Elections: little hope for change in Joe Slovo

Blocked drains and stagnant water on the corner of Freedom Way and Kiwu Road. Residents of Joe Slovo say they hope for better living conditions after the upcoming elections.

Only time will tell whether the local government elections will bring change to Joe Slovo, a community long plagued by social-economic ills and collapsing infrastructure, say residents.

The elections are scheduled for Monday November 1, but some doubt whether things will ever change in the neighbourhood.

The residents say they have complained often to the municipality and their councillors about poverty, unemployment, poor service delivery and the general upkeep of their area.

Sibongile Kofi, a Phoenix resident who has become an advocate for those in neighbouring Joe Slovo, says people are in the community are sceptical about the elections because they feel past promises have not been kept.

“The people are tired of the false promises they have been told over the years. However, many in the community say they are willing to come out in numbers and make a new change in the area.

“At the same time, I would also like to encourage the youth to take part in making a new change. If not, we going to sit with the same problem for the next five years. We need to take ownership of our area.”

Mzimkhulu Sopeni, a Joe Slovo community leader, says he doubts the coming elections will do much good for the area.

“My biggest problem is the candidates because they represent political parties. People who have an affiliation to their parties hardly ever have the people’s needs as their number one priority. They serve the party.

“I do not think these candidates have the capacity to handle our issues. Maybe what we need is an independent person to represent the people. Someone who lives in the area they represent. Someone who knows the area’s struggles and the people who live in it. There are people in the community who I think can do the job, but because they do not fall under any party, they will not get recognised.”

Joe Slovo falls under Ward 4. Its councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi, took over the ward in August 2017, following a by-election after the previous councillor, Tando Jafta, was removed after complaints from the public saying he was not making himself available to them and their needs (“Ward 4 DA councillor suspended from caucus,” Tabletalk, 2016). Before that, Dr Joy Solomon held the position from 2011 to 2016 before her current stint as Ward 113 councillor. Dr Solomon says is acutely aware of the issues faced by the people of Joe Slovo and she empathises with them.

“The issues are multiple and solutions take a while, but the reason they (residents) came to the Cape is because the opportunities are better here than anywhere else in the country. They must retain their faith in the reasons that brought them here in the first place and go to the polls to vote. Things will keep getting better.”

Sewage overflowing in Democracy Way. Some Joe Slovo residents say they doubt conditions in their neighbourhood will ever change no matter who gets put into power.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, says the dumping of foreign objects into the sewers is the main cause of pipe bursts and blockages in the area.

“This causes blockages and damages pump stations – both of which result in sewage spills. For instance, the Phoenix sewer pump station has failed on numerous occasions during this year as a result of excessive damages to the pumps from rags, litter, etc. The only way to permanently resolve the problem is to stop putting rags, rubble, plastic litter, etc into the sewer line. When only wastewater and toilet paper is in the pipes, the chances of blockages occurring are drastically reduced.”

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements says the City is looking for land in Milnerton and surrounds to “relocate residents to alleviate the overcrowding” in the area. However this will take time, he says, because the land identified for that purpose is privately owned.

Tabletalk’s calls, WhatsApp messages and SMSes to Mr Ngeyi, requesting comment, went unanswered by the time this issue went to print.