Longest serving councillor speaks

THULANI MAGAZI

The development of Boystown, sorting out the ongoing crisis at the Philippi Temporary Residential Area (TRA), the development of the Klipfontein Mission, which is on private land, and the revival of a collapsed sporting infrastructure, are some of the challenges the new Ward 36 councillor would have to urgently deal with.

So said outgoing ward councillor Depoutch Elese, adding that the new councillor would have his or her work cut out and that the first three years would be mainly for learning and understanding the processes, while completing existing projects.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vukani on Friday July 8, Mr Elese, who has worked as ward councillor since the first local government elections in 1996, said a lot of work has been done to improve people’s lives and their living conditions, but a lot is yet to be done. Often having been criticised by some in the community for his “iron fist” leadership, Mr Elese said being a councillor was a daunting task, especially in a council that was dominated by opposition.

He said there was a general resistance to some suggestions, severely crippling development.

He said the Philippi TRA was an obvious example. The TRA has been in existence for 13 years. It was a temporary residential site for Boystown residents, who moved to make way for housing. But the housing process was affected when another group of people moved in. The TRA now faces an uncertain future, with land owners being unhappy about some service delivery issues. “Services have been severely affected. They are now using plastic bags to relieve themselves and throw those (bags) in the yards of the neighbouring shops,” he said. “This is just one of many challenges the new councillor is going to have to deal with.”

The biggest challenge, he said, remained the provision of houses, with the increase in the number of backyarders from Unathi, where people moved into houses in 1990. He said there were other areas – Boystown being on top of the list – that remained behind in terms of development. “That is my biggest regret. After 20 years I would have loved to see everyone with a house in Boystown,” said Mr Elese.

Situated on a private piece of land along Lansdowne Road, Mr Elese described Klipfontein Mission as another major challenge for the incoming councillor. “We cannot penalise the people because the land is owned by a church,” he said, calling for new ideas and innovative ways of sorting out the problem. He said services were delayed because “political heads” only wanted to score points.

He also highlighted the slow pace of the N2 Gateway project and the vandalism of the Mandela Stadium. The stadium used to be one of the busiest, with top facilities available, but it’s now in ruins. “We would love the national government to take over the N2 Gateway in order to speed up service delivery,” said Mr Elese.

Commenting on his future plans, Mr Elese said he would continue serving on the ANC Provincial Executive Committee, monitoring the work of all ANC councillors and members of the provincial legislature (MPLs). “Farming is my passion,” he said. “I am looking at farming. I have my plans on how to do it. But for now I want to cool off.”

Despite having served as a ward councillor for so long, he said, it had never been his plan. Having spent some time in exile, Mr Elese said he was deployed by the ANC into the area to bring stability at a most crucial time in the country’s history.

Facts about Ward 36 and Crossroads

The ward covers a section of Lusaka, New Rest, Sondela, Gqobhasi, Unathi, Phase One, Ntokozweni, Boystown informal settlement, Philippi TRA, Klipfontein Mission and a section of Thabo Mbeki informal settlement.

* Crossroads developed into a settlement in the 1970s when workers were forcibly removed from Brown’s Farm. The area was considered temporary by apartheid authorities and in 1975 orders to evict people and dismantle the area were issued, forcing people to move to Khayelitsha.

Black Sash, a human rights movement, fought against the removals leading to the establishment of the Save Crossroads campaign in 1978. The same year the then Cape Supreme Court declared Crossroads an “emergency camp”, compelling the City council to supply basic municipal services. Efforts to save the neighbourhood from destruction became a major battle in the late 1970s and early 80s.

A power struggle between supporters of Johnson Ngxobongwana, who was head of a residents’ committee, and other residents, including his deputy Oliver Memani, mounted amid claims of favouritism.

This led to a series of fights that spread to areas like KTC and Nyanga, leading to the birth of the notorious “witdoeke”. More than 60 000 people were left homeless. Some residents left the area and moved to Khayelitsha, in 1983.

In 1987 Crossroads officially acquired the status of a black local authority. Mr Ngxobongwana became its mayor, but was ousted by former Witdoeke member Jeffrey Nongwe, in 1990. The other areas of Crossroads include Old Crossroads, New Crossroads, Lower Crossroads and Boystown.

* Source: SAhistory.org.za