25 March has passed, nomination lists are lodged with the IEC, and so we head down the road to municpal elections on 18 May 2011. These elections are going to be interesting for Yeoville Bellevue for a number of reasons.
One is that our ward boundaries have changed. The area (bounded by Joe Slovo to the west, de la Rey to the east, Louis Botha and St Peters to the north and the Yeoville ridge to the south) has since 2000 been part of four different wards. However, the bulk of the area, probably 65 – 70%, was in ward 67 and so councillors (and ward committees) for Wards 64, 66 and 73 didn’t really pay much attention to the area, focusing instead on the larger parts of their wards.
With the new demarcation (which we tried to contest, suggesting instead that the whole of Yeoville Bellevue should, for coherent development purposes, be one ward), the situation has changed somewhat. One voting station has been taken out of Ward 67 and given to Ward 66. Thus Ward 67 now comprises perhaps 40-45%% of the area, Ward 64 maybe 15 – 20%, Ward 66 a larger 35-40% and Ward 73 it’s old 3-5%. In the map below, Yeoville Bellevue is demarcated by the black line.
With this demarcation, the business street – Rockey Raleigh – is now divided between Wards 66 and 67, with the whole of Rockey and one block of Raleigh in 66 and the rest of Raleigh in 67.
On the political front, there may be changes too. Ward 67 will remain ANC. Although the ward stretches into parts of Houghton and Parktown which are more DA, densely-populated Yeoville Bellevue remains the king-maker and so the ward is unlikely to stop being ANC any time soon. Here there will be a new councillor, the old councillor now standing for the ANC in Ward 73.
Ward 64 will also very likely remain ANC. I’m not aware of who the candidate is there, whether the old one standing again or not.
Ward 66 is less certain. Since 1996, it has been pretty solidly DA. With the demarcation, Ward 66 lost two voting stations to the east and gained one from Yeoville Bellevue. But, judging by the results of the 2006 municipal elections, the DA will still win, unless the mood (or demographics) in the area has changed dramatically. The Yeoville Bellevue voting station will only help if there is a large voter turnout. But this is not likely, given the trends in previous elections. According to IEC figures, the turnout in the 2006 election was around 20% of registered voters. However, in the 2009 national and provincial elections, it was around 80%. If the ANC can get voters out on the day, it will help. But this will have to happen in other areas too; this and a shift in voter sentiment may help the party to take the ward. Their prospects will be helped by the fact that, this time around, the ANC has a very credible candidate with a wealth of local government experience.
That leaves Ward 73 which comprises only a few blocks in the north of the Yeoville Bellevue area. This is solidly DA which means that it is unlikely that the old Ward 67 councillor now standing there for the ANC will win.
What will this mean for Yeoville Bellevue? As noted above, we began a process of contesting the demarcation proposals, first through IEC processes, and then later through enlisting the pro bono support of an advocate who was looking into challenging the decision of the Demarcation Board on grounds of a failure of administartive justice.
However, for a variety of reasons, we were not able to pursue this course of action successfully. So the demarcation stands and we will enter into the post-election phase with a completely new situation which could pose some problems, but also has in it some useful possibilities.
While exploring the route of challenging the Demarcation Board in court, I had occasion to speak to one of the Board members about this issue. It was interesting. It seems the Board itself has been discussing the problem of ward boundaries not always aligning with those defined by geography or economy. There is also the reality that the Demarcation Board is duty bound to continually assess ward boundaries and to propose changes for a variety of demographic and other reasons. Ward boundaries, therefore, are not cast in stone – they can change from time to time.
For this reason, the Board has discussed whether it is correct that development should be defined as ward-based. The alternative would be to have area-based or precinct-based development. This would mean that, once an area is defined as a development area and recognised as such by all stakeholders, then ward boundaries can change without impacting directly on that development. All ward councillors concerned would have to work together to ensure effective implementation of a development plan for that area.
Alexandra in Johannesburg is an interesting case in point. There is an overall development plan for Alexandra being driven by the Alexandra Renewal Project. But Alexandra is divided into a number of wards. All ward councillors therefore have to work with the ARP if development in Alexandra is to be successful.
What does this mean for Yeoville Bellevue? One is that Ward 67 should no longer dominate decision-making in the area. The other Ward Councillors, especially those from Ward 64 and Ward 66, should play a much greater role in the area than in the past. It also means that the Ward Councillors for Ward 64, 66, 67 and 73 should put party differences aside and work together in the interests of development of the area, in the interests of the broader community of Yeoville Bellevue.
Can we hope that this will happen? Perhaps the starting point is going to be the Social Charter currently being undertaken by a service provider on behalf of the YBCDT. If the outcome of the Charter is that there is general consensus that development is necessary and that there should be a programmatic process of working on development, then the four Ward Councillors will have to do whatever they can to make that a reality.
We look forward to hearing their views on the matter.