South Africa

South Africa

Report: Day after unsuccessful impeachment vote, the DA heads for Soweto

Report: Day after unsuccessful impeachment vote, the DA heads for Soweto

While many South Africans were still a little shell-shocked following the Constitutional Court’s game-changing ruling on Nkandla and a failed attempt to remove the president from office, and while others were concerned at what this might mean for the Constitution, the DA wasted no time in reaching out to the township of Soweto. By BHEKI C. SIMELANE.

Following what must have been a disappointing day at the office on Tuesday, it was business as usual for the opposition on Wednesday as the DA leadership sought consolidation and support in Soweto. The visit to the township was timed just days before the 9 and 10 April grace registration weekend, and as the still-standing president declared 3 August as the date on which the 2016 Local Government elections would be held.

Some well-known faces accompanied DA leader Mmusi Maimane on the trip: Gauteng DA leader John Moodey, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, DA mayoral candidates Herman Mashaba and Athol Trollip, and spokesperson for the DA leader, Mabine Seabe. The DA leadership descended at the Bara taxi rank, where vendors spoke to them of the various challenges threatening their trade.

The 39-year-old Vuyelwa Maimane, who sells raw chicken, said she was excited to see the DA visiting because she was confident they could turn promises into reality. “I know the DA will help us,” she said. “We need stalls, as we are operating in the open, and constantly have to move when it rains, which affects our business. The DA can be trusted. It is highly unlikely they will also betray us.”

Twenty-two-year-old Aphiwe Mene, a social work student at the University of Johannesburg, asked Mmusi Maimane for support, as she wanted to launch a project that would see local youth easily access information that would help them in their chosen career paths. She said local youth were simply not aware of how much was transforming around them, and she wanted to provide the kind of assistance that would give them a head start.

We have to make sure Soweto is an economic hub,” Maimane, whose family hails from Soweto, responded. “Soweto is struggling with infrastructure. We must address this and eradicate all forms of corruption. People must know they will have a responsible government in the DA. It is time we acted together as a society and say we will bring change.”

Bara, a small town in whose precinct is the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, displays the barest traces of development. Only the immediate industrial area has been developed, and the rest – including the Diepkloof Hostel – remains in ruins.

Maimane also paid a visit to the Diep Meadow Taxi Association offices, where the lack of infrastructure is starkly visible. Giant rodent droppings – triple the size of rice grains – are evidence of frequent night visitors. Chairman of the association, Joseph Maake, says the association is in desperate need of a toilet and a more hygienic environment. Maake says crime is rife in the area and children are not safe going to the shops, particularly after dark. Vendor Vuyelwa Maimane had said stalls were necessary for keeping goods secure, but Maake says it’s not uncommon for those allocated stalls to sell drugs as well.

At the Bara taxi rank, a young, unidentified man became visibly emotional as he spoke of the hardship the youth of the area faced, and the difficulty in accessing suitable opportunities. The DA’s Maimane asked whether there were proper schools. The young man said there were schools suitable for advancing young people’s various careers, but that the schools were not recognised by the government.

Not displaying any visible distress from the previous day’s defeat in Parliament, the DA leadership further visited Diepkloof Square and Dube. Gauteng mayoral candidate Mashaba proceeded deeper into Protea South. He admitted to being shocked by what he regarded as intolerable conditions and asked residents to give the DA a chance to improve their lot, or get rid of them if they did not deliver.

The people of Soweto have challenges – some very serious, such as service delivery and poverty. And if political parties want to dominate Soweto they need to be able to convince its people that voting will indeed change their fortunes. If opposition parties wish to succeed, they will have to adopt meaningful strategies that will enable them to challenge the ANC at national level.

During the trip, Mashaba opined that winning Gauteng would be the right recipe for helping the DA challenge the ANC at national level. From his side, Maimane criticised Cosatu’s level of influence on the ANC and government. And while some people revealed challenges in their own households, many discusseed Tuesday’s events and the Nkandla scandal.

While the DA leadership avoided mentioning what occurred in Parliament on Tuesday, Maimane could not hold back at one point during his address to the people of Soweto. “Can the ANC use the majority to absolve a criminal?” he asked.

DA Nelson Mandela Bay Candidate Athol Trollip took the opportunity to assure the crowd that the DA would not make racial appointments. He claimed Danny Jordaan was appointed to his position (ANC-appointed Mayor of Port Elizabeth) to counter the coloured vote. “The arrogance displayed by the ANC will bring the party to its knees,” he argued. DM

Photo: Mmusi Maimane in Soweto, 7 March 2016.

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