Opinion: Getting to know Ward 3

Light falls in long, green-grey slants. 2:30 pm on a Thursday. Struggling to adjust to the gloom inside the large concrete, shed-like Albany Lounge in Albany Road, my eyes water a little as I take another step inside.

They are watching the Oscar Pistorius trial, digitally projected onto the opposite wall.

Old men, men in overalls, sitting quietly watching the court case unfold.

They are willing to speak to me, but only later. I move on.

At the counter asking for a cigarette, I meet one of the managers, who quickly fills me in on the background of Ward 3.

She shares the common sentiments of the residents of what is still called the ‘coloured area’ by many Grahamstownians.

People seem wary to vote, angry and tired.

Angry because they are tired of waiting for government and their elected representatives to perform, “very little has changed for our people since Zuma took power,” she says of her life and that of her neighbours, family and friends.

This is a diverse ward, stretching from Graeme College in its most Western corner, bordering Wards 1 and 5 in the North.

Ward 3 stretches up Fitzroy St, into Currie Street, carries on to become Valley Street and finally turns into Hilda Mentoor Lane running into Mayfield and the controversial Extension 10.

Fenced and walled suburban lawns border open lots, popular grazing for the local roaming cattle.

Ward 3 is a collection of the middle and working classes.

The contrast clearly visible as the road quickly deteriorates and the surroundings become less cared for as you move across the now unused train tracks.

Why have these streets been forgotten?

Political tensions run high in the ward, people are willing to pitch-in and make their plight known, but the frustration of waiting has shaded much of their optimism.

People want change here, but 20 years on, little has changed for many.

Riddled in a recent history of political mudslinging between what Ward 3 Councillor Marcelle Booysen calls an attack from an ANC faction in her ward committee, and what some residents openly call nepotism, a large part of the community is angry and this is influencing their vote – that is, those who are actually going to vote.

Since the presence of the DA in Ward 3 after the May 2012 local elections, there has been a steady stream of allegations concerning the allocation of housing to residents of the ward.

Executive Mayor Zamuxolo Peter confirmed allegations of corruption in the allocation of RDP houses in Extension10, Mayfield in August 2013.

It’s six months later and these feelings are still strong.

Speaking to a number of people it becomes clear that the problems are all related in some way.

With elections looming the stories of two single-parent business women, a family of four subletting a tiny mud floored flat, and a grandma struggling to support her chronically ill granddaughter all shed light on where we are, and where we could be heading.

No votes yet
Hancu louw mugshot.jpg