Described by Ald. Memory Booysen as “Light-hearted, down to earth and a lover of the open-air life”, Cllr Betsie van Noordwyk was elected as the Whip of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) Council on 21 February 2022. She is currently also Ward 7’s Councillor for Hessequa Municipality.
Born from humble beginnings in Bela-Bela, Limpopo, Betsie has a sister and two brothers and is the daughter of a plumber and a stay-at-home mom. Her mom was a Springbok athlete and coached high-school children hurdles for many years. She lived most of her early days in Rust de Winter, Secunda and Frankfort and subsequently finished her secondary education in Frankfort at Wilgerivier High School in 1999.
Growing up, Betsie recalls that she worked for her pocket money by assisting her father with plumbing work. He paid her R5.00 for every drain she cleared and R20.00 for each geyser she assisted to install or fix. With her earnings, she was able to save and buy the little things her heart desired. Looking back at this strong foundation her parents helped build for her, she said “I value every part of it and see it as a priceless part of my upbringing – this made me the person I am today”
The first formal job Betsie landed after school was on her uncle’s farm in Heidelberg in the Cape as a milker. She jumped at the opportunity because of her passion for animals and working with her hands.
Following her employment at the dairy farm, Betsie changed careers and started working firstly at a franchise restaurant and then a local hotel. Working in the hospitality industry taught Betsie a great deal about working with people, whilst also enhancing her problem-solving skills. This was the additional experience that she needed. She involved herself in all aspects of running a hospitality business – working with tourists, business people and the townsfolk. She loved to organise events and generally fell into place in the busy environment, learning and growing through the years she was there. During this time she also achieved her heavy-duty drivers’ licence for “just in case I might need it” – always thinking forward of what might crop up.
Betsie worked her way up to a top post in the hotel and decided that it was time to move on and return to the agricultural world which she loved – now equipped with excellent people skills. Betsie joined the SSK (Sentraal Suid Kooperasie) and worked in various departments, gaining more experience with agriculture, people and administration. During this time she married her farmer husband, Joost. They have two children – a daughter and a son. Betsie was a stay at home Mum for the first 5 years of her children’s lives, until they went to nursery school. During this time Betsie was busy on the farm with chickens and pigs and the like. She always had her own project to work on whilst her husband worked the lands and had a dairy farm. When the children started nursery school, Betsie was offered a job with the Riversdale Agricultural Society. As secretary of the showgrounds, for nearly a decade, she formed part of the Agri Show organising committee, making sure that the show was a success every year.
During this time, she also became a Poultry Meat Examiner (PME). With this qualification, she is able to guarantee the safety of poultry meat for human and animal consumption. As a result of the droughts in 2017 in Hessequa, their farm was rented out and her husband focuses now on woodworking. Bets, still has a few chickens in her backyard, but she quirkily explained that they are only there for the show.
Betsie was elected as Ward 7 Councillor of Hessequa Municipality. She commented that she was approached to enter politics because of the relationships she has with community members and the farming community. She also felt drawn to politics because she finds comfort in providing support to others and promoting their well-being. “I have a soft spot for the elderly, who I’ve arranged meals for during the Agri Show and also towards the end of the last year because Covid left them completely cut off from society”. It brings her great comfort to serve others and to witness a smile on their faces. She has helped destitute children, animals and helps organisations wherever and whenever she can. She has strong morals and has always been fair, kind and compassionate towards all of the people she has worked with and served.
Betsie describes herself as a “problem-solver” In her free time, she enjoys camping, fishing and relaxing with friends and family.
In her role as Whip of the GRDM Council she is required to exercise caucus and constituency management, see to it that the capacity of Councillors is developed and furthermore provide political liaison. Central to her work is promoting good governance and ensuring political accountability. When disputes arise, she needs to facilitate consensus between different parties or individuals and she will be required to ensure that Councillors adhere to the Code of Conduct of Councillors.