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[LISTEN] Azaadville Ward Councillor Shabier Dabhelia Retains His Ward – Ready For New Challenges

Umm Muhammed Umar

Brother Shabier Dabhelia was re-elected Ward Councillor for what forms part of Azaadville and other surrounding areas. Dabhelia had a support base of more than 69 percent, in comparison to other political parties or contestants. He was humbled by the fact that voters had shown confidence in him by giving him another opportunity to be able to serve the communities.

Dabhelia is a member of the ANC, and despite the party not doing well in many parts of the country, in the local elections, he won more than a two thirds majority in the wards that he had been serving. Radio Islam wanted to know why people were still happy with individuals, like himself, but not happy with the party overall. He said that it took a balancing act. He said, “In terms of getting into governance, of course, it is a political decision and a political choice. At the end of the day, I always maintain that [the] African National Congress has got just about the best of policies and principles in place.” He added, however, “I think lots of activists on the ground need to understand that there’s nothing wrong with a party’s policies and principles. The issue and the challenge that we have in most cases is the ability of the individual on the ground, the ward counsellors, other managers, other politicians to be able to be held accountable in terms of their role and function.” Dabhelia acknowledged that people were not as confident as they previously were regarding the African National Congress. Nevertheless, he said, “But I maintain that changes should start from the ground. If we can elect, you know, community activists who will take on this particular role and responsibility…..with morals and ethics, and eventually grow into, you know, higher management positions and higher governance positions as we move ahead in time, inshaAllah.”

Dhabelia described his political journey as excellent. He had been a community activist in the area, serving in various portfolios, for the past 40 years. He said that in 2016 the community realized that if they did involve themselves in politics, they would still be governed. He said, “if we do not play a role in terms of the politics, we’re going to allow lots of other people which are then not going to be able to govern us, in a fashion and manner that we wish to be governed.”  Feeling that they had no option, at the time, community members approached Dabhelia, seeing that he was about the most active person on the ground, and requested that he represent them under the banner of the ANC. Dabhelia said, “I’m quite proud to be a member of the African National Congress, especially at grassroots level where the changes should start from.”

The daily life of a councillor, according to Dabhelia, was tough. He said that as a councillor he awakened before the Fajr (predawn) prayer, “you’re responding to emails, you’re responding to calls, you’re responding to challenges. As mundane as it might seem, remember, because we are strong rate paying communities and organizations, people demand the services, of course, so there’s no relaxation time, there isn’t there isn’t relaxation time.” He said that communities needed to be serviced, and that he did his best to do so.  Dhabhlia admitted that his role did impact on his family life. He said, “There’s been times where I had to, you know, leave out or neglect lots of family commitments, and focus in terms of community commitment, but I don’t want to put a dampener on anyone who’s aspiring to be a word candidate.” He added that it was a noble responsibility, a noble and opportunity to serve human beings, to serve mankind, to serve communities. The reward, he said, would be seen, Allah Willing, in the Hereafter.

The past five years had been a learning curve for Dabhelia. However, despite the difficulties, Dabhelia said, “I am now more reinvigorated to make sure that governance at local level must be emphasized amongst all communities. So, going into the future, especially right now, we’ve managed to put different organizations within the communities, so we now have sports guys conscientized, we have environmental teams conscientized, where people are concerned about the infrastructure, conscientized, we have people who are worried about empowerment, they are now conscientized, and inshaAllah they together will form what we call a ward committee.” Dabhelia is to chair the committee. He said that from there, “we’re able to better communicate with municipalities in terms of what the challenges are, and what solutions we need them to deliver on.” He said that people might not be aware that all these structures actually exist to enhance and improve governance at local levels, and that Allah Willing, they would transmit into governance at a provincial, and eventually, at a national level.


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