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Voter attitudes in Diepkloof, Soweto: ‘Back in the da...

South Africa

ROAD TO 2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS

Voter attitudes in Diepkloof, Soweto: ‘Back in the days the city was clean like a rich man’s nose’

Over the last 20 years I have voted hoping for change. When I’m talking about change I’m talking about small changes like having speed humps in our street. In 2012 a car hit two kids while they were playing in their yard. An 8 year-old boy died. The other one was in hospital for months. So we decided to make our own speed humps. When you drive from Makhura and Rustenburg streets there are big stones in the middle of the road. It’s our own speed humps. (Photo: Tshabalira Lebakeng)

A resident of Diepkloof, Soweto, talks to members of his community about their attitudes to political parties and the forthcoming local government elections. 

I lived for more than 20 years in Diepkloof on Makhura Street. It’s a busy street. Kids play football all day on the road. It’s fortunate that in the last while no child has been hit by a car. No car has flown into someone’s yard, hit the walls of the house and smashed everything. 

Over the last 20 years I have voted, hoping for change. When I’m talking about change I’m talking about small changes like having speed humps in our street. But nothing changes.

No one is helping us anymore.  

Over the last 20 years I have voted hoping for change. When I’m talking about change I’m talking about small changes like having speed humps in our street. In 2012 a car hit two kids while they were playing in their yard. An 8 year-old boy died. The other one was in hospital for months. So we decided to make our own speed humps. When you drive from Makhura and Rustenburg streets there are big stones in the middle of the road. It’s our own speed humps. (Photo: Tshabalira Lebakeng)

In 2012 a car hit two kids while they were playing in their yard. An eight-year-old boy died; the other one was in hospital for months. We signed a petition asking for speed humps. Nothing happened. There are still no speed humps at Makhura Street.

And children still play in the street. And some die. 

We decided to make our own speed humps. When you drive from Makhura and Rustenburg streets there are big stones in the middle of the road; our own speed humps. The community took stones and rocks and put them in the street to slow down flying cars. There are rocks everywhere in the street. No one comes to  sort it out.

Except during elections. 

The only time we meet politicians is when it’s time to vote. They say: “Vote for me. I will bring change. Call this number if you have any questions.”

But when you call that number no-one answers.

What breaks my heart is to see children playing in the park, I asked them why they are playing here when there is that horrible smell. They told me they don’t have any other place else to go. (Photo: Tshabalira Lebakeng)

At the beginning of this year, I moved out of my aunt’s four-roomed house and rented a one-roomed backyard shack in Orlando. I don’t have a secure job so I still feel homeless. Every month is the same. If I don’t pay rent I will get kicked out onto the streets. Me and my old mattress. I have no rights in this yard.

If something is not working, I fix it myself. The last time my plugs were not working I told my landlord about the problem, but she told me I must fix it myself: “The R1,500 rent each month doesn’t include fixing of stuff.”

She told me that if I wanted free things I must go to my government. “They can give you a free house,” she said. “Not here.”

That is why I say I’m homeless. I can be back on the streets anytime because I am living in a country where there are no job opportunities. Life is always insecure.

So why vote? 

There is a park on my street. It’s called Makhura Street Park. It’s a good gym park with machines for exercise. Grandmothers and grandfathers also go to that gym park. I used to enjoy using the equipment. But not anymore. There are two big sewage pipes in the park and they leak all the time. It smells like shit! Who is the planner of the park?

What breaks my heart is to see children playing there. I asked them why they are playing here when there is that horrible smell. They told me they don’t have any other place to go.

What breaks my heart is to see children playing in the park, I asked them why they are playing here when there is that horrible smell. They told me they don’t have any other place else to go. (Photo: Tshabalira Lebakeng)

Before they made the place into a park it was a dangerous dumping site. Sewage was always leaking out. They would come and fix it, but after a month it would erupt again. I was surprised one day to see it was a park.

I asked myself who gives permission to make a park in a sewage zone?  Or maybe they don’t care about the health of the people. If someone gets money to do something, they just do it.

Should we vote for people who don’t care about our health? 

I decided to take a walk and ask people in the  street if they will be voting.

Thembi’s troubles

Thembi was born here in “DK” in 1994. She grew up here. Now she is the mother of a two-year-old baby girl. She’s staying with her mother and her two brothers. They stay in an old, two-roomed house her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother got that house from a National Party government.

No one is working. They survive on her aunt, who comes every month with groceries. It’s not enough but it helps a lot. Thembi’s grandmother’s grant money helped pay for her education. She tells me her mother put in an RDP house application back in 1995, but still hasn’t received a house.

Thembi says she won’t vote for anyone. She’s been promised too much: “This and that, but no change.”

