[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. Lebogang Mokoena of Molapo, Soweto, reflects.[/intro]
I am a resident of Molapo in Soweto. Not many people know this place I call home. When asked where I come from, I have to say something like: “Molapo is near Rockville and Jabulani Mall” or I say, “it is about 15 minutes away from Maponya Mall by taxi”. Often people know all the neighbouring areas I mention but not mine. Every day I travel from here to the University of Johannesburg where I am a student.
Molapo, together with Moroka are part of Ward 33. Ward 33 has one of Soweto’s biggest parks called Thokoza Park established in the mid-2000s and a cricket oval which came into being in the 1950s.
According to WaziMap, a media monitoring tool, Ward 33 has a population of 27 909 residents with 52 percent being female. In terms of demographics, the median age in this area is 29 years. Sixty-Six percent of the population is between 18 and 64, while 17-year-olds and below make up at least 31 percent.
Dominant languages spoken are isiZulu, Sesotho, and Setswana, with the highest number speaking isiZulu. In terms of migration, only five percentage of people who reside here are from countries outside South Africa. Ward 33 is much the same as many parts of South Africa where most residents (93%) are locally born.
There are 7 089 households with at least 6.8% of informal dwellings. The number of informal dwellings is a third of what exists in Gauteng generally. I live in a four-roomed house improved over time to fit our family. It has been extended with three backrooms, including a shower. The average annual income in Ward 33 is an estimated R29 400.
Corrugated-iron settlements are decreasing with brick backrooms accommodating extended family members and often, immigrants. Well plastered, paved, painted, and modernised looking homes are growing. There remains a section in Molapo called ‘Coal-yards’ which is a small informal settlement accommodating residents from Lesotho living in shacks.
Most residents (97 %) get water from a regional or local service provider. Most residents(98,8%) have access to electricity. According to WaziMap, only 0,2 percent of residents in Ward 33 do not have access to a toilet and a majority of 99, 2% has access to flush or chemical toilets. On a weekly basis refuse is collected by the local authority called Pick it Up. As far as these basic municipal services are concerned, our ward is functioning well.
Given initiatives intended to create an environmentally friendly ward, men in dark coloured clothes, often masked, search for cans and plastic two litre bottles. They place the recycling material in big sacks transported in wood and steel trolleys. This happens before the noisy garbage vans collect waste material over the week. Once waste is collected, a group of community members line up dustbins to wash them, using detergents and polish. This is a mechanism for creating employment and a clean society.
Unemployment in our ward is 39%. In my family, only two people are not employed. My uncle wakes up in the early hours of the day to collect nursery and primary school children at different places in Soweto and takes them to various institutions at Eldorado Park. My mother is a self-employed, single parent who sets up a table of snacks to sell to children before and after school while my aunts work as Social Auxiliary workers at a non-governmental organisation called Childline. My sibling, who just recently completed her Grade 12, is struggling to find work so has decided to work on upgrading her matric marks.
According to WaziMap, 78.6% have completed Grade 9 or higher and 50.9% with matric or higher education. The number of residents who have completed Matric or higher education in this ward is about the same as the rate in Gauteng province which is 1. 3 times higher than the average rate (39.3%).
For the last five years, the councillor Ronald Phamodi has helped implement recreational facilities in Molapo. The park was created about three years ago with the aim of creating a space for leisure and sports for young people especially.
At first I attended the ward meetings but then decided I did not want to be politically affiliated and stopped going. My grandmother used to attend meetings. She has stopped engaging too due to other commitments and to a large extent not having much faith in the ruling party.
I do not have faith that my family will vote for the next councillor. Phamodi is the same person who will still be standing. I would like him to make use of open spaces and turning them into transport facilities to help people to travel to other communities in order to get services. For instance, a number of students in Molapo and Rockville have to travel to Phiri to access a library. My grandmother is adamant that the ANC can still do a lot more for people than it is now. She believes that ANC is not canvassing as it should be and therefore not hearing the demands of people.
There have been slight improvements in Ward 33 but basically a lot is still the same. The biggest problem continues to be unemployment.
I do understand the importance of political participation in a democratic dispensation. Voting can challenge the long-standing ruling parties, giving potential parties a chance to make a difference. However, as a politically neutral activist, I will not vote. As a member of a civic organisational structure, I follow mandates challenging the state, all political parties and democratic institutions.