[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. Erica Dibela of George reflects.[/intro]
I won’t be voting on 3 August. I can’t vote for the liberation party, the official opposition is not a practical option and I also don’t trust parties that emerge close to elections.
Home is in a town known as George. George, the sixth oldest town in South Africa, is situated in the Western Cape Province. George is a ‘B’ Municipality, one of the bigger municipalities in the Western Cape and will be hotly contested. The current council consists of 49 councillors with the DA having 25 Councillors, ANC 19, Cope 1, ACDP 1, Icosa 1, PBI 1 and the Independent Ratepayers 1 seat.
I am registered in Ward 13, part of Thembalethu location. The ward consists of 3 841 registered voters, divided into two voting districts namely MM Mateza Primary School and the Thembalethu Community Hall.
My ward has a population of 7 603 residents. 93.8% of us are black Africans, 4.8% are Coloured and others make up 1.1%. We have a total number of 2 333 households. Of these, 369 have no annual income. 54.4 % of the annual income level of the households in my ward is less than R38 200 per annum. Our community is made up of mainly formal houses (1 334 households), people living in shacks or back yards (530 households) and informal dwelling (217 households).
Municipal figures from Census 2011 reflect that the area has a stable well-established population with a high percentage of service infrastructures in place.
98.1% of the households in my ward receive their water from the municipality. Another large part of the community, 94.1%, has access to sanitation services above the minimum service level. The same applies to electricity for lighting with 83.7% of the households. Paraffin is still used by 10.9% of my fellow community members though. Almost all the entire ward, 98.9% of the ward has waste removal.
The IDP Road Show has identified certain ward development needs. These include road and storm water drainages, maintenance of roads and sidewalks, law enforcement and traffic control to assist school kids when they cross the roads to school. In addition to these recreation and sport by developing playgrounds for children, opening spaces in cemeteries and land for subsistence farming were identified. Job creation is also amongst the development needs in my ward.
Thembalethu is an ANC ward and the councillor is Busisiwe Salmani. Salmani has not been nominated by her party to stand in the ward for the coming election. Insiders claim that she is a victim of ANC in-fighting.
At the start of her term of office she held regular report back meetings but this became fewer as she could not answer difficult questions asked by the community. On a one-to-one basis she could definitely sort out municipal account queries but the big issue, housing remained unanswered.
She has, however, had productive projects during her tenure as councillor.
During her term of office Thembalethu Square a strip mall was developed by a private group and opened to the public on 30 August 2012. The anchor tenant at the mall is Shoprite with an African Bank branch, ATMs, food takeaways, clothing, cosmetics, cell phone shops, a liquor outlet and Cashbuild, a national building material supply chain.
The first petrol station was also opened in Thembalethu next to the mall. The increased traffic necessitated the upgrading of the traffic light at the main intersection. Council established a tourism bureau in 2012. Sidewalks were paved in sections of the ward. Council has approved the development of a youth centre scheduled for completion in May 2017.
With that being said, my family has had no interaction with her. When I asked them in which ward we lived or who the councillor was, they had no idea.
I am facing a predicament. I come from an ANC background but am in a difficult situation. I can’t get myself to vote for the ANC because I feel it has become too corrupt to get my vote. The DA is not a practical option for me. The other small parties that suddenly pop up in the Western Cape before an election are also not an alternative. I do not know who they will join when the cards are down and a ruling party must be formed. Will my vote therefore still land up with the ANC? The answer is no. No voting for me this time.