Community leaders say what makes them glad or mad about George

During a Business Café conversation held on 24 November 2023 with community leaders representing faith-based, environmental, ratepayers’ and heritage associations from across George, it was agreed that the city’s biggest strength lies in its ‘social capital’.

Conversationists from Love George, George Connect, Pacaldtsdorp, Business, Gardag, Wilderness Residents, Thembalethu Residents, Blanco Consultation, George Heritage, UNESCO Garden Route Biosphere, Business Café, George Rate Payers Association.

“There is a parallel between “Social Capital” (communities’ ability to build and maintain relationships), “Ubuntu” (I am because we are) and a Khoisan saying “Sida Ui” (we care),” says organiser, Dr Dennis Farrell.

The group noted that the Springboks had won two consecutive Rugby World Cup Championships by embracing diversity with the slogan “Stronger Together”. Yet, after the euphoria of celebrations had subsided, citizens of George and the Garden Route had lapsed back into the harsh reality of soaring living costs, unemployment, inequality, crime, and deteriorating service delivery.

The group identified various strengths or ‘glad’s’ – (being the catalyst for change and unity) as well as weaknesses or ‘mads’ (holding the community back or which they perceive as limited direct control) which require further conversations and the inclusion of all communities in determining a way forward. ‘Social capital’ was identified as the overwhelming ‘glad’, followed by an acceptable quality of life offering and on average better services provision than in the northern provinces. While inconsistent local governance was fingered as being the biggest ‘mad’ . This was followed by other ‘mads’ such as the growing financial burden on ratepayers, poor public participation practices, increasing criminal activity, and environmental degradation.

“Instead of simply stating what they want, communities should start offering their skills, resources, time, intercession, and an action orientated willingness to help develop George into a city in which citizens participate actively in protecting their heritage, environmental stewardship, developing an inclusive economy, improving safety, and ensuring equitable service delivery. Anchored in social capital, we can learn to build together by being stronger together,” was echoed by the participants.

Participants agreed that the immediate objective is to build trust, engage communities to volunteer their involvement, engage with local authorities to address matters such as unsatisfactory governance, financial hardships of citizens and inequality in service delivery.

“George residents should embrace resilience, develop strong intercommunity relationships, and take ownership. This all starts with the conversation in getting to know each other,” says Dr Farrell.

“Leading South African philosopher, Credo Mutwa, said that “ the total lack of understanding between black and white, i.e., between indigenous and Eurocentric knowledge, is due to the failure to understand what goes on in the mind of the other knowledge holder”.

“Tessa Dooms & Lynsey Ebony Chutel of the publication Coloured noted that “South Africans genuinely do not know much about each other … There are conversations we must have as racialised people in this country with many wounds to heal. When we have those conversations, I hope we show up with facts, accountability, and empathy.”

A follow-up networking session will be scheduled shortly. If you would like to contribute to the discussion, please contact Dr Dennis Farrell of the Business Café at or blog on www.businesscafé