Ward 11 DA councillor Desiree Visagie will step down to vie for a proportional-representation seat, in the municipal elections, on Monday November 1, clearing the way for fresh blood in the tiny, but highly contested, Kuils River ward.
The ward, which spans Mabille Park, Brantwood, Amandelrug, Kuils River, De Kuilen, Silveroaks, Mikro Park, Jagtershof, Highbury, Alora and Sarepta, has been a DA stronghold for the past three municipal polls. In 2016, the party took 93% of the votes, followed by the Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP, with 1.5% and 1.4% respectively.
Ms Visagie, a 55-year-old widow who has been in office since 2016, says that during her time as ward councillor she strengthened families, helped businesses and people grow, and built new relationships. It has been the highlight of her life, she says.
“The lows will always be there, no matter how hard you work. You are not just a councillor. There are always politics involved and people that want to see you fail, but these actually kept me on my feet, made me more vigilant, and, at the end of the day, everyone is your ears and eyes in the community. And this is actually an advantage because you will never be able to be or get everywhere or do everything.“
The lows, she says, included having an angry mob from Ward 19 protest in front of her house in June 2019, forcing her to change her address.
“My children were so traumatised and scared. The group had threatened to throw bricks and tyres at the house.”
The protesters were unhappy about the allocation of houses in Riverside Gardens and mistook her for their councillor, she says.
Among the 30 candidates seeking election as the new ward councillor are two notable contenders: Emile Williams, an independent, and the DA’s Wouter de Vos.
Mr Williams, a 56-year-old small-business owner, says he has spent up to R20 000 from his own pocket to campaign. The Kuils River Civic Association has endorsed him.
Holding his poster while standing on a heap of dirt at a park, Mr Williams says: “This is what the current councillor leaves behind in our parks and open spaces. It’s a daily problem, and the community faces a very bad service delivery.”
He says unlike the outgoing Ms Visagie, he will listen more to the residents. Burst water pipes, too few community meetings and a long list of backyarders are some of the key issues he wants to tackle.
Ms De Vos, 48, a founder and former chairman of the Kuils River Community Forum, has held various managerial positions since 1996, and now manages Saxenburg Park 1, an industrial area.
“Having been a resident of Kuils River for 24 years, I have served the community in various capacities. It is my sincere belief and principle that if one intends making a positive contribution, the best place to start is right where you are.“
Homelessness is a thorn in the lives of Kuils River residents, he says. “I am champing at the bit to serve this amazing community as their ward councillor from November 2 and take Kuils River and its community to great new heights.“
While the ACDP performed poorly in the ward in 2016, its candidate, Cheslin Jacobs, 43, an estate agent and father of three, believes that with hard work and faith he will win the ward.
This is the first time he is contesting an election, but he says his work as a community activist, helping the needy and those with high water bills, makes him a shoo-in.
He will bring order, righteousness, love and family values back into the community, he says.