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ROCKY ROAD TO POLLS OP-ED

2024 elections loading — residents of Mahlathi Village in Limpopo say #NoRoadNoVote

2024 elections loading — residents of Mahlathi Village in Limpopo say #NoRoadNoVote
A road to nowhere: After waiting years for this essential road to be upgraded, residents of Mahlathi Village now say #NoRoadNoVote. (Photo: Supplied)

Many of my neighbours in Mahlathi believe that voting, like the D3810, is a road to nowhere.

The D3810 is the road that connects Mahlathi Village near Giyani to the outside world. Its state has not improved since I first wrote about it in April this year. Many have promised to fix it, all the way up the chain of command to former deputy president DD Mabuza himself. To this day, you can barely walk on the road, never mind drive on it. Forget about an ambulance in Mahlathi. 

No wonder many of my neighbours believe that voting, like the D3810, is a road to nowhere.

It’s not like my community has not tried. The residents have asked the government to help to make the road usable. We have been abandoned by them. So we tried to work with the chiefs of our communities – after all, they are respected by us, and should be by our government. Our chiefs are ignored, but maybe they don’t try too hard, since they and the ANC support each other.

I even took it upon myself to try to intervene. 

As a human rights and community activist, I had a vision that I wanted to share with the authorities. I sat down with some of the chiefs, and laid out my idea to call the communities of Khakhala, Gawula, Mahlathi, Ndindani and Hlomela together, and to invite the press. I wanted it to be known around the country how we’ve been abandoned – perhaps the message just wasn’t reaching the right people in government. 

But our traditional leaders told me to hold off. 

In Mahlathi we say “Marito Ma hosi ama tluriwi” (the words of the king are invincible). So I held off. I was told Sanral had come to brief them, that the road design had been completed, and they were about to award the contract for construction. 

We have another saying in Mahlathi: “Hi Taku I Mangwa loko hi vona mavala” (we’ll say it’s a zebra when we see its colours), which is another way of saying: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Others on our community WhatsApp groups also encouraged me to hold off. Some are known to be captured by the ANC while others working in the municipality are looking to benefit for themselves from public works projects. These people are the ones who pretend to care about us but prevent us from receiving services. 

Disputes broke out among them for the road to be tarred, with some community and traditional leaders appointing ANC members to take charge of the D3810 road project. In addition, ANC party members are the main members of the Greater Giyani Municipality, with the power to award the road contract.

Clearly we’ve made some mistakes as a community in electing ANC members to our municipality. But there’s a lack of trust in the alternatives, or just nobody else to vote for.

The people of my community have shown they’ve had enough of the ANC. When a “mayoral imbizo” was called by the mayor of greater Giyani Municipality in Ndindani, there were invitations for 15 villages to attend, including Mahlathi. 

But most of the buses arrived empty. 

2024 elections

Former deputy president David Mabuza. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Those who did attend said they were there for the food, not the mayor’s speech. The mayor, who travelled along the D3810 and saw its state, assured us: “We have taken note of your challenges and are committed to addressing them.”

She told us municipal graders would be coming soon, that she did not need extra budget because they already have graders working “on the ground”. Not on our ground, though. 

Clearly we’ve made some mistakes as a community in electing ANC members to our municipality. But there’s a lack of trust in the alternatives, or just nobody else to vote for. My community does not believe the DA represents black people. In any case, there’s no DA ward representative in my area. The EFF is more popular; the question is: Will communities of Ward 19 put hope in Economic Freedom Fighters?

Desperate measure

So, that brings us to #NoRoadNoVote. It’s a desperate measure, but our political system has let us down. It’s as broken as the D3810. If no other political party can bring the basics to our community, perhaps this campaign will bring the ruling party here? But even if they did notice our boycott, how would they even get here?

Will the strike continue, or are they threatening?

And so #NoRoadNoVote gains momentum on our community WhatsApp groups. We will have to see if the campaign makes it out of Mahlathi and into the heads of the political parties – and whether they even care. DM

Israel Nkuna is a ward committee representative in Ward 19, a community activist, human rights activist, social grants activist and writer at Mahlathi Village in Giyani, Limpopo. In the lead-up to the 2024 elections Israel will be writing a monthly column, painting a picture of how the election campaign plays out in his rural village. You can contact him at [email protected]

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