Fidel ‘takes up spear’ Johnny Issel left

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IOL johnny issel 2 done CAPE ARGUS ANC anti-apartheid activist Johnny Issel. Photo: Obed Zilwa

Cape Town - Of course he is wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt.

Fidel Issel is the son of legendary Cape Town Struggle stalwart Johnny Issel, and is on the verge of launching his own political career.

His shirt not only features Che wearing Aviators and sporting diamante bling, but it’s also the bright yellow synonymous with the ANC.

And on by-election day in Kensington and Factreton, it’s the colour Fidel Issel, 38, hopes will be flying highest by nightfall, as he is the ANC’s candidate for the ward.

When Johnny Issel died in 2011, Kensington hosted hundreds of high-profile mourners at the funeral. “Many residents were disgruntled with the ANC; they felt the party had thrown them away,” Fidel Issel said. “Then they saw (at the funeral) that there’s a prominent son of the ANC living in the community.”

Since then he has been slowly rebuilding the ANC’s presence in Kensington. Being nominated as candidate for ward councillor is what Issel hopes will be the “starting point for big things to come”.

IOL Fidel Issel_done Fidel Issel is seen at his headquarters dishing up food for the ANC volunteers helping at the various polling stations. Photo: Jason Boud CAPE ARGUS

The ward was previously held by the DA’s Derrick America, who was called up to the National Assembly after the May elections. Along with Issel, the candidates are the DA’s Lisa McBride, Moegamat Mohamad of the PAC, Mugidien Barnes for Al Jama-ah and independent candidate Shakoor Cupido.

“My dad is the main reason for me making it this far,” Issel said. The intense campaigning had put a strain on his wife, Faldela, and sons Shabbeer, 13, and Yaqin, 5.

“In the evening I would think to myself, my father has been through all kinds of struggle. He was imprisoned, tortured, kept away from his family. If he could endure that, then I can endure this.”

Politics has not always been Issel’s dream. He wanted to be a chef. His beginnings in the kitchen were as illustrious as they come: he helped his mother prepare chicken livers and samoosas for Nelson Mandela, to be served up at the twice-weekly caucus meetings for five years.

But the food business was never as satisfying as politics, and Issel said he had decided to “take up the spear” that his father left.

While Johnny Issel’s work among communities was not yet finished, his opinion of the party he helped establish in the Western Cape had nosedived in his later years.

“We know he was very disillusioned with the ANC,” Issel said. “He felt a lot of comrades went into office and forgot about the people.”

Despite his late father’s misgivings, Issel says the party is in his blood.

“We grew up in the ANC; it’s our family. They were there for us through thick and thin. When we didn’t have a father and sometimes a mother, ANC comrades would take us in.”

Currently serving as the ANCYL’s provincial treasurer, Issel said: “The ANC should take up the bread and butter issues. There has been a distance from those communities that supported them in 1994 - they must go back to those. And also they must look at the corruption within.”

The by-elections results will be announced on Thursday.

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Cape Argus

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