Tributes are pouring in for Mitchell’s Plain community development worker and activist Anthony George who died of organ failure at Eerste River Hospital on Sunday January 15, three days after his 46th birthday.
Mr George was a Tafelsig resident and a fierce defender of disabled people’s rights.
His father was James John George, a former ward councillor for Rocklands.
His family, including his 10 brothers and sisters, have been inundated with messages of condolences through social media, emails and phone calls.
Mr George, a paraplegic, had celebrated his 46th birthday on Thursday January 10.
His older brother Ian said he hosted the whole family, as if he knew it was his last birthday. Ian said he holds dear the last few hours of his brother’s life, when he said: “This world has nothing more to offer me. People also have nothing to offer me. I want to give my heart, my life to the Lord”.
Mr George was born on January 10, 1971, in Ravensmead. A few months after starting Sub-A at Vorentoe Primary School, the George family moved to Loerie Street in Rocklands. A member of the Mitchell’s Plain Students’ Congress, he attended Primary School and completed Grade 10 at Cedar High School, in Rocklands.
In 1990 Mr George was in a car accident, in Bellville, which left him with 25 percent use of his upper body, including his arms and hands.
Ian said his brother spent six months at the old Conradie Hospital, in Pinelands, and the family had to adjust to caring for a paraplegic.
For a short time, Mr George was on drugs but realised he had to spend his life differently.
About a decade later he began advocating for the plight of disabled people – volunteering his services and lobbying the government to better serve the disabled community.
In 2000, he engaged the government on all levels to prioritise the needs and issues of the disabled, including access to services, whether it was transport, housing, sport or trying to get a lift put in at Mitchell’s Plain train station for disabled commuters to get to the platforms. He moved to Edna Street, in Tafelsig, at about the same time.
Mr George, provincial secretary of Disabled People South Africa, continued to engage the government and 15 years after alerting them to the need for lifts,.
Derek Hanekom, the Minister of Tourism, who is also an ANC Member of Parliament deployed to the Mitchell’s Plain constituency, and Richard Walker, Metrorail Western Cape regional manager, officially opened the station lifts on Saturday July 18, 2015 (“Lifts make travel easier”, Plainsman July 22, 2015).
He was always vocal about the living conditions of disabled people, including staging protests and hosting imbizos, stating that disabled people should be asked how their houses should be built to suit their abilities, similarly, with job opportunities, he advocated for giving disabled people meaningful tasks other than using them as “window dressing”.
At an imbizo called for by Mr George at the Nelson Mandela Family and Youth centre (also known as the Thusong Centre), in Tafelsig, Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Zou Kota-Fredericks, resolved to set up a housing satellite office where people could interact with the national government (“Disabled people vent frustrations about housing,” Plainsman April 16, 2014). She further resolved to have a consumer education session on housing for disabled people to learn how to better engage the government about service delivery.
In the same week that the City of Cape Town called for disabled people to be assessed for the Dial-a-Ride services and to determine the demand for such a service, about 30 disabled Mitchell’s Plain residents protested in the Town Centre to demand more space on the MyCiTi buses (“Demand for better ride,” Plainsman July 16, 2014). At the time, Mr George wasquoted as saying: “Imagine this, you would like to go to the mall to do some shopping or you need to attend a community meeting because there are issues that affect you as a resident, but you can’t. We can’t because we cannot use the taxis as we will have to pay for two people, and the Golden Arrow buses or trains do not accommodate us.”
Mr George is the founder member of Greater Bulls Disabled Sports Club. See back page.