Community activist Brandon Pillay's home is his castle

Community activist Brandon Pillay's home is his castle

- Durban community housing activist, Brandon Pillay, has lived in the same home his whole life

- Growing up in a council home he has shared his home with up to 17 other people over the length of his life

- He was once a city councillor but today is eThekwini’s municipal manager for Grant in Aid

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“Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home” as the saying goes. No one knows the truth of this more than eThekwini municipal manager for Grant in Aid, Brandon Pillay. learned he has lived in the same home since he was first brought home after his birth.

He recently was featured in the community pages of on of Durban’s local newspapers where he shared what drives him to keep up his work to help people in his community.

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Pillay’s home may not exactly look like a castle yet he loves to say: “They say a man’s home is his castle, well, welcome to my castle!”

Within the two-bedroomed flat in a block of council housing, is all he holds dear, from possessions, to family to memories. The 36-year-old bachelor, once a city councillor. He also shared his “castle” with up to 17 other people.

“I have lived here my whole life. This is the place my parents brought me to after my birth and I am happy here,” said the community minded activist.

“They say people only move away once they are uncomfortable or feel as though something is lacking in their life, but not for me. I grew up with my parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles and, while this is a tiny home, we made it work, floor beds and all. This community gives us a sense of belonging and it’s very hard to find people living together. We have been united in poverty. If I need sugar or rice, the people in this area will help me out. Whereas, if I was living in another area, it won’t be the same.”

As an executive committee member for the ANC Pillay says his passion is to help his community, even as his family are his world.

“My family are very close-knit. We grew together, and although everyone has moved out by now, we are still there for one another.”

A premature baby born early due to his mother having sustained injuries in a bus accident, Pillay was surrounded by family from the beginning of his life.

“Lucky for us, my grandparents and aunts were all around, so the moment my parents brought me home, she had enough hands to help with me and rest as well.”

Crime and tragedy

Pillay’s elder brother Trevor, died in 1999 having been attacked, allegedly by a person within the neighbourhood.

“Trevor was stabbed in the neck at the age of 21, in February 1999 at the corner of the road,” he said. “The perpetrator lived nearby. Unfortunately, the witnesses were not strong enough and the matter was thrown out of court. But he was a great inspiration for me and I think his death is another reason why I am always fighting for justice and trying to help the community.”

In the video above he appeals for members of the community to attend court after a woman in the community was killed, such types of work are what he does everyday to help those around him.

Political and academic

Pillay, who attended Summerfield Primary School and Chatsworth Secondary School described himself as being “a bit of an academic” and took after his father in terms of his political life. “My dad was very politically inclined and I think that’s one of the reasons why I am like that as well,” he said.

“While growing up, from around the age of 15, I was a supporter of the ANC. My dad, who was a part of the LAC (Local Affairs Committee) would organise and host meetings. I remember he set up the first meeting in the area for the ANC. What’s great was I would get to see all these people and hear stories of democracy.”

When Pillay finished school he had to wait until he could earn funds to study further so looked for a job. "While trying, I joined the Bayview Flats Residents Association. Our first case was a poor family who approached us. It turned out the child was very sick and she had HIV, but her mother did not know. We sought all the help for that family and worked tirelessly with them to ensure they were okay. The child is now a teenager and doing well.”

He hasn’t stopped helping people since, and while he may appear very serious-minded and poker-faced while helping his community, by all accounts he is the opposite at home.

“It is very hard to find families living in harmony nowadays and since my parents passed away my siblings and I have never been left to feel as though we are alone,” he said.

“My aunt Vijay and a neighbour, Aunty Queen, have been living with me since my mom died in 2011. "My home is full every day with my nieces, nephew and sister,” said Pillay.

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