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From drugs to sewage and racial inequality, new Barrydale ward councillor fills ‘big shoes’ to tackle town’s woes

From drugs to sewage and racial inequality, new Barrydale ward councillor fills ‘big shoes’ to tackle town’s woes
New Ward 2 councillor Isaac Ferguson speaks to Daily Maverick before the by-election on 22 March 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

New ward councillor Isaac Ferguson will get to grips with the workload ahead after he hosts a community meeting in Barrydale on Thursday evening.

‘Overwhelming.” That’s how Isaac Ferguson, the new ward councillor in Barrydale, encapsulates his feelings following last month’s by-elections. The ANC councillor has since been sworn into the Swellendam council. 

Ferguson (50), who became the Ward 2 councillor in the Swellendam Municipality after his party won the by-election, is is well known in the community for his work in sport for more than 30 years – as a player and a mentor – and in Barrydale’s farmlands, helping farmworkers with various services.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC and Patriotic Alliance give DA the Barrydale blues with second Western Cape defeat 

In an interview with Daily Maverick, Ferguson said he was organising a community meeting to say thank you to the ward who voted for him. He will also pick up on the burning issues facing the ward, from upgrading the sewerage system to drug abuse and race inequalities in the broader town.

By-election fever in Barrydale on 22 March 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The by-election

Ward 2 covers Barrydale and Smitsville, along the R62 regional road between Montagu and Ladismith. The by-election was held after the DA terminated the membership of ward councillor Abraham Pokwas, along with two other councillors in the Swellendam council. They are taking their terminations on review. 

During the 2021 municipal elections, Pokwas and Ferguson went head-to-head for their respective parties for control of the ward. Pokwas won with 2,469 votes against Ferguson’s 2,350. 

In this by-election, Pokwas did not stand for another party or as an independent candidate. Ferguson faced competition from the DA, Patriotic Alliance, GOOD and EFF. 

Ward 2 by-election results for 22 March 2023 

“The previous councillor Mr Pokwas did a very good job and I have big shoes to fill,” said Ferguson. “Luckily I have him at my side. I’ve always said he is my brother and he will support me.” 

Barrydale’s issues 

During the by-election, several issues were raised by the candidates as well as Pokwas concerning the ward and the greater Barrydale area. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Barrydale by-elections — a ‘peaceful’ Western Cape town hopes a new councillor will bring about change

Pokwas said the new councillor would need to focus on upgrading the sewerage system in the ward, which would allow for more housing to be built without damaging the system. 

“That’s exactly what I want to do,” said Ferguson. 

Another issue Daily Maverick has been alerted to is an increase in drug use, especially among young people. GOOD candidate Ferdinand du Toit pointed out that while there was a long-standing problem with alcohol abuse in the ward, there was also a rise in drug abuse. According to police statistics, between October and December 2022 there were 25 drug-related crimes detected as a result of police action. 

“I know exactly what Mr Ferdinand (du Toit) is talking about… there is a big problem with drugs in Barrydale and we’re working on a plan. At the moment, I don’t have an answer for you,” said Ferguson. 

Another big issue raised by potential candidates was inequality between the town’s rich white folk and the poorer coloured residents who live far from the R62. 

Ferguson admitted there was a problem with inequality along racial lines, which is why there was a business hub in the area. “We want to look at moving people’s minds towards business in order to bring poverty relief and to lessen the gap between the rich white people and the poor coloured people,” he said. 

by-election ANC

ANC voters in Barrydale, where the party was victorious in March. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Family support 

Initially, when Daily Maverick spoke to Ferguson in Barrydale, he said his wife had had reservations about him standing as a candidate. However, during the by-election, Ferguson said his wife and children were among a group of volunteers who drove people to voting stations and back home. “They’re very supportive and actually quite happy that I made it… they’re very supportive.” 

ANC support

Speaking about his political party, the ANC, Ferguson said: “I’ve been a member of the ANC for years… the only party that cares for poor people – it’s the ANC.” 

Other parties had approached him, but “every time I keep saying no to them”. 

The ANC in the Western Cape said the residents of Ward 2 had “shown overwhelming confidence in our candidate who has over years displayed an unparalleled commitment to community struggle”.

“Cde Iky (Ferguson) is a well-known activist in the area who has always conducted himself with the utmost integrity and is a courteous community leader who is passionate about sport and is involved in various youth development initiatives which have endeared himself as a leader [upon whom] the community of Barrydale has bestowed their trust.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Michael Rice says:

    Two pieces on Barrydale and not a single mention of the most significant institution in the town which sets the standard for all youth and community development: Net vir Pret. Amazing that this incredible initiative can be ignored in the heat of a political campaign in which youth development is of crucial concern. Net vir Pret, in the face pf rampant poverty, alcoholism, drugs and unemployment, has probably made a greater contribution to community uplift than any other entity giving hope and skills to children and youngsters for a better life. Its Admin director Derek Joubert is the greatest unsung hero in the Little Karoo. He is responsible for the wide variety of activities in the Centre: music, computers, home work supervision, ECD, pottery, etc., etc., as well as the annual parade at the end of the year involving over 180 children, puppets and a play. DM, do your homework!!!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Yet another promise by the ANC – we all know it’s never going to happen!

  • Pet Bug says:

    Fawning article of the ANC promising a better future for all.
    Nary a thought how that worked out the last 30 years.

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