Cape Town – After 22-years of service as the Western Cape Provincial Chairperson for the Independent Electoral Commission, Reverend Courtney Sampson has called it a day.
The father of two and grandfather to a grandson turning two-years-old on Monday, Sampson says he is looking forward to spending his golden years on his first loves – the church and rebuilding cricket in the Boland.
The 65-year-old Anglican priest is being replaced by Michael Hendricks who has previously served as a senior manager on electoral matters in the IEC’s national office.
Sampson who has overseen five national and provincial elections as well as four municipal elections says when he took up the position in 1999, he knew little about elections at the time, having voted for the first time five years prior when he was 38-years-old.
“I got a note that I was appointed to start on April 1, 1999, and I thought it was an April Fool’s joke because the next election was on June 2, 1999. I was 38-years-old when I voted for the first time and I’d never voted before and knew nothing about elections,” he laughs.
An Anglican priest by profession prior to his appointment, Sampson worked at his first parish in Bonteheuwel in the 1980s before moving to Elsies River, Hanover Park and then becoming a Chaplain at the University of Western Cape, where he also taught.
Sampson also served as the chairperson of the Western Cape Council of Churches from 1989 to 1994, a position he said counted in his favour when he was appointed as he was familiar with the province and its people.
“We had high levels of drive in 1999, we had just been through 1994, we were just five years into this thing, so it was national service for me, it was your country calling you to work. We had come from the dark years of apartheid and we were not going to go back and we wanted something decent that everyone could be proud of.
“We knew we had a bigger picture, which was to build an election body that we could be proud of, where people could accept the outcomes of an election because a lot of things can go wrong in an election,” he added.
Sampson says throughout the years, managing to run elections in poor communities in the province, had worsened given the conditions under which they were made to live.
“It is getting worse because it is badly managed by the City of Cape Town. The authorities are not looking after those communities and I have always said, don’t fight about the conditions under which people have to vote, go and do something about under which people have to live.
“At one stage, I went out and asked the then-mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo and took (her) to the worst places in Khayelitsha and told them how we would have to manage an election there and showed them the filth in the area where we would have to put up a tent. Then there would be rushing around to clean up that area and that was the cooperation we had, we don’t have that anymore, it has worsened significantly.
Sampson says the nature of politics in the country has evolved into one structured like a business of staying in power rather than serving the community. While he vehemently scoffed at the idea of joining the political arena, he says he would get behind a movement for social change he sees brewing in communities.
“We don’t have enough honesty and integrity. We have politicians who think it’s okay to sit and dictate what people need, but if you believe every person is created in the image of God, then you give people what they deserve and what they deserve is to live peaceful lives, in environments where they don’t have to worry about whether their children will come home safe and are not exposed to drugs, alcohol and gender-based violence on a daily basis,” he said.
“If you are sitting with politicians who have forgotten they are there to serve the people instead of earning an income, you end up where we are at the moment.
“I just think something is going to give soon, what it is, I don’t know. My sense is there is something happening. It doesn’t have a name, structure or leadership yet but I believe something is happening and that is what I want to do these days.
“I think people have been failed by political parties because it is an industry more than anything else. Politics is about gaining and maintaining power, we must measure political parties not about them shouting about who must resign but rather by how the lives of people have changed positively in the areas they are in power.”
Sampson says nowadays, he spends his time working in the church where he still preaches and watching sports.
“I’m a lead independent director at Cricket Boland, and we are busy with some exciting projects there. I believe all of us have a contribution to make because we need to build this country,” he added.
“I love cooking, I love sports, and spend a lot of time watching sports. I was an athlete in my younger days and I’m excited about the developments at Cricket Boland. I love my friends, they are very important to me and I like to socialise with people.”