrying a rifle on their way to poach animals on the farm which is exclusively used for game farming. Thaba Tholo’s unit of the Heritage Protection Group (HPG – which are active throughout Limpopo province with different units all over the province) was informed, who notified the Hoopdal Police station as well as obtaining the services of a private helicopter, started a search for the perpetrators.
The two potential poachers turned out to be two boy scholars staying in Skierlik and the gun they carried was identified as an air gun. As part of an educational punishment for trespassing, it was decided that the kids had to do some community work , supervised by the Security Manager at Thaba Tholo, Mr Piet Monyane. Being involved in the security activities at Thaba Tholo, they conveyed the message of conservation to the rest of the Skierlik Community.
Thaba Tholo also became aware of the needs of the empovered community and promised their help and commitment in helping the community to help itself.
Apart from helping with the maintenance of the boreholes to provide water, and grading the roads, this is the first project designed for the community to help itself by enabling the women to find work and pay for the services rendered at the Day Care Centre as the centre must be able to pay its owns staff as well as providing for food and toilet facilities for the kids and personnel.
The need for this facility was put to the Thaba Tholo Trustees, which approved the funds from income generated by Thaba Tholo. At the official opening, the Project Manager of the Thaba Tholo Board, Rubin Els, stressed the fact to the members of the community attending the ceremony, that Thaba Tholo made this contribution and expect the community to build further on it. Any contribution from the community will be respected by the Thaba Tolo Board in decisions whether to assist by lending a helping hand.
The first commitment the board relies on, is for the community to arrange a commitment from Eskom to supply power and finding the funding, preferably from inside the community, to acquire the much needed stove in order to prepare meals in a hygienic environment for the kids.
He also compared this action to the Bible where Jesus provided food from a meager five pieces of bread and two fish to thousands of followers. Jesus needed the contribution of the food from a young boy, before he could order his disciples to dish out food to the massas. Just as implied by this miracle, Thaba Tholo relies on the input from the Skierlik community in order to provide further assistance.
In some ways, Thaba Tholo has already provided some basic preparation involving clearing the field next door to the centre for a soccer field. It is up to the community to erect the goal posts as well as establishing their own soccer team and providing the coaching, team dress and facilities needed by the players. The same goes for the further development of the enclosed site at the Day Care Centre. There is enough cleared space available too start a vegetable garden. However, it is for the community to prepare the vegetable beds and provide water from an existing borehole close to the centre. Once these initial inputs from the community is done, they can always approach Thaba Tholo for further help. The more the community does to help itself, the more help will be provided.
During the project Thaba Tholo only used skilled labor available in the community, paid by Thaba Tholo and supervised by a contractor appointed by Thaba Tholo to ensure that all the work was done to existing building laws and specifications.
This included the plumbing as well as the electrification of the building and booster pump to provide water to the facility. It also included a junction to the nearest water supply as wel as laying an electrical cable to the closest Eskom transformer.
The coupling to the transformer has not yet been done, despite numerous pleas to Eskom, even requesting the Mayor of the Thabazimbi Local Municipality to use the council’s influence at Eskom, to supply the coupling on its own account, including the installation of a meter for the account of the community Day Care Centre.
Since there was no response, Thaba Tholo used the money budgeted for an electrical stove and other kitchen utilities, to install a solar system to charge the batteries for driving the booster pump at the reservoir, they installed to provide water to the kitchen and toilets, as well as the lights should it be required.
The whole initiation of the project started during 2016. Completion of the whole building project took about 18 months after the project was approved by the trustees.
The kids partaking in the ceremony were handed a sweet parcel each and after the official business was done, everybody enjoyed a lovely meal of tender Gemsbok meat served with pap and sous, provided by Thaba Tholo and prepared by the loving hands of Salaminah, Johanna and their helpers.