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First Thursdays meeting at Rietenbosch ‘to listen’

From a businessman who has been in South Africa for 10 years, albeit without a visa, to land invasions and problems with sporting facilities.

These topics, and a host of others, dominated conversations at the Western Cape Open Government First Thursday, the first one to be held outside of the Cape Town CBD.

Community members, members from local organisations and interest groups made use of a rare opportunity to have five minutes with Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Thursday evening (5 March) at Rietenbosch Primary in Cloetesville.

He and virtually his entire cabinet, including Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo and Anton Bredell, Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister, attended the event.

Members of the public were required to register their details and indicate which minister they wished to engage with. Local councillors and Stellenbosch Municipality staff as well as Executive Mayor Gesie van Deventer also attended the event.

Some community members told Eikestadnuus they had rather different notions about the forthcoming event. “We thought it was going to be like a community meeting, where we would be able to ask our questions in front of everyone,” one community member who left shortly after arriving said.

“We don’t have to speak, we want to listen,” said Winde. “This is not a public meeting, this is open government.”

He continued: “You can come and ask about the Education Department, the Transport Department – anything you want. They (citizens) don’t have to come and listen to me. They must come and tell us what their issues are, this is exactly the opposite.”

According to Winde, some of the issues people raised with him fall under the mandate of the national government or other municipalities, but he and his staff will follow-up on all the grievances with the relevant spheres of government. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We take the whole lot, and then we write letters or send stuff off to those departments.”

Winde said the purpose of the event is to be more accessible to the people, while Donald Grant said the following: “It’s about building partnerships and trust between the citizens and the government and to follow through on all the questions and issues. This is the number one priority.”

The issues raised are generally issues which everyone in the Western Cape and the country have, with one of the main issues being safety, Winde said. “We know generally it’s all the same thing. People don’t feel safe. Our children are being murdered and that’s why it’s a big issue for us.”

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