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Face-to-face with Ramaphosa, Cape Winelands residents raise housing, healthcare and power failure issues

Face-to-face with Ramaphosa, Cape Winelands residents raise housing, healthcare and power failure issues
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the audience at the Presidential Imbizo in Paarl on 19 May 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The Cape Winelands played host to a presidential imbizo where residents of areas such as Paarl, De Doorns, Ceres and Stellenbosch brought their problems to President Cyril Ramaphosa, ministers, provincial government officials and local government authorities. Top of the agenda: power cuts, crime and social interventions for young people.

‘The load shedding is killing us Mr President, you have to intervene,” pleaded Ntomtobeko Thompson, a resident of Dal Josaphat in the Cape Winelands, speaking directly to President Cyril Ramaphosa during a presidential imbizo on Friday, 19 May at the Dal Josaphat Athletics Track in Paarl. 

Thompson was one of thousands of people at the imbizo, the sixth District Development Model imbizo hosted by the President. He was accompanied by several ministers, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Cape Winelands District Municipality Mayor Dr Helena von Schlicht. Residents of the district – comprising the local municipalities of Drakenstein (Paarl and Wellington), Witzenberg (Ceres, Tulbagh), Stellenbosch, Breede Valley (Worcester, De Doorns, Touws River) and Langeberg (Robertson, Ashton) – laid bare their problems before the contingent.

ramaphosa imbizo

The crowd cheers while receiving feedback from the president and ministers at the Presidential imbizo in Paarl on 19 May 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

A plea to the President — and a thank you

Thompson described Dal Josaphat as an area where even the President would not allow “your child to grow up”. She said she spoke on behalf of mothers in the community as “our youth are involved in gangsterism because there are no youth projects”. Thompson pleaded with the President to intervene with the ongoing scheduled power cuts.

Vuyokazi Vovo Nguqu (36), addressed the President after first meeting him in 2018 at a Women’s Day event to ask for a house. By 2019, she had received her house. Vukani News reported she had been born with a chromosomal disorder that had affected her growth. “I came here to say thank you very much, Mr President,” she said. Amid laughter from the crowd and the President, Nguqu referred to Ramaphosa as “Ramza” and asked for a grocery voucher. She pleaded with the government to employ more disabled people:

“We don’t want to live off a grant … If you are disabled, it does not mean you are mentally disturbed.”

ramaphosa nguqu

President Cyril Ramaphosa poses with 36-year-old Vuyokazi Vovo Nguqu. Nguqu thanked the President after having received her home in 2019. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

‘No more talking, we want action’

“I’m here for Wolseley,” said Desire Brand, who asked for assistance with ambulances. She complained of power cuts and crime, as “a young woman was killed” recently during power cuts in the area. She said police were slow to respond, as were ambulance services:

“They come on their own time … I’m sick and tired of just talking, we want action.” 

ramaphosa brand

Desire Brand from Wolseley. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Several people raised similar issues concerning healthcare in the region. They said Witzenberg had several problems: clinics were unstaffed, they opened late and mothers could not bring sick children to clinics after hours. One person said there was no space at clinics for doctors and nurses to operate.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Frustrations mount in Witzenberg community over poor service at Ceres Hospital

It was not only healthcare. Residents of the region – which grows produce such as grapes and citrus – questioned labour practices, such as hiring foreign nationals to work on farms, and farmworker evictions. A woman from Rawsonville asked for a farmworker imbizo.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bitter Harvest: Farm evictions sow the seeds of discontent

Veteran farmworker activist Billy Claasen, from the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, questioned why police in rural areas sided with farmers in evictions, at the expense of farmworkers. “How the hell can it be?” he asked, as people started clapping.

ramaphosa billy claasen

Veteran farmworker activist Billy Claasen. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

McGregor resident Monica Marks Bayman said children were running rampant in the area.

“We need social intervention … Our children cannot die uneducated and gangsters,” she said. She also questioned the closure of Community Work Programmes, leaving people destitute. “We’re single mothers; our children are dying,” she said.

ramaphosa bayman

McGregor resident Monica Marks Bayman raised issues about the clinic in her area. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Top of the agenda

To address the concerns raised by residents, Ramaphosa divided the responses among the ministers present. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele admitted that while he had been deployed to the Western Cape by the President, his focus was on the Cape Metro, because of the high crime rates there. Addressing complaints about the Wolseley police station, Cele said: “Surely we would have to visit this police station that does not respond … we have to go back and deal with the community”.

He gave himself a deadline of two weeks to check on the police station.

“Police are not for certain groups,” Cele said in response to claims by Billy Claasen, adding that if it were found that police were involved in helping any “groups”, action would be taken against them.

“They have to follow the law … police are for the citizens of South Africa, not for certain people,” said Cele.

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said the government was looking at ways to enforce fining employers who hired foreign nationals who did not have scarce skills. He also said he would try to deploy generators to Labour Centres to address several complaints about services stopping during power cuts.

In closing, Ramaphosa touched on the ongoing power cuts as a “challenge we are looking at”.

He said solving the ongoing power cuts was “top of the agenda” and he remained confident that in the “next number of months or years”, power cuts would be reduced quite significantly. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Riel Meynhardt says:

    South Africans had such hope for Ramaphosa to lead the country on the high road, away from the destruction caused in the Zuma years. Dreams of a leader who would put South Africa, and all it’s people first – not cling to the out of touch with reality ANC ideology. Sadly, when he speaks, the stuuf coming out of his mouth bears great resemblance to that coming out of the backends of his Ankole Stud

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    “next number of months or years”, power cuts would be reduced quite significantly. What the flock does that even mean ? Which one is it Cyril ?

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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