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Nora Juries resigned as councillor in order to have full freedom of expression, and was later re-elected as an independent candidate
12 / 2001
Nora Juries was a councillor for the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa between 1996 and 1999. In September 1999 she resigned, but was re-elected as an independent candidate in the by-election in February 2000. She resigned as a woman, and not because of a disagreement within her party. The men were never re-nominated, but she as a woman was. Since she considered herself to be the only coloured woman able to get the constitutional ward, it was not fear that only she had to be re-nominated and not the men. During, and after the apartheid regime in South Africa she was an activist. She was leading boycotts and fighting for women’s and disadvantaged peoples’ rights. With the background in a group of civic organisations, many thought she would not be able to change things when she became a councillor in 1996. The Council consisted of three parties; the Nationalist Party (NP) with 16 councillors; the Democratic Party (DP), with one female counsellor; and the African National Congress with 15 councillors. Some of the NP and DP councillors were from the middle-class, but most were very rich. The ANC councillors were from the middle-class in the disadvantaged areas. Therefore when the ANC was elected into the Council, it represented, in a certain way, the grassroots against the institution. In the beginning, it was therefore, very difficult to be in the Council, because the discussions between the ANC and the NP were like fights. Often one of the parties could walk out of the room during the discussion. But later they managed to negotiate reconciliation with the other parties, and managed to stay friends even if they were fighting in discussions. One has to learn to accept the enemy, as Juries says. The Council became a group working very good together, and achieved a lot. They built for example 1800 small houses with running water and electricity, which was given to the homeless. These houses were financed by governmental subsidies and were therefore free. The houses were very small but this project was supposed to be a new start for the homeless, and create a motivation for making the houses bigger. By its composition and by the way of functioning the Council was very macho. Only three of the councillors were women and of them only Nora Juries was coloured. It was therefore difficult for her in the Council, and there was created problems for her. But she never stopped fighting. If they created difficulties, she just fought even more. When there were problems they put her in the front and forced her to face the community. But the fact that she was not afraid and did not run away gave the citizens confidence. She took her time to explain the citizens what was happening and what she could do for them, something the others did not dare. She was very popular among the population in the disadvantaged areas, because they knew that if they had problems they could go and see her, and she would do everything she could to help them. Even if problems were created for her, she was very productive in her work and made a lot of things progress. In September 1999, Nora Juries resigned as councillor for reasons mentioned above, but won the by-election as an independent candidate in February 2000. By being independent she was freer than before, and self-controlled. In the party she had to have a mandate to speak, but as independent she had the right to speak when she wanted to. She thinks she achieved more for her people as an independent than within the party. Towards the election in December 2000 she tried to mobilise people in order to win the election and to get a ward. Together with 8 women and 2 men she created the Independent Community Civic Party (ICCP), and she was very sure of herself that she would win. Unfortunately she lost the election with 300 votes. There are two reasons she thinks that have caused the defeat. The first reason is that she went to Paris few days before the election and while she was away the other parties handed out pamphlets saying that she had left the country and was not coming back because she did not care. The other is that Nora Juries did not know about the possibility to use one person as candidate all over the county. She thought one had to have different candidates in the different areas. Therefore she had different women as candidates in areas where nobody knew them. Juries think that if she had been the only candidate she would have won. Even though she would like to have won the election, she thinks she achieve a lot by being outside the Council. Now she is free to speak and does not have to accept and follow certain codes, which was necessary as councillor. She knows more and can therefore also do more. Now she is verifying if the councillors hold what they have promised, and make pressure on them, because as councillor, one makes many promises that often will not be held. That is the actual situation in the Council today. Before a lot was done in the Council, but now nothing is happening.
Nora Juries motivate and empower women to be like her. She has been, and is still an example for other women. Thanks to her, disadvantaged women have taken education and can now speak for them-selves. But she still feels that she has failed and let down the people. After she left the council, people’s water has been cut, something she would never have allowed. She is therefore decided to challenge any ward if she gets the possibility. Because she thinks she should have done and fought more. If she had still been in the Council she could have educated the new councillors and helped them to make the right decisions.
This file was made in an interview at the World Assembly, Lille, France, dec.2001.
Interview with JURIES, Nora