Interviews such as these can provide not only insight into my town but possibly your town too. Although I’ve encouraged others, I’ve intentionally not voted in the past as there’s a need for more moderators and independents in SA, people who are not blinded by years of cultural and (subsequent) political bias. Reason is often absent from opinion. Far too often, hatred rules. South Africa is a fearful country.
Ralph Stander is ANC, on the provincial committee of the Western Cape which makes him the highest-ranking ANC member in Knysna. He was once the Deputy Mayor here. He’s studied public relations and law. He won the Presidential Golf Challenge this year.
I’m unsure when I first met him but it’s likely when I sent interview questions to all the political parties of Knysna in 2011 (another respondent was the then DA Deputy Mayor, Michelle Wasserman). Those questions were divided by political and personal issues, respectively appearing on Knysna Keep and Love Knysna. As I approached the DA and COPE, so I approached Stander regards Knysna Tourism issues. As with the others, and despite agreeing with me and having evidence of his own, Stander did nothing. There’s been a serious lack of oversight in Knysna by ALL political parties.
It’s a safe bet to say that Ralph Stander was the most controversial person in Knysna. That is, until I began my queries into the maladministration of Knysna Tourism and, after experiencing DA lies, into the DA seems to have had me supplant him.
We’re a small, extremely divided town of 68 000 that finds separate areas for Coloureds, Whites and Blacks. Political opinion, most often unsubstantiated, can run according to racial and economic demographics. There’s far more subjectivity than sanity when discussing the opposing camp e.g. when I had meetings with the DA, there would be no controversy but after I’m seen meeting a person such as Stander, the rumours fly that I’m working for the ANC. The logic is ludicrous but, more often than not, people believe what they want to believe rather than what’s reality.
The reality is that I’m prepared to meet with the DA, ANC and COPE. It’s the DA who banned me (their answer to questions they don’t want to answer is blockade). Stander and I still meet occasionally with, thankfully, less hotheadedness than before. Our initial disagreements were regards Julius Malema but the ongoing theme is my criticism of the ANC for not cleaning out its ranks, nationally and locally (i now, similarly, criticise the DA). The difference is that we can now debate and argue and then shake hands or make a joke.
Most people wear several hats and can act differently under them e.g. Stander the Politician versus Stander the Parent. Seeing that is progress. Well, I hope it is. The silly political season is upon us and I do have some dispute with some of his answers to this interview. But I hope that our ‘civilisation’ can continue and that the DA and real journalists (as opposed to the immoral media in our town) would join the coffee table – so much better when we’re talking rather than fighting.
What bias people don’t get is that there’s unlikely to ever be a South Africa within a similar train of thought. There is, especially, a gulf between ‘Westernized’ thought and ‘Africanized’ thought. I use inverted commas because I consider myself African (but I’m sure you know what I mean). It’s difficult but we have to seek understanding between all, focusing especially on common needs instead of winning votes through hate and fear instead of deeds. The current, divided route will only make the South African hole deeper so that we have further to fall.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ANC’S RALPH STANDER
“I send you these questions with the goal of an accountable Knysna and in the spirit of EVERYONE in Knysna communicating with one another towards a better future. Furthermore, as I cannot find the ANC on record regards our town since they’ve become the main opposition party, it will serve to inform the public what and who the Knysna ANC represents.”
Mike: Which areas of Knysna do the ANC control and what proportion of the population does that represent?
Ralph Stander: The ANC controls the whole of Knysna because the ANC controls the country. We, however, have a temporary problem in that the DA runs the province and town and thus controls Knysna.
Describe the ANC’s relationship with the ruling party, the DA?
What relationship? There’s no relationship but there must always be respect; respect for fellow councillors, officials, different offices…but that doesn’t mean we agree with them.
How does the ANC define the line between being opposition and working together for the sake of all?
The ANC doesn’t just complain like DA does but participate in all programmes of the municipality. It must also be understood that it’s not only about municipality for ANC and that there are many other ways through which we serve the community.
