by Danica Hansen
eThekwini Deputy Mayor, Councillor Fawzia Peer, is a woman of worth and resiliance. The inspirational and accomplished politician took time out of her busy schedule to chat about her life story to The Tongaat & Verulam Tabloid.
TVT: You studied Psychology and Law (please confirm) when did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in politics?
FP: I have a degree in Bachelor of Arts and majored in Psychology and Sociology. Also a post graduate certificate in Labour law. I have Honours in Social Science. (To be accurate to your question)
TVT: What drew you to politics?
FP: In response to the second part, I have had an interest in politics throughout my life, though I believe my desire for activism was spurred by the following incidents;
As a young girl in school, I was almost suspended for painting the walls of the school in red ‘DOWN with DIE STEM.’ I have clear memories of the great Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli seeking refuge in our home in Waterboom Street Stanger, in the early hours of the morning when no one could see him. My dad went to the library at his request and got him books for his writings. We were pleased to learn that he had then won the Nobel Peace Prize later on. As a family, we were very affected when my Uncle Prof Kader Asmal had to leave home and go into exile when he started political activities in Stanger against Apartheid SA.These experiences contributed to my political awareness from a very young age and impacted on my thinking.
TVT: Your involvement in politics is as old as the new South Africa, beginning as a councillor in 1994 (please confirm)- what is your secret to success?
FP: I have always been drawn to local level politics. I, with other comrades, set up the first ANC Pinetown sub regional structure, where I was initially the Treasurer and thereafter the Chairperson. I, and other comrades like Leonard Gering the former attorney formed the Westville ANC branch, then moved to the ANC Western regional treasurer. Thereafter I was on the executive of the ANC region. I was appointed the deputy of the Inner west council. The best part of my job has been working within the ANC structures over the years, developing the organisation, launching branches and serving our people by understanding their needs best. Being devoted and demonstrating commitment is, if you like a secret to success.
TVT: What (if any) challenges have you faced as a women in politics?
FP: In the ANC there is no evidence that female politicians face gender exclusion, on the contrary, women are supported and represented equally at all levels. Women are celebrated within the ANC and issues relating to women are prioritised. Our voices are heard equally, and this is because we have a requisite quota of 50 percent women representation, ensuring that we demonstrate the commitment we have made to women’s development.
TVT: What do you love about your job?
FP: My passion for local government politics, is about being able to make an impact people in a very real and tangible way- people suffering or enduring any difficulty in their day to day lives. My love is for that average person, getting on with their life. I see it as a privilege to be able to make things easier in holding my position. I am here to serve and I believe this is the best part of my job. I get a personal reward from giving in this way. I have been told a few times that I am a visionary, in the way I understand complexity and come to resolutions, I take pride in being able to make decisions that impact on improving the lives of our people. Working in politics helped me to build strong friendships and networks, which I have found very supportive and encouraging over the years. This is one of the biggest joys in my work, the people I meet every day who enrich my life.
TVT: What are some of your accomplishments/proud moments?
FP: At our first democratic Local Government elections, I was appointed the Deputy Mayor of the Inner west City Council. I then won the Ward 24 election which was a hard but enjoyable experience. This was a ward constituting a diverse culture and quite a challenge. I was also pleased to transform an old beer hall into a vibrant youth centre. This youth centre is named Vuyani Nkosi Memorial Youth Centre. The Centre has an internet cafО and is a youth training facility. We worked together with the local Presbyterian Church to open a crПche for children for working parents in a section of Chesterville called Jamaica. Collaborating with local businesses, a hall was built in Chesterville, where regular meetings, weddings and funerals take place. Along the way there have been many changes and positive developments one can recall, which itself is very rewarding. Not forgetting, as Finance and Procurement Chair over the previous five years, my committee and I, with the treasury department received a clean audit for the finance of the city. This was achieved for the first time in the city.
TVT: What changes would you like to see in Durban?
FP: The most important thing I would like to see is the apartheid era spatial development of the city changing. Whilst we have made good progress, the legacy of the group areas act still lives on. We need to do more in terms of developing more integrated and diverse communities. Furthermore, I would like to see more economic development and more investors being attracted to the City so that we can create more jobs to address the triple threat of unemployment, poverty and inequality. I would also like to see the green economy in the City developing with the City and its people supporting green initiatives, especially around environmentally progressive sources of energy. Finally, whilst our current focus is rightly on the provision of basic services, to take the City forward, I would like to see more investment in smart city initiatives, such as fibre optics, digital technology, smart street lighting, etc. This is surely our future and we need to be prepared to take it on.
TVT: Do you have any advice for aspiring politicians?
FP: Get involved in local politics, join the ANC and become an active member representing your community. Sitting back and criticising achieves little, if you have ideas for change, get involved. We need to take individual and collective responsibility as a people when we find ourselves in challenging situations. This is what our forefathers did otherwise, we would not have achieved what has brought us to this point.
TVT: Do you have any projects on the go currently that you’d like to talk about?
FP: One of the interesting projects as part of the Chairperson of the Security and Emergency services Community, is the establishing of Ward Safety Committees in all 115 wards, and finally the Metro Safety Forum. I believe we will all feel safer once this initiative is achieved. Another important project is the formation of a Task Team in the Disaster Management Unit. The Task Team is made up of NGOs like Sasa and Red Cross to assist in times of natural disasters as well as unfortunate xenophobic attacks.
TVT: What challenges have you faced (if any) since taking on the role of Deputy Mayor?
FP: There is tremendous pressure on one’s time and expectation however I am a ‘people pleaser’ and a community person. I am told by my husband and children, they have to make an appointment with my secretary to find time with me.
TVT: What are some of your ambitions going forward?
FP: There is still a lot more work to be done, I am passionate about uplifting the quality of life of all our people, in particular the poorest of the poor. Local government can serve the people uniquely, and I love being allowed to serve the people in this way by the ANC. I am a devoted member of the ANC, and will serve where and when I am needed. We are committed to making Durban the most liveable and caring city in Africa.