Prince charm­ing woos the vot­ers

But res­i­dents still com­plain of lack of de­liv­ery

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

A QUEUE of sup­pli­cants waited with us for Beau­fort West mayor Tru­man Prince.

It was al­most mid­day and the queue had been grow­ing steadily since 9am.

“He’s on his way,” we were told about an hour be­fore, but we stood idly tak­ing in the sights and sounds of the Ka­roo town sliced in half by the N1 high­way. A truck rum­bled past, bear­ing a fresh haul of wreck­age from the no­to­ri­ous death stretch be­tween here and Laings­burg.

A group of rau­cous young women ar­rived, com­plain­ing they had not been paid their stipends for the course they were do­ing through the ser­vices sec­tor ed­u­ca­tion train­ing au­thor­ity.

They were there to de­mand Prince’s in­ter­ven­tion and some mut­tered darkly they would not be vot­ing for his party – the ANC – if he didn’t de­liver.

But when he did pull up, sport­ing trade­mark fash­ion­ably ripped jeans, stylish jacket and a rap­per-style peak cap, they bus­tled round him like groupies.

“This is our Tru­man, our mayor,” one shouted after him as he was pro­pelled by the group into his of­fice for an im­promptu au­di­ence.

Grum­bles erupted among those who had been wait­ing be­fore them.

You need pas­sion for this job, the man him­self in­formed us when we were ush­ered into his of­fice. Peo­ple ar­rived at his house when he got home from work and they were there first thing in the morn­ing, al­ways ex­pect­ing.

But there was no greater re­ward in pol­i­tics than the smile of some­one you have helped with a prob­lem, he en­thused. “That’s the big­gest prize – just a mere thank you.”

On the street, peo­ple were not uni­ver­sally grate­ful.

Laz­ing on a plas­tic crate on a street cor­ner in Prince Val­ley, El­ton Roberts, 21, said as far as he could see, the coun­cil was not do­ing its work.

“Some peo­ple com­plain about their drains and sewage that floods. It takes a long time to fix when it hap­pens,” he said.

For him and his friends, though, job­less­ness is the big­gest con­cern.

“You prob­a­bly have to know some­one to get work. I’ve ap­plied of­ten, my friends have also all ap­plied, but we don’t get it.”

He would vote for the EFF in the com­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions be­cause, he said, they had worked on peo­ple’s homes in the area.

Nathan Pëpes, 24, cruised past, his face etched with the ev­i­dence of life out­side the charmed cir­cle of em­ploy­ment.

“Look at these roads, they could give us work to fix these roads. They must look after the teenagers and the young peo­ple who have no jobs, they must help us get out of the gang­ster life.”

Not ev­ery­one was un­happy, though. Elna Lot­ter­ing stood proudly in her ANC T-shirt in the door­way of her new home in Ward 4.

“As far as you go the peo­ple are ANC,” she said.

“We had a rally yes­ter­day and peo­ple came out in hordes in their T-shirts. So I think we’re go­ing to win this ward again.”

In Man­dlenkosi, pen­sioner Sarah Hlek­iso, 79, and her daugh­ters Con­stance Jantjies, 47, and Vi­o­let Mdindwa, 38, were ini­tially ner­vous about speak­ing to the me­dia.

“We old peo­ple, we tell them (our prob­lems) but they don’t come to us. We have lots of prob­lems. We can’t speak, we are scared,” Hlek­iso said.

The houses here are small, face­brick struc­tures, some with bro­ken win­dows, and potholes gape through the faded tar sur­face.

Jan­ti­jies said her toi­let was blocked and the shower flooded.

“I’ve been wait­ing three weeks, but I sit with that stink,” she said.

Her elec­tric­ity had been cut off be­cause she owed R700 on her ac­count, but she had no idea where she would find the money.

Hlek­iso, too, was with­out power and on her way to a money­len­der to bor­row the money to set­tle her ac­count. De­spite these hard­ships, she re­mained grate­ful.

“I will vote ANC. We got these houses from Man­dela. We are very grate­ful to him.”

Mdindwa said she was afraid of crime.

“If I’m stabbed now the am­bu­lance will only come to­mor­row, then I’m fin­ished, it takes very long,” she said.

DA mem­ber An­neline Montzinger, 38, be­lieves the sys­tem is rigged.

