Longest-serving councillor stands for final term

JOHN HARVEY

For the past 34 years, Brian Watkyns has represented the Pinelands area in one way or another, making him the City’s longest serving councillor.

During this period, he saw the first amalgamation of local councils in 1996, with Thornton, Epping 1, Ndabeni and Maitland Garden Village being added to Pinelands with a part of Maitland to create Ward 37. He was also involved in 2000 with the introduction of the mega cities programme.

Ward 37 had the areas of Langa, Kensington, Observatory, Mowbray and Hazendal included to create the new Ward 53. In 2005, the boundaries changed to exclude Kensington, but Maitland Garden Village was once again included.

Now, after three decades, Mr Watkyns will be contesting his final local government election. Should he win the ward, it will be his final five years at the helm of the suburb.

While he believes that the “basic characteristics”, such as the community’s spirit and feeling of spaciousness in the built environment which defines Pinelands, have remained largely unchanged over the years, he recognises that there has been a shift in the style of houses when renovations take place, “some of which are out of keeping with the area”.

“This shift led to a need to protect the character of Pinelands and its recognised heritage significance.

“This resulted in the old area of Pinelands being given heritage status,” he said.

Looking back on the past term, the councillor said that while there had been a number of noteworthy achievements, the one that stood out most was the construction of Hamilton Naki Square in Langa.

“The old single men’s quarters, known as Special Quarters, housed families in single rooms who frequently had to use vandalised ablution blocks. Since 2002, I have been trying to upgrade these single men’s quarters. Late last year the first batch of special quarters residents were moved into the new units. It was really an uplifting experience to see the joy on children’s faces in their new homes with their own separate bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom and toilet.”

However, he also acknowledged there had been challenges, particularly in terms of striking a balance between the competing needs of the community and the funds available to meet those needs.

“In Ward 53 there are two disadvantaged areas, two leafy areas and two industrial areas – each with their own specific challenges. I have been fortunate in that the leafy and industrial areas have recognised that the bulk of resources available should be channelled to the disadvantaged areas.”

Mr Watkyns said with the City emphasising densification in the years to come, Pinelands had a number of projects that would aid the process.

“Pinelands is currently surrounded by five rapidly proceeding developments, namely the Conradie Development, the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) project, Athlone power station development, Old Mutual golf course development and changes to the former abattoir. All these will take forward the City’s policy of densification. In particular, the proposed Conradie site will have 3 600 dwelling units when completed.

“It will also have a pre-primary, two primary schools and a high school. I have regular meetings with the premier regarding this development, and the province is committed to finding solutions regarding the traffic, building a second police station and improving public transport, including MyCiTi and upgrading Thornton and Mutual railway stations.

Asked whether the Pinelands community had been especially active in terms of its civic responsibilities, Mr Watkyns singled out the ratepayers’ association, neighbourhood watch and community police forum as good examples of the residents’ commitment to the suburb.

There are also a number of individuals who take up particular issues. For instance, one resident is proactive in terms of road safety while another assists those in his WhatsApp group with service delivery requests. Residents are very active on Facebook where a number of groups (both open and closed) discuss community issues. I produce a regular newsletter which always generates a large number of responses on a variety of community issues.”

Though he did not envisage that Pinelands would change dramatically in the next five years in terms of aesthetics, he believed that in the next 20 years, some aspects would change, such as increased densification and increased commercial intrusion into the residential areas outside the heritage area.

“But while I believe we have to change and adapt in an ever-changing world, I would hate to see the destruction of the ambiance and character of Pinelands.”

In such a long career, it only stands to reason that Mr Watkyns would start to consider the legacy he will leave behind.

“In each area that I have represented I have attempted to bring about changes which would improve the quality of life of residents but at the same time tried to retain the positive characteristics which make each of the areas special to those who live there.”

Ward 53 candidate list

Qasief Adams (Africa Muslim Party); Jane Verster-Cohen (ACDP); Eric Felane (ANC); Ayanda Stuurman (African People’s Convention); Mogamad Hendricks (Al Jama-ah); Mariam Kimmie (Al Shura Party); Zuhayr Adams (Cape Muslim Congress); Jack Miller (Cape Party); Stuart Macranas (Coloured Voice); Paul Harvey (COPE); Brian Watkyns (DA) Anwar Adams (Democratic Independent Party); Nakampe Rasesamola (EFF); Richard Kock (Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa); Achmat Williams (National Party South Africa); Michelle Calitiz (National People’s Party); Faldiela Abrahams (Nationalist Coloured Party of South Africa); Sivuyile Tutuva (PAC); Zubeida Dollie (Sizwe Ummah Nation); Ayanda Moko (UDM); Wayne Reddek (Freedom Front Plus)