[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. Lerato Selepe of QwaQwa reflects.[/intro]

My home is in QwaQwa, a former apartheid homeland in the eastern part of the Free State Province. Qwaqwa is known for its cold weather conditions and the snow-capped view of the Drakensberg Mountain during winter.

I live in Ward 35 that covers areas such as Monyakeng, Mountainview, Masimong, Sekgutlong, Dipolateng and Phahameng. These villages all form part of the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality.

According to the Census Statistics of 2011, Ward 35 has a population of 6680 people living in 1984 households. Females make up 55 percent of the population while males make up 45 percent. The median age is 21. More than half of the population is made up of people between the ages of 18 and 64. With Qwaqwa being a former Bantustan, Ward 35 has 99.8% Black Africans and the most spoken language is Sesotho, followed by isiZulu and then English.

The 2011 statistics showed that 88% of the households receive water from the municipality, 3.1% depend on boreholes, 1.5% on tankers and 6% depend on other sources, such as rivers and lakes. Secondly, 93.6% of households have access to electricity, leaving 127 households (6.4%) without electricity. . The majority of residents are still using the pit toilets, and only 6.8% of them have access to flush toilets.

While access to electricity is high, some residents cannot afford it. The municipality introduced a model to help the indigent by providing an amount of free electricity units monthly. This has eased the difficulties for some.

My parents, my sister and I have lived in an RDP house since 2005. When we moved in, Semaketsi Mofokeng was our trusted and respected councillor.

Before that we lived in a shack with no electricity and water. This was the case for most people in this ward. Nobody had electricity but we had access to a tap outside.

In our street today only one household has no electricity and two households live in shacks.

We have running water and electricity in our home and use a pit toilet we built ourselves. Even though the municipality provided each ward with a budget for pit toilets, my family and the next-door neighbour did not get one. Everyone else in the street had toilets built for them in 2014. When my mother approached the ward councillor during the building process, she was told she was not to worry. She would get the toilet when they finished the adjacent area. A year later, my mother is still waiting.

The present councillor, Mamotsheare Mosia talks as she wishes to people and yet expects their respect. She wants people to listen to her but she does not listen to them.

I have attended ward meetings a few times and observed her character.

I would say she lacks leadership skills. She gives preference to a problem if it affects her family or those close to her who are included in a circle of opportunity. She is an expression of bias at its best.

About a month ago, the municipality blocked residents’ prepaid electricity accounts because of irregular usage by some residents. This affected many people. Only after the councillor’s electricity was also blocked did she call a meeting to discuss the issue. During the meeting when people raised issues, she rudely yelled at them and shifted focus away from the matters they raised.

She also arranges special meetings that not everyone gets told about and leaves residents unaware of employment opportunities.

When a petrol station was built in our area, the community looked forward to possible employment. By the time the construction was completed, the petrol station already had employees. All of them were either biologically or politically related to her.

The Petrol Station also has a library, a good thing for young people. Last year, when I was back home from the University of the Free State for my mid-year break, I decided to make use of the service. I was told the person who has the keys to the library was not around and it was way past 12 noon.

The most urgent need now is for a tar road to link the main road to the ward’s two clinics – Makoane Clinic and Tebang Clinic. Jobs should also not be reserved for those biologically or politically connected to the councillor.

We will be taking part in the upcoming local government elections as a family. I am uncertain who to vote for but would like to see a change in the attitude of the councillor. At the last local government election, the top three parties were the ANC, 73%, Dinkwankwetla Party of South Africa (DPSA), 18% and the DA, 4%. Next month, the EFF will be in the mix and our trusted former councillor, Semaketsi Mofokeng will stand as an independent.

Anything is possible.