The African National Congress in the Western Cape on Tuesday introduced seven of its 18 ward councillors for the southern suburbs in Cape Town, saying while some of the wards were historically the party’s targets, they were ready to shake up voting patterns.
“I think we are going to surprise many people,” said Yonela Diko, provincial media liaison officer for the party.
At a media breakfast, Diko introduced the candidates, encouraging them all to choose measurable targets they could one day wear as badges of success should they win their ward council seat.
The seven made up a good mix of baby boomers, Generation X, and – in South African terms – the born-frees: Thandi Njuti (34) for Ward 115, Lorraine Moko (36) for Ward 64, Nonceba Mhlauli (26) for Ward 77, Jason Adams (27) for Ward 73, Glen Geswindt (54) for Ward 62, Buyile Matiwane (24) for Ward 57, and Sulyman Stellenboom (53) for Ward 82.
Also present was ANC activist Colin Arendse and proportional representation (PR) councillor candidate for Ward 65, Nigel Williams.
Njuti, who was hoping to serve as councillor for Sea Point to Woodstock, said when she left her home in Tamboerskloof and made her way down to Woodstock, she felt she had entered another world where the reality of inequality was blatant. She added that she was constantly seeing new faces begging on the streets, showcasing an apparent increase in homelessness and dire poverty.
But, she said, investing in rehabilitation and in the people themselves would do more than judging.
“I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth so I understand where these people come from,” she said.
Another female candidate, Moko, who is hoping to persuade the historically Democratic Alliance (DA) coastal voters of Ward 64 – said she hoped to create a ward where all who lived there enjoyed its beauty.
She said that because the area, which stretches from Muizenberg to Fish Hoek, had been so extensively and successfully gentrified, one looked at it as a whole and assumed that it was an entirely wealthy ward.
“But people who are poor are being overlooked,” said Moko, adding that despite their low-income status, they were expected to pay the same rates as the rich.
Moko said that while Ward 64 had never been under the ANC’s control, slowly, the low-earning residents – most of which were the area’s original dwellers as well as the marginalised fishing community – were “coming to the ANC and saying ‘help us, be our voice’”.
Candidate Mhlauli said she wanted to create a ward that was both safe and affordable, while Adams listed his passions and hopes for his ward as job creation, safety, youth empowerment, entrepreneurship training, and internship opportunities.
Geswindt – who described his ward as one of the wealthiest in the country, joking that together, the ward was capable of paying off both South Africa’s foreign debt and the Nkandla bill – said that he would, if victorious, represent all equally, from the farm workers along the Green Belt, to the domestic workers, all the way through to the area’s millionaires.
The youngest of the group, Matiwane, echoed many of his colleagues’ main concerns but highlighted the issue of gentrification in his ward as the most concerning and contradictory to transformation goals. The ward – with Brett Herron as incumbent councillor – covers Gardens, Mowbray, Observatory, Salt River, Table Mountain, University Estate, Vredehoek, Walmer Estate, Woodstock, and Zonnebloem.
Matiwane said that gentrification was pushing low-income earners out. He said that the City of Cape Town’s alleged proposed “solution” to those residents unable to afford rising rates – social housing – was contradictory to an inclusive society. Instead, he said, the ANC would focus on amalgamating society with a housing scheme fundamentally based on the poorest.
The second oldest of the group of candidates, Tafelsig’s Stellenboom, said that he understood his ward and its struggles as he had come from a broken home and had spent some time living on the streets.
“Today, I have my own house. I have a one bedroom RDP house and I live among the people,” said Stellenboom.
Also discussing houses, Williams said his home in Mitchell’s Plain was one he considered to be “decent”. Despite this, he said, he needed heaters throughout the home to keep him and his family from freezing, something he said other, poorer residents could not afford to do.
“Our kids are dying,” said Williams. “Newborn kids are dying in these houses”.
Williams said he and his community were tired of their circumstances being misunderstood and hardships neglected. Among other issues, Williams wanted to do – in his capacity as PR councillor – was assist in establishing more high schools in the area, secure a more effective and affordable drug counselling centre, and deal with crime.
“We have a dream for this city,” he said. “Give the ANC a chance again.”