Her elec­tric­ity mains unit was fried, but she’d been told she must fix it her­self.

She’d been to Prince’s of­fice and been told “we don’t help DA peo­ple”.

“They said it to my face and I wasn’t helped,” she said.

“The ANC has gov­erned for long, but if we give the DA a chance we can see, maybe some­thing will change.”

Her be­lief was shared by fruit seller, taxi driver and some­time street cleaner in the Com­mu­nity Works Pro­gramme Ralph Mathi­son, 39.

He be­lieved mu­nic­i­pal work was shared out fairly and could vouch for the fact that his hawker’s li­cence came with no strings at­tached, but he said only “cer­tain” houses were at­tended to by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“This year I’m go­ing to vote DA for the first time. Maybe they’ll bring change in the town – the ANC is do­ing nothing.

“In our neigh­bour­hood, Rust­dene, some roads get tarred and the oth­ers not. They fix some peo­ple’s houses and the rest are ne­glected, that’s how it works there, they do it to get their votes.”

Seem­ingly un­aware this was con­tro­ver­sial, Sophia Koop­man, 38, said she got her job in the Com­mu­nity Works Pro­gramme by ap­ply­ing to the ANC of­fice.

Her fel­low work­ers agreed.

The eight- days- a- month work in the CWP and his RDP home have not sat­is­fied Nkosikho Aubrey Klaasen, orange- clad 52, who said he was jailed in 1981 for burning down the rent of­fice over a hous­ing grievance.

“I’ve been com­plain­ing for three years about my house with holes in the walls, but they don’t take no­tice. If your toi­let leaks, they say you must fix it your­self, they just look after the out­side. They don’t care where you work or what your in­come is.

“The ANC in the coun­cil don’t take us se­ri­ously. Now it’s elec­tions, they want to tell us what they will do – all the par­ties,” he said.

He was promised things would im­prove but they haven’t, in his book, since he was jailed over the same griev­ances.

“We were found guilty for de­stroy­ing state prop­erty, but they asked that man, what are you go­ing to do when these peo­ple get out and their houses are not built prop­erly. When I got out in ‘83 it wasn’t done. Those houses you see now are still not fixed.”

On her way to the bank on the main road, DA mem­ber El­marie Williams, 45, was equally scathing.

Mu­nic­i­pal ac­counts are er­ratic and the me­ters are read in­fre­quently, re­sult­ing in the oc­ca­sional shock bill which must be set­tled im­me­di­ately on pain of be­ing cut off.

“Poverty and un­em­ploy­ment are the big­gest prob­lems, our town is busy go­ing back­wards and the peo­ple who are sup­posed to be in charge are busy with skelm things, they are steal­ing from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, so there’s no money to de­liver ser­vices.”

Prince, though, was con­fi­dent the ANC had de­liv­ered enough progress since democ­racy to de­serve power.

“It is (true) that some of those houses’ con­di­tion is not good, but the coun­cil doesn’t have money,” he said.

“But I can tell you that we are do­ing toi­lets, doors, we are fix­ing win­dows, specif­i­cally for those who can­not af­ford it. Did you see our new houses? It looks very nice. So the gov­ern­ment is still mov­ing for­ward, better and better.”

He dis­missed sug­ges­tions only ANC sup­port­ers got his at­ten­tion.

“You don’t have to vote for me to be ac­knowl­edged as a cit­i­zen of Beau­fort West. The rights I’ve got, you also have,” he said.

“But, from a po­lit­i­cal point of view, it’s mos better if you vote for us, rather than to vote for some­body else, so if you vote for the ANC, I’ve got an ea­ger­ness to sort out your prob­lem.”

He doesn’t rest on his lau­rels ei­ther and is work­ing to­wards his doc­toral the­sis.

“The ed­u­ca­tional level is very im­por­tant, I try to be an aca­demic,” he said. The sub­ject of his the­sis? “I want to do lib­er­a­tion move­ments, how for 20 years they move into gov­ern­ment, why after 20 years the peo­ple lose faith in them. Ar­ro­gance comes into play.”

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

PICTURES: MICHAEL WALKER

Mayor of Beau­fort West Tru­man Prince, right, be­lieves you have to have pas­sion to do his job.

Posters adorn the street poles in Kwa­man­dlenkosi, Beau­fort West.

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