NEWS: BAY’S RED-TAPE SLAYER
Caring Kwazakhele resident tackles bureaucracy to help those in distress
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 has been impressed upon my heart to make a difference
PILES OF WORK: Sabelo Williams with some of the case files he is handling