When Thembisile Batembu received a call from the City Council confirming his election as Ward 108 councillor, he was excited and concerned at the same time.
He was happy that the majority of the voters in his ward had put their faith in him and the African National Congress (ANC) to sort out their challenges, but worried about the magnitude of the task ahead.
Despite all that, the new councillor believes, with the assistance of everyone, he has what it takes to resolve the problems facing the ward, which includes, among others, a section of Mfuleni, Bardale, Bardale Village, Silversands, Brentwood Park and Fountain Village.
The position became vacant after the resignation of Rhoda-Ann Bazier soon after the August 3 elections. She was apparently nominated by the ANC for proportional representative councillor and not ward councillor.
The ward was also one of many contentious wards where there were claims that the ANC candidate lists had been tampered with to favour certain individuals. That led to the resignation of some councillors immediately after the elections, and subsequently, the need for last week’s by-elections. And Mr Batembu is one of many councillors who were voted in during the elections.
The ANC candidate squared up against Wilma Brady of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Gcobani Ntilashe of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Nontuthuzelo Temba of the African Independent Congress (AIC) and Singe Mxaka of the African People’s Convention (APC).
With a total of 6 356 votes cast in the eight voting districts, Mr Batembu collected 3 623, with his nearest challenger, Ms Brady collecting 2 285 votes. APC got 19 votes, AIC got 26 votes while the EFF got 346 votes. There were 57 spoilt votes.
During an interview with Vukani on Friday November 11, Mr Batembu said his immediate plan is to establish a ward forum and unite everyone in the ward.
He said the ward was made up of people from different communities with different challenges. “I appeal for assistance from everyone as well as unity for the development of this community,” he said.
“People must not be reluctant to come to my office irrespective of their parties.”
Mr Batembu said he wanted to first familiarise himself with all the challenges, but indicated that the biggest challenge, mainly in Mfuleni was the provision of housing opportunities for backyarders.
He said most councillors failed because they suddenly became bigger than the people who voted them into power. He, however, vowed to work with the people and for the people. “Anything is possible, but if you account and you are visible to the people you can eliminate most of the challenges faced by the councillors. At the end of the day you are a deployee, not an employee,” said Mr Batembu.