We cannot solve the problems of Knysna (and South Africa) until we cross the divide and talk to one another. Armchair critics are more likely to cause damage than hot air. It’s difficult to have a true opinion about political parties, cultures and individuals unless you’ve listened and debated. I believe in action which has led to interesting, frustrating and educational chats with many. Some, like Ralph Stander and Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman before him, will be introduced to you here.
WM: What are the 3 biggest problems facing Knysna?
A: Unemployment, poverty and the big racial divide.
WM: What should the new DA-led council do to overcome them?
A: Go to the people and listen to what they say. There’s a big difference between those who live on Leisure Isle/Paradise and those who live in the townships.
WM: What role will the ANC play in improving this situation?
A: Listen to the people and be serious about it. Also working with the local authorities and provincial government. The ANC would, however, not depend on that, but will also engage national governments. It must be remembered that the ANC runs the country and that also includes the Western Cape.
WM: You are a member of the ANCYL as well. What is their “job” in a the context of Knysna?
A: No I’m not a member of ANCYL but was a member of SAYCO, the predecessor of the ANCYL. Their work is cut out for them because the youth are poor, unemployed and disempowered.
WM: You are one of the main motivators behind Proudly Knysna? Why weren’t you officially involved in the Knysna Pick ‘n Pay Oyster Festival 2011?
A: I am and, as Proudly Knysna, was involved.
WM: All members of the Knysna Tourism Board are White. Do you believe that they can represent all Knysnians?
A: They are? Lol. I think it will be difficult.
WM: Being on the Board is a volunteering position? Are there qualified representatives from the broader community who can be involved and would they do it for no pay?
A: What kind of a question is that? Are you implying that Black people are stupid and all of them illiterate?
WM: Of course not.
A: There are many black people who give their time and energy for the community without pay.
WM: There’s been much criticism from many parties, including myself, that the Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival does not represent all of Knysna i.e. Coloured and Black people too. What is your position?
A: We are on record that it is a white festival.
WM: Towards equality, what can be done to include black businesses in the Knysna Chamber of Business? Would they in fact join if approached and encouraged? I ask that because there seems to be some opposition towards such a move, from both sides of colour.
A: The Knysna Chamber of Business is a white organisation and will never attract decent black members. We don’t want to be co-opted but be treated as equals. I had engagements with them but they are not serious about attracting black members. They may be recognised by the Knysna Council but they speak for only about 20% of the community.
WM: You were recently promoted to a provincial position – congratulations. What is the official name and what duties do they entail?
A: Yes. I’m a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the ANC. That would be the organisation to which all ANC structures must report in the province. It would also be the structure that would run provincial governments but we are the only one who are not doing it presently.
WM: How much does this keep you away from Knysna?
A: Quite a lot.
WM: What does that mean for your relationship with the local ANC councillors?
A: I don’t really get involved in local affairs.
WM: In past meetings with you, you’ve come across strongly as a Knysnian so end by telling us what’s your dream for Knysna?
A: I love Knysna and always will! I would love to see a Knysna where all people are equal rather than a few more equal than others.
To read Love Knysna’s more relaxed and personal interview with Ralph Stander, click here.