[intro]As the local government elections approach, journalism students from the universities of Free State and Johannesburg have taken time out to connect with their roots and take a deeper look at the state of affairs in their respective communities. Gaby Ndongo Nkolo of Yeoville, Johannesburg, reflects.[/intro]

My family home is in a place called Yeoville not far from Johannesburg. It is about 3.5 km from Johannesburg’s CBD. It is therefore easy for me to make the daily commute to the University of Johannesburg (UJ) where I am currently a first year student. I board the Rea Vaya bus daily and it takes me about 25 minutes to arrive at the station in the CBD. I then quickly board another bus to Auckland Park and arrive in time for my lectures.

Yeoville is a suburb that has an extraordinary and diversified people. It has acted as a catalyst for those seeking refuge. In the early 1900s, Jewish people fled Russia where they faced ‘degrading and difficult conditions” described in the exhibition, Yeoville: A walk Through Time on display at the Yeoville Studio.  They settled in Yeoville and several other suburbs for most of the 20th century.

In the last 20 years, Congolese left the DRC for various reasons and also sought refuge in Yeoville. Like the Jewish people, their main aim was to settle in a peaceful environment to nurture the next generation. I am part of them. My family settled here in 2005. We live in a two- bedroomed apartment in Raleigh St, one of Yeoville’s most bustling streets. For election purposes, this suburb is described as Ward 67.

According to the 2011 national census, roughly 22 168 persons live in this ward. Black Africans make up 84%; Coloureds two percent, Indian/Asian seven percent, Whites six percent and others are one percent of the population. The area is 4.7 km2 and shelters 4 746.9 people per square kilometre. However, the councillor of the ward, Mr S Myeki said in an interview that Yeoville was not overcrowded compared to suburbs in cities such as New York.
There are about 7 269 households in Yeoville, and an average household size of 3.7 persons per household. About 68% of the population live in high-density accommodation or flats.

The service delivery in Yeoville is excellent. The water service is outstanding with  97% of the population receiving clean water. This makes it 3.5% higher than the Gauteng rate and 25% higher than the rest of the country. Secondly, the availability of electricity is outstanding.   99.4% of the people in my suburb have electricity for lighting, cooking. The disposal services are likewise quite good. According to Wazimap, 98%  have access to toilet facilities. Statistics don’t lie.

An aerial view of Yeoville and some of its contiguous suburbs

My ward is usually referred to as Little Africa. We have diverse demographics with a variety of languages spoken. These range from English, 27%, isiZulu, 21% ,isiNdebele 9%, isiXhosa four percent, not applicable 12% and other which is 13%.

The 2011 population census describes 82% of the population residing in the area as economically active and employed with only 18% remaining unemployed.

My suburb has gone through a number of positive changes through the police station, our park and Yeoville Square.

The newly built Yeoville Police Station Pictures from: JoburgHYPERLINK “http://joburgeastexpress.co.za/34995/yeoville-police-station-welcomed-by-members-and-community/” East Express

Yeoville Square, a demarcated area consisting of the Yeoville Community Park and the Community Recreation Centre near to Yeoville Police Station, has been developed over the past few years. A refurnished Recreational Centre for cultural and sporting activities – more specifically dance, music, fitness and martial arts – was where I could develop my dream as an amateur boxer.

With the upcoming August 2016 local government elections the area is as energetic as ever. Both the DA and the ANC, including the EFF, have made their mark attracting potential voters in rallies often situated in front of the Yeoville Park in Raleigh St. The total Municipal voter numbers of Gauteng in 2011 was 5 608 042 persons and Yeoville contributed about 0.25%, 14 060 persons.

Unfortunately it is impossible for me or any member of my family to vote as we are not part of that number. The reason for this is very much simple. My family members and I are foreign nationals. We don’t get to hear about ward meetings and do not know the local councillor. Communication channels used to inform people about meetings and community events seem to be poor. The ANC leads this ward and maintains this area well.