Thelma Mananga – South Africa

Thelma Mananga – South Africa

Date: June 26, 2012
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Councillor Thelma Mananga of Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape says her work is complementary to that of President Thabo Mbeki. While he watches out for the big picture, she keeps her eyes and ears to the ground as a councillor. “It is my responsibility to help him achieve his goals, to engage with women on the ground and to hear their needs,” she says.

As an ANC councillor she feels that this is her most important task, because while issues like crime appear to be neglected by the national government, they are burning concerns to communities.

She has new ideas about addressing crime. “The common approach is to address crime by bringing in the police and taking people to jail. But this is not my personal approach. My interest is in the causes: what causes a person to commit crime? What can I then do to help this person leave their life of crime? My first step is always to interact with these people to listen to their own stories. Through this approach, I am able to form relationships with these kids to the extent that once arrested, some would ask me to visit them. In our interactions I would try to identify their passion and interest, because it is this that will get them off the life of crime.”

It is while engaging with communities and specifically women at public gatherings that Mananga realises how much work still needs to be done. “As women we have many issues and there are some issues we haven’t even begun to address adequately such as the plight of children, education and the dignity of women. Some of the issues that we face as a community pertain to abandoned and abused children, children who grow up in violent homes, these are important to me.”

She talks about HIV and AIDS and how the women are the ones who live with and care for people infected and affected by the pandemic. While the government is most concerned about the roll out of a national treatment plan, the concerns at local level are very different. “For example, home-based care depends on knowledge and so those involved have to be empowered to help those infected and affected. This needs doctors to link up with home based care providers to help create the environment for improved health.”

Mananga is frustrated that government ministers and male councillors seem blind to these every day concerns. “There is a link between national and local government but Ministers at national level seldom know what is happening on the ground,” she said.

“Male councillors tend to focus solely on the big issues often stated in election manifestos such as housing, electricity, roads. They do not think about all these other issues I have mentioned. It is likely to be women councillors who will take these matters into consideration at all.”


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