Your home neighbourhood of Hornlee has been particularly hard hit by crime and tik seems out of control. What is Hornlee’s relationship with the Knysna SAPS?
The relationship is not bad because many police and Bambanani are coming from the area but the deployment of resources could be done otherwise. The community says the response to town and lokasie is like day and night. More could also be done to clean out tik and drug houses.
The ANC has been notably absent from the media. It’s almost as if the Knysna ANC doesn’t exist. Why?
We do our thing amongst the people and are not media crazy like DA. Also, the media doesn’t report nicely about the ANC. It’s pro-DA and anti-ANC. We are looking at alternative media such as Facebook, Twitter and community electronic media.
It takes minutes to set up a Facebook Page. Rather than talk, whose job is it to get it done?
By being available to hear and reply on people’s issues, whether it’s about school or assisting with social grants, or funerals or sports or cooperatives.
It concerns me that the ANC has followed the lead of the Knysna DA is not responding to queries. You, personally, have been acting provincially but I’ve repeatedly contacted the ANC’s Chief Whip, Stephen de Vries, to only receive silence. I would expect him to be the most public of all ANC members locally. Why not?
We can’t just make noises about everything, but we need to look more at our media presence. The Chief Whip is playing an important role, together with the local structures.
That doesn’t answer the question. My complaints are big and carry a history of evidence? Why has Stephen de Vries not answered?
I haven’t spoken to him upon answering this question so I can’t speak on his behalf. Maybe you must ask him but we understand that we need to shape up at all levels.
Additionally, as you are higher ranked than de Vries, what will you do to fix this broken communication?
There are different roles and functions. We will look at our communications – that’s why there’s a dedicated person who’s deployed on communication.
Who is that person and what are their contact details? And are they in an authoritative position so that they can guarantee a response?
LOL. I’m the communications person for the LET (Local Elections Team) and the function is communication.
Note that I contacted De Vries on a mail other than his Municipal one (and have left messages). The fact is that my emails are deliberately blocked by Knysna Municipality. Does the ANC practice the same policy and, if not, then how will you address this problem?
We are not in charge of the communication of the municipality and think you should report them to the Public Protector. The ANC believes in communication with our stakeholders and constituency.
What are the main issues in Knysna that the ANC is concerned with?
There are so many but poverty, unemployment and inequality are key…especially the fact that the DA municipality is not interested in doing anything to address it. They are interested in keeping rich ratepayers and businesses happy but feels nothing for the poor and underprivileged. Maladministration is also rife in Knysna and that includes organisations that answer to the municipality…such as Knysna Tourism. Housing, of cause, is the other major problem and Crime is totally out of hand and unacceptable. The other major problem is the fact that the municipality is anti-BEE. More than 90% of the money is going to those companies that we benefiting for the last 30 years.
Name some of those companies?
Is there any BEE consulting engineers or civil or electrical company that is doing business with the municipality? No!
I’ve been very vocal with regards the maladministration of Knysna Tourism. Why has the ANC failed to take up this issue in a bigger way? Why hasn’t the ANC demanded an investigation or gone to higher authorities such as Treasury or SCOPA?
I’ve taken Knysna Tourism to the Public Protector and I’m lodging another few complaints in the next couple of days. We can and will do a bit more when it comes to maladministration at both Knysna Municipality and Tourism.
Stephen de Vries is on the Knysna Tourism Board too which makes him complicit with the DA and the Knysna Municipality in every misdeed committed by the Board. Why has he worked with them to cover up the loss of millions and more at Knysna Tourism? Why has he chosen the same route as Greg Vogt (Chairman of the Board) in refusing to answer budget questions?
RS: I don’t know what the board issues are but I know that their budget can’t be a secret. Again, I can’t speak on Stephen’s behalf.
What are the issues you’ve presented to the Public Protector?
Issues about not doing Employment Equity and BEE…and also not using proper Supply Chain procedures when appointing contractors.
Lauren Waring, the Municipal Manager, will not give the public a breakdown of who received the R30 million rates write-off. The ANC is on the Council and privy to this info so please will you provide it.
