South Africa

WESTERN CAPE GROUND-LEVEL REPORT

Incoming Matzikama Ward 7 councillor’s job: unite a community divided by politics

Incoming Matzikama Ward 7 councillor’s job: unite a community divided by politics
The sun sets in the Maskamsig suburb of Vanrhynsdorp about 300km north of Cape Town, with the Maskam Mountain in the background. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

A hotly contested by-election in Vanrhynsdorp on Wednesday painted the town blue, yellow, black, green and red.

On Wednesday, outside the Thusong Centre in Maskamsig, Vanrhynsdorp, crowds gathered and children played in the street while voters prepared to vote in the Ward 7 by-election. 

The ward covers the town of Vanrhynsdorp and nearby farms and is situated in the Matzikama Local Municipality about 300km north of Cape Town along the N7.

In the morning, at the blue Democratic Alliance (DA) stand, there was a cheerful air as volunteers assisted residents. At the African National Congress (ANC) tent, volunteers gathered in their colours of yellow, black and green. Near the entrance of the centre, the red Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stand was quiet, while next door, the Patriotic Alliance’s (PA) truck played music loudly. 

matzikama Kito Boks

DA candidate Christo ‘Kito’ Boks during the Matzikama Ward 7 by-election on Wednesday 6 July 2022. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Wednesday’s by-election was held after the resignation of Christo “Kito” Boks, a PA councillor who in May left the party for the DA. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Two key Patriotic Alliance members jump ship to join Democratic Alliance in West Coast district

Four candidates stood for the position of Ward 7 councillor. 

matzikama ward 7 rugby

Younger residents play rugby on the streets of Maskamsig — sporting facilities are limited. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Boks is the DA’s candidate. He told Daily Maverick he was excited to contest his former seat. He held the post after the 2021 municipal elections, where the PA gained 27.01% of the ward’s vote, against the 22.08% of its nearest competitor — the party of which Boks is now a member. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Boks ticked – spring comes early for the DA in Vanrhynsdorp thanks to PA, GOOD and FF+ voters

Boks told Daily Maverick he wanted to complete the remainder of the 4½ years left of the municipal administration. During his term, he wanted to be the go-between for the community and entities such as the municipality and the private sector. 

matzimama ward 7 lakay

Ward candidate Rodney Lakay from the Patriotic Alliance at the Thusong voting station in Maskamsig. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Boks’ former colleague, PA candidate Rodney Lackay told Daily Maverick he refused to speak badly of Boks but would rather focus on his own campaign. “Kito took that decision. He had his reasons.” Lackay owns several properties in the town after moving here 36 years ago. He said the area’s biggest problem was unemployment and there was no investment compared with the current boom in investment in other towns such as Beaufort West — one of the municipalities under the leadership of the PA president, Gayton McKenzie, who is the mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality. 

Lackay described Vanrhynsdorp as “one of the jewels of the Namaqualand gates” — a road to Niewoudtville and Calvinia runs through the town. If elected as councillor, he wants to bring investment to the town. 

matzikama T-shirts

ANC T-shirts featuring former president Nelson Mandela hang on a fence in Maskamsig, a suburb in Vanrhynsdorp, on Wednesday, 6 July 2022. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

The ward had a 48% unemployment rate, according to the latest area-specific data from the 2011 census.

“All I want to do is renew this town,” said Lackay. If elected, he would call a meeting with religious leaders in the town and the town’s elderly residents because he felt senior citizens and the religious fraternity had been forgotten. A priority was to unite the town: “The community is divided between the ANC and DA; we need to change that.” 

matzikama voting

Farmworkers leave the voting station at Sandrivier outside Vanrhynsdorp in bakkies and trucks. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

During Daily Maverick’s visit to the area, we were unable to reach EFF candidate Desmond Dennis Pula either in person or by phone. According to an EFF Western Cape Twitter post, Pula said that as an EFF councillor he would be available 24 hours a day, wouldn’t appoint friends or family to the Matzikama Municipality, and the EFF would help matric pupils gain their drivers’ licences, in addition to creating sports and recreational projects for the community. 

matzikama hazel daniels anc

ANC Ward candidate Hazel Daniels. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

ANC candidate Hazel Daniels told Daily Maverick that she was born and bred in the community, which was where her heart lay. She identified service delivery issues such as the disconnection of electricity for residents, which she described as her “biggest headache”, especially during the cold winter months. If elected, Daniels said she would make it her first priority to hold a community meeting with residents to give thanks for their vote, but also to tell the community that she was there for them. 

matzikama farmworkers

Farmworkers, many wearing DA and ANC T-shirts, cast their votes at the Sandrivier polling station outside Vanrhynsdorp. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Throughout the visit, we observed political parties using loudspeakers to encourage people to vote, and ferrying people — particularly the elderly, to the area’s voting stations. The political parties’ brightly coloured T-shirts could be seen in every corner of the town — in shops, on farmworkers while they worked the fields and, of course, in Maskamsig, regarded as the town’s “coloured” area. 

matzikama votes

Farmworkers cast their votes at the Sandrivier polling station outside Vanrhynsdorp. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

But while the politicians campaigned extensively, community members raised concerns about the ward.

Jan Boks (50), who has lived in Vanrhynsdorp all his life, said the community was small, peaceful and close-knit. The incoming councillor would need to look at unemployment and housing. He wanted work opportunities for young people.  

matzikama Pienaar-Kotze

Maskamsig resident Juanita Pienaar-Kotze wants investment in her ward. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Outside the Maskamsig Community Hall, another voting station, Juanita Pienaar-Kotzé stood outside her gates, watching the parties campaigning. Pienaar-Kotzé has lived in the area for 12 years. She said Maskamsig and greater Vanrhynsdorp were safe communities, but pointed at potholes in the road. 

Some of the potholes had, however, recently been fixed, and Pienaar-Kotzé said: “You call in the times of the by-election and the municipality comes.”  

matzikama Ward 7 parties

Some of the political parties at the voting station in Maskamsig Ward 7, Vanrhynsdorp on 6 July 2022. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Pienaar-Kotzé hoped the incoming councillor would focus on the entire community, not just their friends and family.

“That person must try to get investors in the town,” she said, adding that the town’s social ills, including the welfare of children roaming the street, needed to be a focus.   

The Electoral Commission will announce the by-election results on Thursday morning. DM

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