Axolile Notywala: Vote to bridge the divide and bring hope to all

Axolile Notywala, Rise Mzansi’s Premier candidate for the Western Cape. Picture: YouTube.

Axolile Notywala, Rise Mzansi’s Premier candidate for the Western Cape. Picture: YouTube.

Published May 28, 2024


Last Tuesday, after leading 4000 people supporters on a march through the streets of Cape Town, I publicly signed RISE Mzansi’s Contract with the People of South Africa, as our premier candidate for the Western Cape in front of the Provincial Legislature.

I pledged to be accessible and accountable, to be brave and busy, to be co- operative and collaborative and clean. And I pledged to be this to all the residents of this province, no matter where they live and what their backgrounds are.

Under my leadership, RISE Mzansi has committed itself – as we have called our plan for the province – to “bridging the divide: between Constantia and Khayelitsha, between Milnerton and Manenberg.

It was for this reason that I decided to move into formal politics, after fifteen years as a community activist. I am a son of Khayelitsha, and what I see today in our beautiful province is as true today as it was when I became an activist 15 years ago: more than anywhere in South Africa, we in this province are two nations.

This might be the country’s most developed province, but the wealth and services are not shared, and this inequality is bad for all of us – and bad for business and the province’s growth, given the insecurity it breeds.

Often during this campaign, when I think about why I am running for office, I think of a 19-year-old woman who was raped and killed in Khayelitsha, very near to where I was raised. Her name was Sinexolo Mafevuka, and her body was found slumped over a communal toilet 200 metres from her home.

I think about the socio-economic circumstances that led to her tragic death: – from unemployment, to substance abuse, to gender-based violence. And I think about the fact that her alleged murderers were acquitted, because of a bungled investigation by the SA Police Services.

I think about how residents of Khayelitsha have come to see all the above as the norm. Not only do they live in constant fear, especially if they are women.

But they have no hope of support from the authorities: be it the city, which applies punitive measures and cuts off your water if you cannot afford to pay your bills; or the province, which diverts money from health and education to fund a law enforcement unit that victimises the poor and homeless; or the national government, which runs a corrupt and inept police service that cannot keep residents safe.

I think of how so many black and ‘coloured’ residents of the Western Cape feel alienation in the face of this: an alienation that translates into anger or hopelessness, particularly when faced with the extreme wealth and privilege all around them, so clearly on display in our province.

Many of them see this privilege during working hours and have to go back to their neglected communities where young people have lost hope, and have fallen into drug and alcohol abuse, crime and gangs.

And then I try to see it from the other side, and imagine how privileged Cape residents feel when driving home from the airport, past the informal settlements that line the N2.

From my own work as the activist who led the Community Action Networks that brought communities from all over Cape Town together to fight hunger during the Covid-19 lockdowns, I have come to understand two things.

The first is the fear that so many people have: of the other, of the unknown. A fear that often gets you to put it out of your mind – just to drive on by, or to lock yourself even more firmly away behind burglar-bars, or in a gated community.

The second surprised me a little more. It is the hopelessness that even well-off Cape residents and South Africans feel; the helplessness in the face of the problem too.

The feeling that they can’t do anything to make our society more equal, as they know it should be.

During the lockdown, I was moved by the way that CAN (Community Action Network) groups from more privileged communities – such as in Sea Point and Gardens – rolled up their sleeves to help the truly hungry people in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. We saw this and talked about it not as ‘charity’, but ‘mutual aid’ that embraces the dignity of everyone.

In a small way, this motivates my “Bridging the Divide” message today, to the people of the Western Cape. It’s what led me to say, on the steps of the Provincial Legislature, “Don’t vote to protect your privilege. Vote to extend your privilege.”

What I meant is this: there is enough space, there is enough wealth, there is enough joy in this beautiful province for us all. Acting in solidarity doesn’t just feel good. It does good. It will bring about the equality that we all know will create the stability we need, if we are to grow and to thrive, to be safe, together.

Already, in RISE Mzansi’s Western Cape leadership and support-base, I see the power of this unified collective action, as I watch how candidates and volunteers from across the divide have come together.

We have found a sense of hope and purpose that none of us thought possible in a province caught in perpetual divisive battle between the DA and its allies on one side, and the ANC and its allies on the other.

Along with our pledge to you, we issue you an invitation, as voters in the Western Cape: to be part of the future we at RISE Mzansi are building.

*Axolile Notywala is the RISE Mzansi premier candidate for the Western Cape.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media.

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