Car­ing Kwaza­khele res­i­dent tack­les bu­reau­cracy to help those in dis­tress

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Hen­drick Mphande mphan­deh@ti­soblack­

THEY come to him, he sees them, and then takes on the bureau­cratic prob­lems they are strug­gling with. There is a con­stant queue out­side the Kwaza­khele home of Sabelo Williams, who has be­come known far and wide for his quest for jus­tice for in­di­gent res­i­dents.

He helps them through the pro­cesses to fol­low when deal­ing with a string of le­gal and other is­sues.

At first glance, the scene out­side Williams’s Sali Street house is rem­i­nis­cent of peo­ple at a polling sta­tion on elec­tion day, or a queue at a gov­ern­ment clinic.

Af­fec­tion­ately known by his clan name “Tshawe”, Williams, 72, has touched the lives of many with his “ubuntu” ap­proach to­wards his com­mu­nity.

He of­fers ser­vices and ad­vice to res­i­dents on matters rang­ing from il­le­gal evic­tions and ac­cess to so­cial grants, to ju­di­cial matters and mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices.

Born in Doornkop – an area between Alicedale and Cook­house – in 1945, Williams said he was sim­ply em­u­lat­ing the good­will of his late par­ents who were pas­sion­ate about help­ing those in dis­tress.

“I come from a fam­ily that cared and loved oth­ers. This is in my blood.

“Even though I have noth­ing, it has been im­pressed upon my heart to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers,” he said.

While he was chat­ting to The Her­ald, a dis­tressed-look­ing woman ar­rived at his home.

Hes­i­tant, Zuk­iswa Skosana, 33, told Williams she was on her way to Mother­well for a new So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) card for her child and de­cided to make a brief stop at his house first.

How­ever, Skosana ap­peared shy to re­veal the real rea­son for her visit and as she walked to­wards the door, Williams stopped her.

“My daugh­ter, is that all you wanted? Why can’t you say you need bus fare to Mother­well?” he said, tak­ing out a wal­let and giv­ing her R20.

Williams’s lead­er­ship skills blos­somed in Au­gust 2006 when crim­i­nals ran amok in Ward 20 in Kwaza­khele.

“Crime in this area spi­ralled to an alarm­ing level then. I called a com­mu­nity meet­ing where I sug­gested we form a neigh­bour­hood watch that could pa­trol and fight crime.

“We be­came so suc­cess­ful that our area is crime-free as we speak.”

He said res­i­dents started in­creas­ingly turn­ing to him with dif­fer­ent is­sues and he was left with no choice but to pro­vide guid­ance.

Williams, who was em­ployed as a su­per­vi­sor at Cad­burys be­fore leav­ing in 1991, is un­em­ployed but of­ten sac­ri­fices his R1 500 monthly grant to share with those in need.

He has made it his mis­sion to phone gov­ern­ment de­part­ments or the mu­nic­i­pal­ity on be­half of those who need his help but this has left him with ex­or­bi­tant phone bills.

His land­line has been cut be­cause of an out­stand­ing R2 000 bill but this does not de­ter him from us­ing his cell­phone de­spite strug­gling to af­ford air­time.

“Un­for­tu­nately our pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives are obliv­i­ous of what peo­ple are go­ing through,” he said.

“The politi­cians do not know the hard­ships of town­ship res­i­dents.”

Wheel­chair-bound Zukiwe Mang­wane, 59, de­scribed Williams as her “oxy­gen”.

“He is ev­ery­thing to me. To­day I have a big house here in Kwaza­khele be­cause of his in­flu­ence. He or­gan­ised gov­ern­ment min­is­ters to build this house. He is my oxy­gen. He helps ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity.”

Joyce Nzunga, 47, said she ran out of words to de­scribe Williams.

“He is a dif­fer­ent hu­man be­ing. He is well-versed. He knows more than some lawyers and mag­is­trates.

“If you go with him to these of­fices you get im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion from those who once gave you the runaround.”

Her wish is for of­fi­cials to pro­vide Williams with an of­fice, from where he could as­sist more mem­bers of the pub­lic.

When­ever he is un­able to re­solve a com­plaint, Williams makes re­fer­rals to Le­gal Aid or pri­vate lawyers.

While his two-roomed house from where he works has no com­puter or fax ma­chine, files are strewn all over the din­ing room floor.

“I de­cided to reg­is­ter an NPO – Man­dela Bay Res­o­lu­tion Cen­tre – to for­malise the work I do but un­for­tu­nately I can­not af­ford an of­fice,” Williams said.

“Our peo­ple are pressed down by se­ri­ous chal­lenges. For ex­am­ple, if par­ents pass away the chil­dren think it’s the end of the road. Sud­denly sib­lings get evicted from a fam­ily home through du­bi­ous court or­ders.

“It’s painful.”

‘ It has been im­pressed upon my heart to make a dif­fer­ence


PILES OF WORK: Sabelo Williams with some of the case files he is han­dling

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