The Times: ‘I don’t believe in voting anymore’

‘I don’t believe in voting anymore’

Apr 10, 2011 2:25 AM | By BRENDAN BOYLE

Sarie Booi, better known as Ou Sis, is among many in Cape Town’s informal settlements who don’t intend voting on May 18 because they have given up on local government.

She is one of the original residents of Masincedane, a windswept settlement of some 70 shacks among the dunes of Strandfontein on the False Bay coast. It was started by her late father nearly 20 years ago, when he worked as a janitor in a children’s holiday camp.

There are enough toilets, there are a few taps and the rubbish is collected most weeks from a fly-infested skip, but the high-mast light hasn’t worked for two years, drugs are a problem even among pre-teen children and the promise of new houses has become a standing joke.

Irma Jackson, the DA councillor, says the cables powering the light are repeatedly stolen and she’s not sure the people want to move. “I’ve done my bit to assist them, but I get despondent because these people don’t seem to want to change their lifestyle,” she said.

That is not enough for Booi. “We don’t want to vote again. The people come for the election and they talk to us, but they never come back.”

In Joe Slovo, a highly politicised informal settlement on the edge of Cape Town’s flagship N2 Gateway housing project, the focus is on water and sanitation. Talking to Songezo Mjongile, the ANC’s Western Cape secretary, at her front door, Nosiphelo Ndlela, says things have improved during the past five years, but not enough to get her out to vote either for the DA, which she concedes is delivering something, or for the ANC, which is promising everything.

Ndlela says the council cleans the untarred road, fixes the lights within days and keeps the water flowing.

But what she wants is a house, and that seems no nearer than the last unkept promise, she says.

Anna-Magdalena Welcome is a pensioner in a small, neatly kept two-storey house in Mitchells Plain.

She has run up a R1600 water bill and is behind on the agreed R160-a-month payment, so, for the past five months, her supply has been cut to 350 litres a day – an amount that the council allows to everyone, regardless of whether they pay or not.

Mjongile believes Welcome illustrates the DA’s disregard for the plight of the poor.

The city government says cases like hers demonstrate its fair application of a R1.2-billion-a-year indigent policy that ensures everyone gets the basic services they need to survive.

In Thabo Mbeki, a settlement of about 500 shacks, the issue is sanitation.

Every shack has a numbered white plastic portable toilet, and the council sends a truck once a week to empty the 20-litre holding tanks. ANC ward councillor Thobile Gqola says the system is degrading. “Some people who can afford it have made an enclosure outside, but in most shacks you will find that somebody is cooking while somebody else is relieving himself on the porta-potty in the same room.”