Barrydale by-elections — a ‘peaceful’ Western Cape town hopes a new councillor will bring about change
Barrydale in the Western Cape is described by some — including ward councillor candidates — as peaceful but riddled with service delivery, lack of opportunity and substance abuse issues.
The little town of Barrydale hosted a by-election on Wednesday, 22 March, in Ward 2, where potential councillors and residents laid the town’s issues bare: service delivery, substance abuse and a lack of opportunity.
Ward 2 is in the Swellendam municipality, about 250km from Cape Town. It is on the R62 regional road between Montagu and Ladismith. Ward 2 comprises the villages of Barrydale and Smitsville. In December 2022, ward councillor Abraham Pokwas (Democratic Alliance) had his membership revoked along with two other DA councillors; however, they will be taking this on review.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Axed Masizole Mnqasela sides with three Swellendam councillors bounced from the DA
On Wednesday at about 7.30am, at the Fordshaven voting station in Smitsville, about 20 people were in line waiting to cast their vote. There were bright green shirts of the Patriotic Alliance (PA) and some yellow shirts of the African National Congress (ANC). A solitary ANC T-shirt with Jacob Zumba’s face on it was visible.
Elderly people were being walked to the front of the line by Electoral Commission workers. Music blasted from a car displaying a PA poster.
“There’s a lot of change needed,” said Johanna Hendricks (56), who has lived in Barrydale for the past 38 years. Hendricks was rushing to work at a local primary school before voting began.
When asked what the biggest problems in her part of the ward were, she pointed to stormwater drains that overflow on to her property. Despite laying several complaints, including writing letters to the municipality, “they haven’t done anything”, said Hendricks, and then ran off to work.
“Hou by die blou [Keep with the blue],” shouted Esmerelda Marais, as she walked out of the voting station. The 30-year-old has lived her whole life in Barrydale and was wearing a DA shirt underneath a thick jacket.
Marais said one of her biggest concerns was that faulty streetlights don’t get repaired quickly enough.
Sue Melvill has lived in Barrydale for 18 months with her husband. They run a local hotel. “We love it; we actually bought the hotel,” she said. “I care about the smooth running of the municipality in Barrydale. I care very much that it’s well-looked-after.”
She said the incoming councillor needed “to show the people that they care”.
The former deputy mayor
Metres away from the voting station sat Abraham Pokwas, at his home with his two dogs. Up until his DA membership was revoked, he was the municipality’s deputy mayor.
“We’re a quiet town,” said the former policeman. “It’s a lovely place to stay, it’s a place where you can walk around late at night. It’s a fantastic place.”
When asked why he did not stand as a candidate in the by-election, either for a new party or as an independent, he said: “Currently, I want to keep myself as neutral as possible.” Although there was a dispute with the DA which will lead to a court case, he was still a loyal member of the party.
“We have immense problems in our community,” he said. “Our housing challenge is hindered by the capacity of our sewage system. You can see in the streets there is no sewage running, so that means the sewage system is at capacity.”
The first priority should be the upgrade of the sewage system “so that we can have opportunities for housing”.
Another issue was job opportunities. Pokwas said he had suggested moving the business hub of Smitsville to the R62 where tourists can reach entrepreneurs. The R62 runs to towns including Ladismith and Oudtshoorn and many tourists take this route.
PA candidate Brandon Festus described Barrydale as a town that is “neglected and forgotten; that has nothing … our coloured people aren’t looked after.”
The 32-year-old was born in Barrydale and lived here and in Manenberg, Cape Town. “To be honest, our environment has gone backwards for 30 years… we aren’t going forward. You can’t see anything that goes forward,” he said. Festus said there was “literally nothing for children”.
He wanted job creation, opportunities for people to study and recreational facilities for young people. He said the incoming councillor needed to first “see what is there before we can fix and rebuild”.
Ferdinand du Toit
Good party candidate Ferdinand du Toit (47) was born and bred in Barrydale. “In this ward, I’ve seen our people suffer badly and the challenges are immense,” said Du Toit, who described himself as a prophet.
He said that while Barrydale was “a very peaceful and quiet dorp, many of our children are on drugs … the drugs are coming in, people are bringing drugs in and our children are being exposed to it.”
He said young people looked up to adults who were drunk and assumed that was normal. Du Toit wanted to go to every household to speak to families about substance abuse.
Du Toit said the first thing the incoming councillor needed to do, was to say thank you to the community. “I hope and pray that what he or she said, they will fulfil it … don’t make promises to get a vote, and after you’ve gotten a vote then you disappear,” he said.
ANC candidate Issac Ferguson (50) said he would not have actually stood, but “the community came to my house and asked if I wanted to stand”. Initially, his wife said no but then they agreed he should stand. After a community vote, he was elected to stand for the ANC in the by-election. He identified drugs as a problem in the community.
If he was elected as a councillor, “I would probably go back to the voters and say thank you.”
Ferguson said the incoming councillor, “needs to listen to what the community says and do what the community wants. They need to be a servant, they need to be always available.”
DA candidate Beate Joubert arrived in Barrydale in 1995 after marrying a farmer. They now own a wine cellar and employ about 35 people. “Everyone says it’s a small ‘non-existent’ town,” she said, adding that Barrydale was an interesting town.
Joubert said she wanted to make a difference. “I’ve decided the DA is the right platform for this.”
About service delivery in the ward, she said: “I’m frustrated by the direction the town is going, our province and our country is going.”
During campaigning, Joubert said she discovered the ward was “an incredibly divided place” but enjoyed speaking to people in their own homes about issues.
For her, it’s about building bridges, economic as well as social.
If elected, Joubert said she’d be in the area all the time: “They’ll be surprised at how much they’ll see me.”
Results will be published on Thursday by the Electoral Commission of South Africa. DM
Read Wayne Sussman’s analysis of the results: “ANC and Patriotic Alliance give DA the Barrydale blues with second Western Cape defeat”