Western Cape’s best: Swellendam
Welcome to Swellendam, where 98.5% of its 36 000 residents enjoy piped water in their homes. Of those homes, 88% are formal houses – a stark contrast to Mbizana’s 1.1%, the municipality that research and advocacy organisation Good Governance Africa has described as the country’s worst.
The layout of Swellendam, which is 220km inland from Cape Town on the N2, reflects apartheid planning, with the coloured township of Railton situated across the N2 from the town’s centre.
Khyle Rodgers (19), who matriculated at Swellendam High School last year, is a waiter at the Tredici farm stall, with its chocolate brownies, biltong and blue-cheese quiches. The youngest of five children, Rodgers plans to study for a BCom degree at either Stellenbosch or Cape Town University next year.
“Ja, like most small towns, we have plenty of churches and alcohol shops,” he says. “But we also pride ourselves on the beauty, especially because of the tourists who stop here on their way to the Garden Route. Residents make an effort to keep it pretty. For example, there’s a community garden in Railton that people care for voluntarily.”
The population of Swellendam, which is led by a DA and African Christian Democratic Party coalition, is 68.8% coloured, 17.4% white and 12.4% African. Most people speak Afrikaans. Of the 6 579 economically active youth in Swellendam, 15% is unemployed.
The town ranked highly on governance, obtaining a clean audit for the 2014/15 financial year from the Auditor-General.
Regarding crime and policing in the area, the local Langeberg Bulletin newspaper contains a crime wrap in this week’s edition, commending local officers for confiscating mandrax, tik and dagga, and arresting two people in connection with a solar panel that disappeared two months ago.
Inside the Groentemark corner shop, “sister friends” Natasha Conradie (29) and Jolandie Mathysse (31) take turns behind the till. Mathysse says there are pros and cons to living in Swellendam.
“The farm roads around town are really bad, with lots of potholes. But as you can see, the roads in Swellendam itself are good and they are very clean. The streets are swept every day, even on Sundays.”