Political foes put differences aside to help Khayelitsha tackle Covid-19

24 May 2020 - 00:00 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
A DA leader and an ANC leader have put aside their differences to help tackle Covid-19 in their hometown.
A DA leader and an ANC leader have put aside their differences to help tackle Covid-19 in their hometown.
Image: 123rf.com/betonstudio

Two of Khayelitsha's prominent sons, who stand on opposing sides of the political divide, this week put their differences aside in an effort to save their hometown from a Covid-19 catastrophe.

The township this week emerged as the area with the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 (1,600 by Friday at noon) within the City of Cape Town metro municipality.

Leading DA member Masizole Mnqasela, who is the speaker in the Western Cape legislature, and ANC MP and former housing MEC Richard Dyantyi agreed to put politics aside after they were approached to provide leadership by the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF).

The two political foes, whose parties are engaged in a war of words over the government's lockdown regulations, turned into colleagues as they co-chaired a KDF Covid-19 steering committee virtual meeting to discuss steps to tackle the pandemic ravaging their neighbourhood. Other current and former MPs and councillors from different parties also sit on the steering committee.

“We were deliberate on who we wanted involved to lead this process and why. We wanted a process that is going to overlook our political posture so that we look at an adequate and genuine response to the rapid spread of coronavirus in Khayelitsha,” said KDF chair Ndithini Tyhido in his opening remarks to the meeting.

During the meeting a number of participants lamented the lack of social distancing at local shopping malls and clinics, with one participant saying some malls resembled a political rally or mass meeting.

“All the required controls of social distancing and hygiene practices are not observed by all community members and life continues as normal in our townships,” said Sibongile Mbele, a steering committee member.

Mbele, who leads the KDF poverty alleviation and food relief work stream, also said they were inundated with calls from people seeking help to get the newly announced R350 relief grant for the unemployed.

Dyantyi emphasised the extent to which many in Khayelitsha rely on social grants. “Before we talk about the R350 for unemployed people, you already have 94,000 people in Khayelitsha who are benefiting from social grants,” he said.

“And Khayelitsha, being a young population, the bulk of those 94,000 people — 62,000 — go to child social grants,” he added.

The ANC's Xolani Sotashe, chairperson of the sub-council under which Khayelitsha falls within the city of Cape Town, called on the KDF to urgently push for the city's budget to be amended to take into account the effects of Covid-19 on the sprawling township before it is passed at the end of the month.

The city of Cape Town is under the control of the DA.

“We must go there and influence the budget for the benefit of the people of Khayelitsha and other communities,” he proposed.

Mnqasela pledged to lobby the provincial government to support a rearrangement of the City of Cape Town's budget in view of the impact of Covid-19 on Khayelitsha.

“We need clear reprioritisation of the budget when it comes to Covid-19 related matters.

“I am going to raise that sharply when it comes to the provincial sphere and there are discussions already about how to reprioritise and I will articulate the position of the community including the Khayelitsha community,” he added.

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