Itumeleng Modisane is an aspiring journalist from Bekkersdal who has no formal journalism training. He has approached The Journalist to help him learn writing skills so that he can one day work in the profession.
I live in Ward 10, Ghana section, Bekkersdal location in the west of Johannesburg. Ward 10 forms part of the 16 wards that make up Westonaria local Municipality, which has an estimated population of about 47,000 residents. Ward 10 has a population of 7,739 people. In this ward, the ANC dominated the 2014 National elections with 72% followed by EFF with 12% and the DA with 8%.
Ward 10 has 3,092 households and service delivery has been slow. 83,8% of the youth are currently attending school, 22,1% of the residents have completed matric and 41,8% are employed. The most spoken language is IsiXhosa, followed by Sesotho and then Setswana. Of the 3,092 households, 42,7% have electricity, 50,6% have flush toilets, 63,2% have access to refuse disposal and 98,5% of the households have access to running water.
I stay with my grandmother, sister and my nephew, the three of them stay in a four roomed house, and I stay alone in the backyard room. My grandma’s house is one of the very first set of houses ever built in Bekkersdal during the early 1970s. As years went by this small township I call home played refuge to hundreds of foreign nationals, and this shows even today as 20% of residents are from outside South Africa’s border.
I attended grades 1-9 at Westonaria Intermediate School and went to Kgothalang Senior Secondary School for grades 10-12, where I found myself struggling to cope with the disturbing events we had to witness in the classrooms and the schoolyard. At times even I was part of the disruption. Students would come to school drunk, they would stab each other and they would smoke dagga.
The street that I live on, Rampou Street, is just like any other kasi street. The sights and sounds ring of home. In the morning I wake up to voices of the poorly paid CWP (Seriti) workers singing and chatting before leaving the township for their long days at work. In the afternoon, from the comfort of my room, I can hear the humorous conversations and vibrant songs sung by the customers of my neighbour’s shebeen, while they drink their homemade African beer. During the school holidays children run around the street, laughing, playing games and enjoying their time off from school.
Even though Bekkersdal is a small township, it has been featured on national television for a number of issues including gangsterism and protest that turns violent once the police arrive. In 2013 we drew the attention of President Jacob Zuma, the then Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and EFF leader Julius Malema when residents took to the streets demanding that the ANC dominated Westonaria local Municipality be put under administration for corruption and misuse of funds.
At the time it was reported that the violent protest robbed the municipality of over R11 million as state property was vandalised. The protest continued for months, forcing the matriculants of 2013 to be moved out of the township to a safer and a more peaceful place.
The local councillor is the ANC’s Thabang Mngomezulu. No one in my immediate family attends his meetings, I would sometimes listen to my grandma go on about what she was expecting our councillor to do.
I am really unable to point out what our current councillor has done for Ward 10. Other parts of Bekkersdal have sidewalks, reconstructed roads, fully maintained parks, decreasing unemployment rates but not our ward.
In the upcoming elections I would like to vote for the EFF but I was taught that “if the head of the family is not strong then the whole family isn’t strong”. I seriously have no faith in Julius Malema.
I don’t know the DA’s candidate so that only leaves me with the ANC. I remain undecided.
My grandma, like many elderly people in my community, will vote for the ANC. My friends say “it’s an obvious call, the ANC is going to win again”, though with the high number of youth registered to vote, the percentage of voters to remember the “long walk to freedom” is slowly diminishing. The ANC will not always be able to rely on its history to dominate local and national elections. They will have to go on helping us improve our living conditions.