I’m sure people’s identities must be protected but am sure some kind of answers must be provided.
That’s more evasion than getting the answer. We don’t have to know each individual name but it’s the public’s right to know how it has been broken down and what led to this decision. It’s a massive amount for our small town of Knysna so how could the ANC, like the DA, not have volunteered such info?
I will have to find out what’s happening on that score.
Whilst our town has gotten poorer, the budget for Municipal salaries has increased by 50% the past 3 years. Why has this happened and how could it ever be a sustainable financial policy?
It’s very bad and something will have to be done about it. We need more workers and fewer bosses.
WM: But the ANC councillors voted with the DA for their salary increases despite Knysna being in financial trouble? How can that not be looked at as greediness and also acting against the public?
RS: I will have to get into that also.
The Ward Committees in Knysna has never seemed to work. Are they working efficiently now?
Don’t think so. The DA doesn’t understand community participation.
An example of that would be the DA’s Michelle Wasserman’s Ward 9 wherein meetings are held separately for Coloureds and Whites. Protests of practicality do not remove the stains of that apartheid. Why did the ANC agree to it? Why not take turns holding it in each other’s suburbs?
The ANC can never agree to racism Remember, we’re a non-racial, non-sexist organisation…but that only proofs how racist the [Knysna] DA is.
Elections tend to be a lot of blah-blah-blah so what can you tell me that the ANC will do for Knysna…and actually do, win or lose?
The ANC is pro-poor and will address those issues that affect them.
That’s as indistinct as you could answer. Are you saying that the ANC, like the DA, has no plan for Knysna, one that can be simply emailed to me after this interview?
That’s our plan. The details are elementary.
The immediate future is easier to see. What is the ANC’s agenda for 2014?
Winning back the Western Cape. Get ourselves ready to take back most municipalities in the WC, including CAW and Bitou. Then transforming all the departments to make them more people friendly.
Councillors’ salary increases and the R30-million debt right off are massive issues. I find it difficult to believe that he isn’t aware of them but give him the benefit of the doubt and the chance to provide those answers.
Stander is obviously dodging answering questions about Stephen de Vries and the ANC’s role, and complicit action with the DA, for the maladministration (and cover-up) at Knysna Tourism. Considering that Stander is pursuing his own queries regarding Knysna Tourism, it’s likely that there are different factions of the local ANC at play so it’s tricky for him to find a balance between answering and positively representing the Party as a whole. That seems common as the run-up to previous local elections have been rumoured to have been brutal…and the Knysna DA, too, is alleged to have 2 factions. Proof in the pudding will be if Stander confronts Stephen de Vries.
Ralph Stander lives in the same ward as Michelle Wasserman, she in the ‘White area’, he in the ‘Coloured area’. Instead of turning the question of separate meetings into a point score against the DA, he could have rather committed himself to action regards bringing the different communities together. Knysna has to be for all who live within her embrace [edit – Ralph lives near the border. He has corrected me in the comment section. I got confused i.e. Ward 9 is south of Sunridge whereas he is east of Vigilance which becomes Sunridge. Councillor Clive Witbooi (ANC) is North of Sunridge. ]
It’s obvious that the ANC has matched the DA by having no concrete plan for Knysna. Every party should have had a local manifesto pre-election. As I’ve said before, voting against a party is not the same as voting for what you want.
The positive is that I’m not alone in questioning Knysna Tourism. The more pressure, the more likely Knysna will receive the truth about that financial fiasco (the DA, right up to Helen Zille, has so far refused to cooperate). Additionally, i also have many queries with regards to the Knysna Municipality’s failure to follow the tender process.
The further positive is that the ANC has responded which is more than any other party has done in a very long time. The invitation remains open for COPE and the DA to participate in making important matters clearer to the Knysna public here. And, of course, the hope is that the DA ‘unban’ me and commit to real democracy instead of cover-up after cover-up that requires intervention by higher bodies such as the Public Protector – c’mon Zille, step in and clean up your representatives here.