Galeshewe is Kimberley’s oldest township in the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality in the Northern Cape province. Local residents have called out issues like the lack of service delivery and corruption. They have also been asking for more community participation to tackle the problems they face. One such forum is the Galeshewe Youth Network (GYN).
The Daily Vox chatted to the GYN chairperson, Kenneth Niewenhuis about his community and the upcoming local government elections.
GYN is a forum for all the non-profit organisations in Galeshewe. The group’s main aim is to lobby for better services and access to opportunities. GYN also works with youth and unemployed folks through their outreach programmes.They are currently trying to source funding for their various projects.
In 2017, Statistics South Africa found that only 54.6% of households in Galeshewe have access to clean drinking water, and 78.1% with access to electricity. The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the Sol Plaatje local municipality that includes Galeshewe stated that 31.9% of its people are unemployed. The youth make up 41.7% of the unemployed, with almost 15% of households having no source of income.
An IDP is a municipality’s strategic development plan over a five-year period.
Speaking to the Daily Vox, Niewenhuis said Galeshewe is in a state of despair with many challenges. They face the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning, high unemployment, alcohol and drugs abuse, and rising crime rates, he said.
“Around election time forgotten and impoverished townships like Galeshewe get the attention of opportunistic politicians that are only visible during these times,” said Niewenhuis.
Niewenhuis said basic services like electricity provision and affordability have plagued Galeshewe for years. He said they experience frequent water cuts, and potholes look normal because roads are not maintained.
Issues in the community
“The CEO of Eskom made statements about Kimberley and Galeshewe, and how we pay the highest electricity tariffs in the country. It is ridiculous when we have so many unemployed people with no income. No one can afford these prices,” said Niewenhuis.
As of September 2020 the municipality owed electricity provider, Eskom R154 million. Andre de Ruyter, Eskom CEO said Sol Plaatje had the highest mark-up of tariffs in South Africa.
In 2018, the #KimberleyShutdown protests were prompted by a monthly R260 tariff imposed by the municipality.This fee was basically a fee in addition to regular electricity bills. Protesters said “we have to pay to be able to pay for electricity”. In mid-July 2018 protests erupted at the Sol Plaatje municipal offices. Protesters also demanded that municipal manager Goolam Akhawaray and chief financial officer Lydia Mahloko be recalled.
The two were alleged to be engaging in corrupt activities. Over 200 people were arrested for unlawful service delivery protests. A week later the African National Congress (ANC) advised the municipality to suspend Akhawaray and Mahloko. The Sol Plaatje mayor Mangaliso Matika was fired after a successful motion of no confidence. In August Akhawaray and Mahloko were reinstated after challenging a report on financial irregularities and wasteful expenditure.
Niewenhuis said unemployment rates and lack of recreation facilities make youth susceptible to drug and alcohol addiction. He said service delivery is almost non-existent and no proper recreation facilities exist in the township.
“The monies that are supposed to go for these facilities don’t. Corruption seems to be the order of the day,” he said.
Despite the many political issues, the GYN have actively encouraged Galeshewe residents to vote in the upcoming #LGE2021.
“Most people have lost hope in political parties. Independent candidates in Galeshewe are giving us hope. They are not aligned with political parties who have the same agenda year in and year out. These people look like leaders who are actually working with the community, long before thinking of elections,” said Niewenhuis.
Galeshewe residents have shown their support for community leaders recently who are fighting for the right to access basic services. “Even if you have lost confidence in a party, go and vote for an independent candidate. But go vote. You can make a difference by bringing people into power who are for the community,” Niewenhuis said.