Cape Town -
As DA leader Helen Zille leaned over a balcony on the council housing estate of Roodewal, outside Worcester in the Boland yesterday, there was a touch of the political theatre associated with former Argentinian first lady Eva Peron.
As supporters chanted her name, Zille, who was decked out in a smart white blazer, black wedge pumps and an ornate neck-piece, managed a little shuffle and waved to the adoring fans below. “Ons hou dit blou (We’ll keep it blue). Thank you for coming out today,” she said to cheers from the large and animated crowd, who from time to time burst into the popular Western Cape ditty ’n Lekker, Lekker DA Ding.
Zille was in Roodewal after a quick visit to Prince Alfred Hamlet, which lies at the end of the breathtaking Bainskloof Pass.
Much as she did on her visit earlier this week to the West Coast town of Atlantis, Zille zeroed in on the specific service-delivery needs of the homes she visited.
These included unpaid maintenance by errant and absent fathers, checking that elderly people were receiving pensions, and a complaint about blocked storm-water drains.
But she steered clear of the big policy platforms on which the DA has waged its election campaign - its contention that its policies would lead to 8 percent growth and 6 million “real and sustainable jobs” - despite visiting areas with high unemployment levels.
Moena Adams is a 29-year-old Worcester resident and a single mother of two young children.
Their father is in jail on charges involving “tik”, she said.
While Adams was adamant she would vote DA, she was disappointed by Zille’s visits to two homes which she said were better off than most households in the area.
“I wanted her to go to the really poor people,” she said, pointing at a flat just next door where an elderly man was peering through two windows padded with thick tape and newspaper, but broken beyond repair.
Adams’s plight is similarly desperate.
She was retrenched and lives with her uncle on the housing estate.
But she remains optimistic, saying that under the DA there had been jobs and adult education from which she had benefited.
Roodewal has squares of empty mud between the large blocks of flats. Women hang their washing on the lines and fences, and young children play among discarded rubbish.
In the humble home of Rachel Juries, Zille tried to explain the difference between the municipal competencies and the maintenance issues which are the responsibility of those renting council housing.
Juries shares her two-bedroom house with her son, and his wife and their three children.
She complained that when the wind howled she was unable to keep her front door closed because it was broken – a problem easily solved if DA ward councillor George Stelmeester could get the municipality to fix it.
Stelmeester said most residents of Roodewal worked for the municipality doing housing repairs, in the sewerage works or in sanitation.
Others were seasonal farmworkers, many coming from nearby De Doorns, or as far afield as Mossel Bay, George, Oudtshoorn and Cradock in the Eastern Cape.
Earlier in Prince Alfred Hamlet, Zille listened patiently as Mietjie Jansen, 59, spoke of taking care of her two children, her sick mother and brother, and two grandchildren.
The children receive child support grants, but the Western Cape premier painstakingly took down details about a maintenance dispute from their mother.
Jansen said her adult son was schizophrenic and that no one in her home worked. She’d grown up on a farm with her parents, but when her father died they were evicted.