Councillor retires after 19 years

Councillor Bernadette le Roux is calling it a day.

As South Africans head to the polls next month, Ward 55 councillor Bernadette le Roux bows out of politics satisfied with the job she has done.

With a career spanning 19 years, Ms Le Roux first served as a New National Party councillor in Ward 3 (Summer Greens, Sanddrift and Tygerhof), and later, after that ward fell away when Cape Town became a “Unicity” in 2000, in Ward 55 (Century City Residential, Sanddrift, parts of Marconi Beam, parts of Milnerton South, Milnerton Coastal Development, Paarden Eiland, Tygerhof, Rugby, Ysterplaat, Brooklyn, parts of Salt River, parts, of Woodstock and the Waterfront.

The mother of four and grandmother of six, who later joined the DA, said she had fought hard for projects she believed in and still managed to spare time for the aged and disabled whom, she said, would remain a priority for her after her retirement.

Ms Le Roux worked for three members of parliament in the early 1990s and jokes that she was coerced into becoming a councillor.

“The Ward 3 councillor had passed away at the time and a by-election was coming up. The people I worked for, particularly Annette Reinecke, insisted I apply for the position. I said no way and they approached my family to talk me into it,” said Ms Le Roux.

Of the three MPs she had served, she said Louis Pienaar had been the most interesting.

“What an amazing man. He was the attorney general at the time of the transition of South West Africa to Namibia. If there were issues in his area of work, he would tackle them head-on. He inspired me to continue in politics,” she said.

Besides Ms Le Roux, there were three other men gunning for the post and she laughs as she recalls that they had all attended the same church.

“I felt confident, and it was a great feeling when I won. I had the support of the whole sitting council,” she said.

In 1998, Ms Le Roux was elected as the deputy mayor of Blaauwberg. She said it had been during that time that she truly got to know what poverty was.

“I enjoyed working in Atlantis. I enjoyed the people, and I learnt how they coped with the little they have and how everyone helps one another in order to survive,” she said.

Talking about the different areas she managed as a councillor, she referred to Century City as the baby that grew up in front of her.

“I joined council at a time when Century City was nothing more than bush and wetlands. I had been councillor for two weeks when I was invited by Martin Wragg, the chief executive officer of Monex Development, to take a drive around the area. I remember driving through bush in his Jeep. And while he was telling me about his plans and dreams for the area, I thought ‘impossible’. Now whenever I see Century City, I think ‘doubts have more failures than dreams ever will’. I’m sure by 2020 it will be a ward on its own because of the number of people living there.”

The Koeberg spaghetti interchange is something else Ms Le Roux is proud of. Even before she became councillor, it frustrated her that nothing was being done about the traffic congestion at the interchange, and although she insists she only played a small role in the upgrades, she is glad to have been part of the fight to find a solution.

“My first motion to council was that intervention was needed there. I went to members of parliament to beg for intervention. There was even an article written in the paper with the headline ‘Councillor has dander over interchange’. However, with the increase of vehicles today, greater intervention is needed now.”

After the 2000 municipal elections that ushered in the Unicity, Ms Le Roux found herself in charge of a much larger ward, with greater challenges and a budget that needed to be spread even wider than before.

“Where I previously put my budget into only three areas I now had to juggle it around to give each area a bit. The only problem is you can’t be everywhere at once and people expect you to be visible all over. But I managed without the help of a proportional councillor or secretary.”

Ms Le Roux said she had had excellent relationships with all officials and she would miss them dearly, but she is looking forward to her retirement and the prospect of catching up on some reading.

“When you sit with agendas of 1500 pages, the last thing you want to do is read. So now there are two books in particular I would like to get stuck into. They are both by the educationalist Professor Jonathan Jansen.”

James Vos, a member of parliament, who worked closely with Ms Le Roux for several years said: “ You will be missed, but never forgotten. You’ve done so much for all of us and especially your community, which you served with passion and resolve. You were truly an amazing councillor for your ward – you always displayed compassion and concern. These characteristics will define your tenure as a public representative.”