[intro]As the local government Ward 19, East London, Eastern Cape elections approach, journalism students from the universities of Free State and Johannesburg have taken time out to connect with their roots and take a deeper look at the state of affairs in their respective communities. Tammy Fray of East London, Eastern Cape, reflects.[/intro]
Party politics is choking service delivery!’ said East London district counsellor Derrick Green. Green currently serves as the counsellor for Ward 19 and revealed that because of the internal tensions between committee members caused by their political party affiliations, the process of service delivery within his ward and the greater East London community has been immensely hindered.
Making a difference in the lives of communities is an ambition that has always been close to Green’s heart, an ambition borne from his early days in activism exploits as a member of the East London Youth Congress and political commander for Mkhonto We Sizwe. He was born in King Williams Town in 1958 and has lived in the Eastern Cape for most of his life.
He has been active within the Buffalo Flats community long before he became the councillor. He served as the youngest civic leader on the Buffalo Flats Residents Association (BUFRA) in 1983 and later resigned from his job at Mercedes Benz to take up a position as a Community Liaison and Youth Coordinator for Buffalo Flats Development Trust. In 2011, he represented the Democratic Alliance in the Local Government Elections where he was consequently elected to serve as the Councillor for East London City’s Ward 19.
Councillor Green has served in the position for the past five years and has opted to stand again this year albeit for a different ward. ‘I am standing again for re-election, although in a different ward, because the struggle of the marginalised is still a very long walk and even longer so because of the current trend of governance. My dream though, is still to serve my community from a platform.
He presides over a ward that is home to 12 459 residents, of which only 6751 are registered voters. Ward 19 is one of the biggest wards in East London with communities of varying economic levels – from the poverty-stricken residents in the informal settlements of Duncan village, to the lawyers and doctors living in Buffalo Flats.
In Duncan Village, residents need food and employment. In Buffalo Flats, concerns revolve around rising tariffs and increasing potholes. My family resides in Buffalo Flats. Due to the legacy of apartheid, the area still requires a great deal of development.
I live in a part of Buffalo Flats that can be described as pleasant. We are relatively safe. Our homes are large enough and our roads are decent. We have a hockey astro turf and a cricket pitch down the road as well as a police station, graveyard and the Billy Francis Community Hall further on. However not all in Buffalo Flats enjoy these privileges. Most of our fellow residents live in abject poverty with houses cramped up alongside each other, potholed roads and a great deal of alcoholism and drugs.
Service delivery has also been a huge problem for years. ‘Obviously now that we are close to election time again, they have started to collect our refuse often,” said a resident, Wayne Fray. “Over the last couple of years, they have collected our refuse sporadically. They say they are coming on Tuesday then they come on Friday and not even every week mind you. In the meantime, our refuse lies around polluting our streets,” he said.
Buffalo Flats residents, Cindy-Lee and Nathaniel Pretorius also expressed their concern and frustration over the lack of service delivery in the area. “Our roads are riddled with potholes and our graveyard is a disgrace. It is never cleaned and has become a safety risk for the residents. We frequently hear of people being attacked and robbed in the graveyard but the municipality is doing nothing about it,” said Nathaniel.
As a result of the municipality’s inefficiency, Green has attempted to unite the churches, orphanages, schools and various other institutions within his ward with each other so that they can sit around one table and formulate their own solutions to the problems they face. However his attempts to unite his ward have been fruitless. “The current system of local government doesn’t allow community institutions to work together to change community conditions,” he said.
“Being a counsellor under the current municipality is not a good thing to do because you have to fight and swear to get a road tarred or to have garbage removed. Everything takes so long to get done and we have no support from our local government because they are all fighting amongst each other,” he said.
Despite the political barriers that have stood in his path over the last five years, under his direction, Ward 19 has seen bridges and roads upgraded, 265 houses built in 2nd Creek, a power station erected for these houses and more, flush toilets erected in the informal settlement of Duncan Village, and the creation of part-time jobs for inspection and maintenance of water metres and filling up and closing potholes.
“When we become councillors we are not political tools, I cannot be guided by politics and as such if I am not the councillor elected again in the upcoming election, it is God’s way of showing me that I must get out of a system that is stifled by politics,” he said.