Ceres mayoral candidate hoping to reap the fruits of her work

2016-07-27 21:24
Joyce Phungula, standing for Witzenberg (Jenni Evans, News24)

Ceres - The first female Speaker of the Witzenberg municipality, Joyce Phungula, says she has been working hard to be chosen as the next mayor of the country's fruit belt so she can help improve people's lives.

She breaks into the SA Communist Party ditty "My mother was a kitchen girl" as she goes into her background.

She was born on a fruit farm up the road from the African National Congress's constituency office in Ceres.

"My mother really was a kitchen girl," says Phungula, repeating the back story of many of the candidates News24 interviewed ahead of the August 3 local government elections. Her father worked in a storeroom at a winery.

She trained as a nurse when she left school and was among the first three black nurses to work at the Ceres Provincial Hospital.

It was while doing ward rounds that she first became involved in union work, joining ANC ally the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union.

She has always been involved in community work, whether teaching, helping the elderly, or assisting at a creche, and thinks she can make a positive difference as a mayor.

"I am a very humble somebody, but I am straightforward and outspoken," says Phungula.

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She serves on the regional structures of the ANC and is a former Boland region chairperson for the ANC Women's League, so is familiar with the party's policies and expectations.

She has done some international travel to see how other municipalities operate, including to Sweden. She speaks with admiration of some of the municipalities she saw there.

She says the people of Ceres work extremely hard, many leaving for work at 04:00. She believes she knows what they need.

She has been campaigning non-stop ahead of the elections, feeling guilty at times when the family brings home a fish parcel to eat.

"It has not been easy for them," she says of husband Simon and their two children.

Her daughter Zintle is one of the volunteers at the constituency office and speaks to people gathered outside in the morning sun.

When she hears that her mother is to be photographed, she takes the styling in hand, and Phungula re-emerges without the sensible puffy winter jacket and oversized lavender beanie.

Supportive and understanding

She has not been without campaign scandal. Phungula was accused of wasting money by not going on a business trip she had been booked for.

There was a death in the family and it was not to be helped, she explains. She returned the daily stipend she was paid for the trip.

Her family has been very supportive and understanding.

She describes herself as a "people's person" and believes her record of community work will stand her in good stead with voters.

She thinks she will have the support of the town's coloured community and has had compliments from some of the councillors.

"That made me proud because it is not easy to do that," she says.

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