Community activist Ahmed Paruk whose ActionSA party secured a seat in the Durban Municipality, says he will work to stop the rot afflicting the city . He spoke to Al- Qalam correspondent Nabeelah Shaikh.
While most his age would be preparing to enjoy their retirement, 65-year-old Ahmed Paruk is on a mission to shake things up in eThekwini. Next week, he will officially take up a seat in the municipality.
The former chairperson of the Islamic Burial Council, and community activist from Isipingo Beach, has served multiple roles over the last three decades.
Now living in Musgrave, he is one of four ActionSA members, who secured a seat after contesting the recent local government elections. Paruk stood as a candidate for the up and coming party, led by former Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba.
ActionSA contested just six out of 278 municipalities, yet it garnered 2.36% of the total vote. This made it the sixth largest party in the election. With politician Makhosi Khoza at the helm for ActionSA in eThekwini, Paruk is confident their contributions will bring about change in the city.
“eThekwini is a municipality that has been failing dismally. We’re known for corruption, a lack of service delivery, misappropriation of funds, and a water crisis that is leaving residents increasingly frustrated. As one of the biggest metros in the country, we can’t allow the city to deteriorate even further. It must be restored to its former glory,” said Paruk.
For 30 years, Paruk has been in the clothing and textile industry, running a successful factory in the heart of Durban. But his passion for community activism, led to him now pursuing politics. He believes as a manufacturer, he will be able to put his operational skills to good use. And age, will not deter him.
“For many years I have worked from behind the scenes as a voice for the community. When the opportunity arose for me to be part of the change, and offer South Africans a strong alternative, I decided to join ActionSA,” said Paruk.
One of the first issues he hopes to tackle, is the water and sanitation crisis facing the municipality.
“It’s horrendous to find that there are still so many informal settlements within the municipality, where grandmothers, mothers and children, have to go into bushes to relieve themselves,” said Paruk.
He said no human being should have to endure this, 27 years into democracy.
“During ActionSA’s campaign trail, we visited the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement after a fire broke out there. We got there to find that there was not a single toilet throughout the entire settlement. How can we expect people to live like this?” asked Paruk.
Yet the city gets a R53 billion budget from national government, he said.
“Given the challenges and lack of service delivery we’re seeing in eThekwini, it’s clear that this money isn’t being well spent. It’s time we start holding those responsible for managing these funds, to account. That’s one of the things that ActionSA will do. We want accountability and we’ll ensure we see this in eThekwini,” said Paruk.
Paruk hopes to hit the ground running as soon as he is sworn in. “There’s no time to waste. The time for talking is over. We must begin serving those who voted for us, as soon as possible. Ultimately, the reason I joined politics is to serve the poorest of the poor. And that’s what I’ll use my seat to do,” he said.
Paruk hopes to eventually move up the ranks into the provincial legislature, and later parliament. While he joined politics to serve all, he said it was important for the Muslim community to get more involved and be represented, in all spheres in government.
“It is disappointing to note that only 20% of the country’s Muslim population registered to vote. And of that 20%, only 8% actually voted. There is the perception amongst our Muslim communities that it’s pointless voting. That attitude must change, if we want change,” said Paruk.