Not so fine in Finetown — sewage runs in streets while residents go to the polls
Residents of Finetown in Ennerdale, in Johannesburg’s deep south, bemoaned the lack of service delivery as they showed up in large numbers to cast their votes at a high-stakes by-election on Wednesday.
A decent house with a flushing toilet is all that Sarah Sejake (60) wishes for after successfully casting her vote in a highly contested by-election in Ennerdale-Finetown, in Johannesburg’s deep south on Wednesday, 28 June 2023.
Sejake has been voting for the same political party since 1994. But on Thursday, she voted differently. “It was a difficult decision because I grew up with that party but I had to vote for change.”
She cast her vote at Finetown Primary School, about 40km from the Johannesburg CBD, joining scores of people who braved the cold weather to stand in long queues to cast their votes.
Barely a kilometre from the voting station, the Daily Maverick team was met by a strong stench of sewage running through dusty informal roads. Nearby was the Finetown Clinic which has never opened – three years after it was completed.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘We are suffering’: Finetown clinic still shuttered three years after being built
Although the area consists mostly of RDP housing, the sight of informal dwellings cannot be ignored.
In one home was a family of seven adults who opted not to vote, and four young children.
“Our situation has been like this for more than 10 years. Nobody cares; all these political parties care about is votes, because they benefit and not us,” said Karabo Monare, who last voted in the 2021 local government elections.
“Never again. I will now only vote the day I am offered a job.”
Nokukhanya Sithole said she was embarrassed to call herself a resident of Finetown. “When you tell people you are from this area, there is an assumption that everything is fine, yet there is nothing fine.”
“At night we sleep with one eye open because of crime,” Sithole said.
In November 2022, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the area after gunmen killed six residents. He promised then that police would clean up the area by flushing out criminals, News24 reported at the time.
However, nothing had happened, Sithole said. “We are used to officials coming here when we are on the news. They are doing nothing right now. People are still dying and no one says anything.”
Meanwhile, Tazneem Boyes (65), a resident of Ennerdale who has high walls around her home, an alarm system and several pitbulls, said she had cast her vote to get better services.
Boyes, who has lived in Ennerdale since 2001, said: “There are incidents of crime like everywhere, but it’s bearable when you have measures in place.”
Unlike Monare and Sejake, Boyes had different demands. She wanted a consistent refuse collection service and for the government to assist those less fortunate.
“There are many unemployed people in this area and it’s heartbreaking to sometimes say no when they ask for something as basic as bread. I hope the government can at least show some compassion and help them.”
Another Ennerdale resident, Jeffrey Lucas, echoed her sentiments, saying among the main issues the community grappled with were rolling blackouts, refuse collection and potholes, which he and other community members filled with concrete.
“I am voting because it is the right thing to do. We don’t have many issues here other than the usual.”
Ward 7 has been a hive of intense political campaigning since the weekend, and it was no different on Wednesday as people were casting their votes. Party representatives continued to lure voters to their stalls, most offering free T-shirts outside the voting stations.
The ActionSA, Patriotic Alliance (PA) and ANC stalls appeared to be the busiest as scores of voters stopped by.
The by-election was held following the resignation of ANC ward councillor Amelia Zama, who was elected in the 2021 local government elections. She has since defected to the PA.
Driving into the area, one was met with posters of parties contesting the election, including the ANC, EFF, IFP, Al Jama-ah and the PA.
The DA was nowhere to be seen as it was not contesting the election following the withdrawal and resignation of its candidate, Randell Markgraaff, on 16 June when it was too late for the party to nominate an alternative candidate.
At the time, the DA’s Gauteng leader, Solly Msimanga, described the move as a “betrayal” of the community.
“This shocking development raises serious questions about the integrity of the electoral process and the extent to which ‘mafia tactics’ may now even be undermining the country’s ability to hold free and fair elections. This should be of the utmost concern to all South Africans,” he said.
PA likely to be biggest winner
Elections monitoring expert Wayne Sussman said the DA’s elimination from the race was likely to benefit ActionSA, and that if the party failed to capitalise on the votes that would have gone to the DA, then this would lead to a PA win, which would not be surprising as the PA had previously beaten the DA in by-elections.
Sussman said while the ANC would try to get as many votes as possible in Finetown after choosing local man Sipho Lukhele as its candidate, the PA was still likely to be the main beneficiary when election results were released. On the service delivery concerns in Finetown, Sussman said voters were likely first to look at the EFF as an alternative.
In the 2021 local government elections, the ANC held off the PA in a close contest. Despite Ennerdale having a better voter turnout than Finetown, the ANC had less competition in Finetown than the PA had in Ennerdale, Sussman wrote in Daily Maverick. The results of Wednesday’s poll will be released on Thursday. DM
Update on Thursday 29 June, 2023: The PA won the ward. Read all the details of this by-election and others, in a Daily Maverick report by Wayne Sussman: PA trounces ANC in Ennerdale-Finetown by-election