JON HOUZET and CANDICE BRADFIELD
THE ANC and DA are squaring off for a by-election in Bathurst next week, and the DA has raised eyebrows by fielding a candidate from outside the sleepy village.
The Ward 5 (Bathurst) seat became vacant as ANC councillor Andile Marasi has resigned. Marasi had to choose between his teaching job and seat on council.
Last week the DA officially introduced current proportional representation (PR) councillor Noluthando "Teddy” Donile from Nemato as their candidate for the by-election.
IN THIS CORNER: Gearing up for a by-election on April 25, DA provincial leader Athol Trollip (second from right) addressed residents at a public meeting in Bathurst last week. With him (from left) are the DA's candidate for Ward 5, Noluthando "Teddy” Donile, and proportional representation (PR) councillors Genevieve Cannon and Terri Stander Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
In a conversation with TotT about the by-election on Human Rights Day, DA councillor Terri Stander said Grist was a "polarising” figure and the DA needed to find "the right person” to contest Ward 5. She indicated a black candidate was preferable.
A few days later Grist told ToT he was not even included in candidate selection for the by-election and Stander was appointed to head up canvassing in Bathurst.
But subsequent to his resignation, all Grist would say this week was: "It's surprising that a candidate from outside the ward was chosen as the DA's ward councillor candidate.”
Donile was elected as a PR councillor in May last year. She has assisted in Wards 8 and 9 in Nemato.
At a public meeting in Bathurst last Friday evening, Donile introduced herself to the residents in attendance. She said she would be available and would attend to queries brought up by the public, whether she was made councillor or not.
She said she knew the challenges Ward 5 residents faced and promised she would be held accountable for her work as the other councillors would be behind her.
"If the people of Nolukhanyo (Bathurst township) give us a chance, we will show what we can do for them,” she said.
About being selected as councillor candidate, she believes she is the right person but was surprised as she was not expecting it.
DA provincial chairman Athol Trollip said that as a PR councillor, Donile could work in any ward. He said she has an integral understanding of the area, having lived in Bathurst for about seven years, moving to Nemato in 2010.
According to Trollip, the process of identifying a candidate varies for DA wards (or winnable wards) and non-DA Wards.
DA constituency management decided Donile was strategically the best councillor candidate as the party was looking to grow its support in Nolukhanyo. Trollip said former ward chairman Peter Grist had been considered as a candidate but was not chosen.
"It's about trying to make sure the party is diversely represented,” said Trollip.
At the public meeting he appealed to the 50-strong crowd for their support in the upcoming by-election. He said the DA currently enjoys 25% support in South Africa but admitted they had "hit a ceiling”.
"Our traditional voters are diminishing,” he said.
However they have experienced an increase of voters in non-traditional communities. Trollip said this by-election will be the "acid test” for Bathurst, noting that Nolukhanyo made up the majority of the ward.
"I saw a sparkle in people's eyes last night in Nolukhanyo,” he said, referring to the previous night's meeting where they discussed the launch of a new branch in the township.
"We have to support our brave members and supporters of the DA in Nolukhanyo.”
He said Bathurst is like the stepchild of Ndlambe as it is always the last to receive services.
"If things are not good in Bathurst, things are shocking in Nolukhanyo,” he said.
The by-election will take place on April 25.