Piet van der Hoven (Photo by Tammy Petersen, News24)
George - The reality of George is a tale of two towns – one side extremely rich and the other desperately poor, ANC mayoral candidate Piet van der Hoven believes.
“It’s time to find a way to bridge this enormous divide,” the city's former deputy mayor told News24.
“If I am elected, I will make it my mission to unite communities which are on either side of this huge split.”
Van der Hoven will battle DA mayoral candidate Melvin Naik in the upcoming elections.
The ANC’s candidate is under no illusion that his run for office in the Garden Route city will be easy, but he is up for the challenge.
- Take a look at News24's map to see how the ANC faired in previous local elections in George
“I am not doing this because I have great aspirations of simply becoming mayor. I am doing this for the ANC and to do something to integrate this community,” he insisted.
From one side of town to the other
While the affluent parts of the town boast clean streets and top-class infrastructure, the same cannot be said for those living in the historically disadvantaged areas, Van der Hoven said.
“Drugs, unemployment and alcoholism are tearing these areas apart. There is so much suffering on the one end of this town while the others live with gold stashed under their beds in their gated communities.
“The rich come here to retire, but they don’t invest their money into George. Economic development is essential to uplift those living in poverty and to see their lives improve.”
He said too few pro-poor policies were being implemented. The Go George bus service - the first integrated bus service in non-metro and rural areas - was an example.
“The areas which need this service the most don’t even have access to it,” he said.
George is part of the Eden District Municipality, which was named the Greenest Municipality in the province in 2014. Not all who lived in the city however experienced these conditions, he claimed.
“When you walk in central George, the streets are clean. When you drive these streets after it rains, there is not a puddle in sight because the drainage systems are top quality. The same can’t be said about our neighbouring communities, where refuse removal is not as good and the roads are flooded.
“It’s important to continue with the good happenings in the central area, but it is absolutely essential that services in the surroundings be brought on par.”
Seeing the ANC beyond just Jacob Zuma
Van der Hoven, a former teacher and journalist, grew up in George before completing his tertiary education at Stellenbosch University. He then moved to Namibia where he worked as a television journalist.
He returned to South Africa in the early 1990s and bought a video shop in town.
The 63-year-old grandfather of two has been a member of the ANC since his return to the country, and has served on regional party structures since 1994.
Van der Hoven said he understood that many voters were concerned by the corruption claims surrounding President Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla homestead. He however insisted that the actions of individuals should not tarnish the good work the party had done as a collective.
“This party is made up of many people who service their communities with integrity. One person who steps out of line is one person who steps out of line – judge that person, not the entire party.”
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