She tells me she was hopeful when they changed the president. She thought something good, like jobs and electricity, would be fixed. But it’s getting worse. There are just no jobs. Even members of parliament don’t have control. They keep looting the money meant for the poor.

“How can you trust a party that is still looting? The money that should help the youth and create jobs. The parliament, they think people are stupid. No, we are not stupid. We just don’t know where to run to.”

“Bra Tshaba,” she says to me, “I went to school to study because I wanted a better life for me. After I finished my studies, I have stayed at home my whole life. When the time to vote comes, I told myself I won’t vote for the people who don’t care about me.

“My mother told me I must vote because my vote will make change. I did vote last time. But after I voted  nothing happened. The government is still looting. I’m a qualified chef but  till today I don’t have a job. So I’m not voting.”

Mr Mkhanyile: ‘They just chow our money’

Mr Mkhanyile is an old Diepkloof citizen. He turned 78 on 26 September. He is a businessman who owns a tuckshop. He’s a former railway policeman. Now he’s at home managing a tuckshop.

I ask him about voting. He tells me, yes, he will vote, but not for people who are in power. He will just take a walk and vote for the last person on the list. He doesn’t care who.

“Just for the walk,” he says. “I won’t vote for anyone who is already in power. They just chow our money.”

He tells me that back in the days of apartheid there were lots of jobs because the white president didn’t want crime. The apartheid president knew that indlala ibanga ulaka (hunger makes you angry), so if people have jobs there will be no crime.

“Bra Tshaba,” he says, “look at Jozi, it’s smelling like hell. The rubbish is everywhere. Back in the days, the city was clean like a rich man’s nose. So why will I vote for people that can’t even clean our city? I won’t vote for people that can’t clean up crime in our country. There are cameras in the whole town, but they can’t solve crimes.

“Back in the days of white people, if you did crime you knew your days were numbered. The police would catch you. So, my son, I will vote for people that will clean and protect me from crime. Bring back the white people!”

Magumede is 65 years old. She lives in Diepkloof and comes from Sebokeng. She has a four-roomed house which she has extended. It’s beautiful. She’s got five kids and a husband, Mr Gumede.

She’s had three house robberies. When they go to report the crimes at the police station it takes ages for officers to come and check the crime site. It takes days. When they go back to ask what will happen about the criminals, the police tell her to stop worrying, they will come and check what happened. It once took them five days.

She says she won’t vote because no one cares about them or the community.

“Why should the criminals stop doing crime if the government itself is corrupt?” she asks. “My son didn’t get his UIF [Unemployment Insurance Fund payout] because they said his money is missing. How can the money have gone missing in a big bank or company? Why should I vote if I’m not protected? I can’t sleep at night. I tell myself I am living in a free country. But I’m not free until I can call the police to come help me and they come on time.”

Magumede continues: “Here in Diepkloof we have families that don’t have jobs or houses. But they don’t get anything from the government. Food parcels don’t reach them.

“Maybe I will or maybe I won’t vote. I don’t know. I’m so angry.”

Sphe is 18 years old and lives in  Zone 3 Diepkloof. He’s the only child at home. He’s the soccer boy, living with his father and mother in a rented one-roomed house.

“Bra Tshaba,” he says, “I didn’t do well at school but my dream is to take my parents out of this one-room house. I want my parents to have their privacy. But, by the looks of it, it won’t happen because the poor get more poor.

“I don’t have much to say. The only thing I can say is I will keep on voting till my dream comes true. Yes, the big bosses steal our money. We see it every day in the news. But to take them out, we must vote them out. Then arrest them. It’s the only solution.

“My parents are working for a fish and chips shop. They don’t get paid much. It’s hand-to-mouth. I ask my parents for data for my phone, so I can look for a job online. But nothing is coming up. If I  see something, they say I must have experience. Where will I get that because I’m fresh from school?

“In poor countries like Mozambique, they help young people do things practically with their  hands so when they finish school they get  experience. But in South Africa they ask you for experience that you don’t have.”

People I speak to complain a lot about  sewage in the street, no electricity, poor infrastructure and poor health facilities. Many people have decided they will not vote because the government keeps making empty promises.

Still politicians target informal settlements. When it’s voting time they are always there. They build four houses. They say more are coming. They tell people they will fix toilets, lights, roads and sewage. People vote and afterwards nothing happens.

On the TV we watch while burning and protests begin again. And the four houses they built start to leak. DM/MC

Tshabalira Lebakeng is a writer with the Homeless Writers Project. This story was written by Tshabalira with assistance from Harriet Perlman.

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  • Well, there you have it- the picture could not be clearer. Absolute failure on the part of the ANC led government to give its people a better deal. So come on,use the power of your vote to bring change- change which surely will result in some improvement in living conditions!

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