Life is hard for Hout Bay’s woodcutters

Hout Bay woodcutter Wayne van Rooyen says every day is a struggle.

There has been little cheer for Hout Bay woodcutter Wayne van Rooyen this festive season: he has worked through a lean summer for his family to stockpile wood for winter when there is more demand.

“Every day is a struggle for us, and that is why I needed to work straight through to make whatever I can for my family,” he says, sweat dripping down his forehead after stacking another batch of firewood.

He says he earns R100 to R200 a day in summer compared to up to R300 a day during winter.

Mr Van Rooyen and his wife, Chantal Fritz, along with their three children, aged 22 to 1, stay in a cramped shack, with no electricity, on the old Kronendal Farm, just off Hout Bay’s Main Road.

The woodcutting business was passed down to him by his father, Peter Arendse, who died from cancer about nine years ago.

“I was a bit scared in the beginning,” says Mr Van Rooyen, “but I had to do something for my family and something to keep food on the table, so I went with it.”

Ms Fritz says they appreciate whatever comes through the door.

“People do not understand how difficult this life is. I do work to support Wayne, but we don’t earn a lot, and we have to work with what is here.”

She says they hope for a better life for their children.

“It will really make us proud to see me put my children through school, but we take it one day at a time,” says Ms Fritz.

Tim Cartwright, the coordinator for the St Peter’s Soup Kitchen in Hout Bay, says the soup kitchen wants to drum up public support for the seven families living at the woodcutters property.

“The challenges these people face are many and varied: they live in small ’kennels’ built by themselves and often without standing room – likely to overheat in summer and freeze in winter.

“They seldom have regular employment and rely on casual labour when it can be found. And their main source of income, chopped firewood, dries up in the summer months when the only call is for braai wood. This means that many go hungry.”

He called on the Hout Bay community to support the woodcutters by getting a head start on building up their winter wood supplies.

• Call Mr Cartwright at 083 443 5534 to discuss the donation of clothes, blankets, food or shoes for the woodcutters and their families or call Mr Van Rooyen for wood on 071 044 8089.