As political heavyweights hit the campaign trail on the Garden Route, voters have been using the opportunity to highlight their plights.
On Thursday, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille visited several communities in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay where the main issues raised were the lack of housing in and around the coastal holiday towns as well dwindling job opportunities.
This came after similar issues were raised last week when Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane visited Southern Cape.
“We are really struggling,” Karatara resident Angeline Jantjies said. Karatara is a small rural village between Knysna and Sedgefield with a population of about 900.
“There are some cases where 45 people live in one home and it is not a problem we have just suddenly started facing, it has been an issue for the past 20 years.”
Councillor for the area Louise Hart explained that a housing project for 177 homes was in the pipeline for Karatara, but that this hinged on securing funding to upgrade the area’s sewerage system.
“We were promised R5-million from national government, through the department of rural development, to do just that but at the eleventh hour a decision was made not approve the funding as the department rather wanted to spend it on developing agri-villages,” Hart said.
She added if she had known about the department’s about-turn earlier, the municipality could have included a portion of it in their own budget.
Zille vowed to follow up on the issue.
“We are not perfect, but we work to try and solve the issues communities are facing,” Zille said.
African National Congress (ANC) supporter Benjamin Daniels, who joined the meeting in Karatara, added that there was also a problem with people who did not qualify for government housing, occupying some of the homes in the village.
“I came here today not to talk politics, but to talk people. Everyone seems to be forgetting Karatara,” Daniels said.
Zille said while she would look into his complaints, it was a very difficult task for government to identify and deal with those occupying homes illegally.
Jantjies also complained about the state of the village’s roads, the lack of transport for farm workers in the area and the lack of job opportunities.
“We have locals with the necessary skills, but they end up going to other bigger towns to find work as residents are never considered for local jobs, especially when it comes to jobs within the municipality.”
Zille said that unemployment alleviation was on its way for the village, especially in the tourism sector, with the establishment of a cycling trail between Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town.
The trail, an initiative by the Western Cape economic opportunities department, is set to pass through Karatara and aims to create more than 120 000 jobs over the first five years of operation.
Zille said that the local government elections on August 3, was going to be a two-man race between the DA and the ANC.
“Last time around the DA won in Knysna, but not by much. The DA won 10 seats, the ANC 7, Cope [Congress of the People] one and an independent candidate the final one.”
In Bitou the situation was similar. For the first three years following the 2011 elections, the council was a hung one with the DA relying on a coalition with Cope to run the municipality. Only in September last year the DA won outright majority during a by-election when an ANC councillor suddenly resigned following a lengthy court battle after a power struggle between the ANC in the DA.