Karasburg East Constituency Councillor Dennis Coetzee is hopeful that 2017 will be a better year in terms of social and economic upliftment for residents in his area.
He described 2016 as a very tough year, citing the persistent drought and the living conditions of grape workers at Farm Komsberg, where a young boy was swept away by floodwaters in January 2016, as some of the major challenges that made 2016 a tough year.
He is however hopeful that things will improve this year, indicating that his office is ready to serve the people and bring much-needed development and services nearer to the people.
“We’re ready to rededicate ourselves and do whatever is possible to bring development to the people of our constituency,” he said.
Regarding the drought, Coetzee said the recent rains experienced around the country are encouraging, especially to communal farmers who depend solely on their livestock for survival, as animal husbandry is one of the main sources of income for many people in his area.
He said he was also pleased to hear that government will assist communal farmers with subsidised ploughing services, fertilisers and seeds, but he is concerned that such an initiative will only benefit crop farmers.
“My concern is with communal farmers in my area, as they are not crop farmers. So, what are we doing to help our farmers keep their livestock alive, come what may?” he asked and noted that in 2016 many people lost their sheep and thus their livelihood to the drought. This, he said, should not be allowed to repeat itself should the rains not be enough to bring relief.
“People believe that coming to urban areas is always better, but it’s not true, so we have to keep these people in rural areas by protecting their livelihoods and taking services there,” he urged.
He further indicated that his focus as councillor this year is to push for better living conditions for grape workers at Farm Komsberg, where workers continue to live in fire-prone reed houses, saying he is waiting for the new owners so that he can engage them on how to improve the conditions of the workers.
He added that he would do his best to ensure that the new owners understand that decent housing is essential and is hopeful that at least about 20 houses can be constructed this year, which he hopes will be the starting phase. “They must start realising that human capital is the backbone of any company, so workers must be taken care of,” he said.
He also disclosed that after deliberations with Karasburg Town Council, land has been donated to the Ministry of Youth, on which a new youth centre will be built, which he says will provide job opportunities to many.
Coetzee further called on residents to work together and pull in one direction to help develop their respective areas and the constituency at large, saying: “Let’s put the past behind us and move together. That’s the only way we can develop our constituency.”