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Stellenbosch by-election highlights what voters are most concerned about: housing and safety

Stellenbosch by-election highlights what voters are most concerned about: housing and safety
One of the voting stations for Wednesday’s by-election that took place in Stellenbosch Municipality’s Ward 21 was at Stellenzicht. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

Residents of Stellenbosch Municipality’s Ward 21 told Daily Maverick that housing and security were key issues they wanted dealt with in the wake of Wednesday’s by-election.

Despite slightly wet weather, residents of Stellenbosch Municipality’s Ward 21 came out in their numbers to vote in Wednesday’s by-election. The ward – A DA stronghold – includes Paradyskloof and the semi-rural settlement of Jamestown on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.

Stellenbosch by-election highlights what voters are most concerned about: housing and safety

Despite unideal weather, residents of Stellenbosch Municipality’s Ward 21 made sure to cast their votes in Wednesday’s by-election. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

The by-election was held due to the resignation of former Democratic Alliance councillor, Rikus Badenhorst, who was elected as a member of the Western Cape legislature. 

“From there I went to the [National Council of Provinces]. I’m a current member of parliament and the NCOP. When you get promoted to parliament, you have to resign as a councillor,” said Badenhorst.

Housing a key issue

Ward 21 is home to 8,651 residents, with a majority coloured population of 55% and 40% white.

Several voters said housing and safety were key issues in the ward.

“There are many of our people who live under difficult circumstances and there isn’t housing for our people. I have also been on a waiting list for I don’t know how long,” said Audrey van Wyk. For her, housing is the main issue that needs to be focused on by the newly elected councillor.

Van Wyk mentioned an informal settlement in the area, Mountainview, where residents are also struggling with housing. The people there live in cramped and cold conditions, she said. Violence in the area is also a concern to her.

Resident Taryn Breytenbach wants to see the youth in the area being involved in activities that will have a positive impact on them. She believes this could also help with making the area safer. 

Resident Valerie Fernandez has full confidence in independent candidate Dawn van Wyk in Stellenbosch Municipality’s Ward 21’s by-election. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

She wants the chosen candidate to use the election as more than just a “political stepping stone”. 

“I want it to be someone who actually cares and is micro-focused on the area. And they mustn’t just focus on the big ratepayers like De Zalze and Paradyskloof … they must focus on where help is needed.”

Concerns regarding crime and safety were also shared by resident Wilfred Newman. Newman highlighted specific problems in the area, like sports facilities that needed to be repaired.

Newman also acknowledged the housing problem. He said those who live in the area, but who do not have adequate housing, should be given priority.

For resident Valentia Farao, community safety also extends to traffic and road safety. 

“I would like for them to make many changes. Where I live, we need speed bumps because the cars drive dangerously. On weekends, it’s really bad,” she said, adding that she was particularly concerned about the safety of children in the area.

Wednesday’s by-election’s ballot featured the Democratic Alliance, Good, the ANC, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Economic Freedom Fighters and an independent candidate Dawn van Wyk. (Photo: Joel Ontong)


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Dissatisfaction

Despite the DA’s popularity in the ward, not all residents were satisfied with their governance. 

“Although the DA … has always been as transparent as possible with us, I think we’ve been let down as a community,” said Dale Simons, chair of the Jamestown Ratepayers’ Association.

“We’ve been let down in terms of our heritage not being protected and also … in terms of what is happening right now with all the developments of properties on agricultural land,” Simons added.

Some Jamestown residents feel that the “character” of their community is being lost, with gentrification being one factor. 

“One of the many obstacles is that Jamestown has been used as the only ‘emergency housing area’ (other than Klapmuts), which means anyone evicted in Stellenbosch is ‘dumped’ in Jamestown,” said local resident Rene van Rooyen.

“This has not only been traumatising for the evictees, but also for the community, which now has a sprawling informal settlement created by the municipality behind Jamestown,” she added.

Van Rooyen also mentioned that the upkeep of municipal property was a concern for her, referring to the municipal building, library, ward office and gardens.

Leon Schreiber (left), constituency head for the DA, and Mynard Slabbert, the DA’s candidate, during Ward 21’s by-election. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

On the ballot

The by-election’s ballot featured the DA, Good, the ANC, the ACDP, the EFF and independent candidate, Dawn van Wyk.

In the 2021 election, the DA scored a landslide win with 82.5% of the votes. Runners-up Good netted 5.12%.

The DA’s candidate, Mynard Slabbert, felt confident about his party’s chances. “I actually don’t think there is competition. It’s a blue world here. The voters either reward people or they punish people … The DA is rewarded.” 

On future plans, Slabbert said: “The DA’s agenda and the community’s agenda do not differ from each other … The highest priority is to listen to what the people say.”

Good campaign manager Christie Noble said he felt optimistic. “We will do our best to win, but for us it is very important to see how we have grown.”

The main focuses for Good in Stellenbosch are the community and service delivery, Noble said. “We have a huge problem with service delivery … the DA-led government at the moment is not doing what it’s supposed to do.

“They have put people in informal settlements and just forgotten about them,” said Noble, adding that the informal settlement in Mountainview was an example of this neglect.

“It is heartsore to see how our people live in our community.”

From left: Vinton Morgan, Valerie Fernandez, independent candidate Dawn van Wyk and Elizabeth Kotze. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

ACDP candidate Otniel Jooste said Wednesday’s by-election was a critical moment for his party. The ACDP received 3.37% of the votes in 2021 and is hoping to boost that percentage. 

“I think the DA is bleeding, based on their service delivery, based on how they treat people. I think the fact that they resigned in this ward tells me that they are arrogant,” he added.  

Independent candidate Dawn van Wyk said she is “not in politics”. 

“I have been living in Paradyskloof for a very long time and last year we had a lot of issues with the municipal water,” she said. This led to the formation of a group that wanted to enact change for better services. 

“We pay a lot to live here so we want our services, but there’s so much political interference that nothing happens like it should.”

Van Wyk spoke about the issues that residents of Mountainview experience. Earlier in the year, some residents were victims of a fire and they have still not been adequately assisted, she said.  

Valerie Fernandez, a supporter of Van Wyk, said of the independent candidate: “I’ve walked a path with her … This woman knows exactly what the people of Jamestown and Paradyskloof need, because she lives here. She knows this area.”

Candidate for the ACDP Otniel Jooste. (Photo: Joel Ontong)

Poor living conditions

Former DA ward councillor Rikus Badenhorst said issues surrounding Mountainview and housing were focused on during the time he held the position.  

“I also worked closely with my colleagues in council to establish a joint security operations centre that links SAPS, neighbourhood watches and municipal law enforcement.

“Another key focus was to improve the living conditions of residents in Mountainview, a less privileged area that also houses a temporary relocation area that was created through a court order. 

“As ward councillor, I insisted on additional ablution facilities and regular audits,” Badenhorst added. He partnered with local NGO, Usiko, to help uplift the community of Mountainview through various initiatives.

“Housing remains a key priority. The fact is that no more RDP houses are being funded by the national government, so it is now up to provinces and municipalities to enable responsible development of social housing projects,” Badenhorst said.

He said he hopes his successor will build on the relationships he forged and establish new ones. 

“[They should] always be reachable and [engage] all residents on a regular basis to assist with service delivery.” DM

The DA lost some ground in this by-election but still recorded a big win, while the ACDP had a credible second-place finish. Read Wayne ​​Sussman’s analysis of the results.

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