South Africa’s presidential elections are just four months away and the jostling for political power has heated up in the rural areas of Acornhoek. Crime and jobs are the top concerns. This election year, the parties that can convince voters that they will be best at tackling crime and creating jobs are likely to win. Unlike prior elections, the African National Congress (ANC) is not guaranteed victory.?
“Back then, the ANC fought really hard for our freedom. We were treated like animals by the whites, and they saved us. But now they are just criminals. How can they still lead a country,” asked Jimmy Nkuna. “If the ANC wins these elections, it will be only because it is the liberation party, and people feel they have to be loyal to support them. But they have lost most of their members.”
The ANC has been the ruling political party since Nelson Mandela became the president when the apartheid era ended fourteen years ago. In the beginning, people had high hopes that things would change for the better. But the lack of service delivery is still a problem that community members in places such as the poverty-stricken rural areas of Acornhoek face everyday. Most families still don’t have electricity, proper sanitation, housing and running water. Poverty and unemployment are the greatest challenges that people have to struggle with.
“We deserve better than this!” stressed Rhandzu Mathebula, a single mother of three who is living in a two-room house with four of her children. She is a domestic worker who has to share her room with two of her daughters. “The ANC has been promising everyone a better life, and yet here I am still suffering, I registered for an RDP house in 2002 when my house fell down after the heavy rains, but still today, I don’t have that house.” she continued,? “the ANC is useless, and I am not going to vote for it anymore!”
Locals in Cottondale village sitting in to fetch water. Photo Credit: Thandi Mkhatshwa
For some housing is the least of their worries, traveling a long distance to fetch water with a wheelbarrow is what is stressing them. “Don’t think because you see me on the streets looking all neat and clean that everything is fresh at home. No, I have to travel five kilometers to the well to carry water everyday. We share the water with the animals,” said Constance Mkansi, a 25 year old who resides in the village Cottondale.? She continued to add that the government has been promising them running water since 1994. Three seniors in Mkansi’s village have already drowned in the well whilst trying to catch water.
As the ANC prepares for the elections, the fallout from Party President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial lingers. Zuma’s lawyers agued that the charges brought against their client were nothing but a political plot so he wouldn’t become the next president of South Africa. Charges of corruption against Zuma were dropped. The judge ruled that the charges were not properly filed. He also wasn’t convinced that the charges brought against Zuma were not politically motivated. [Charges against Zuma were re-instated by a higher court.]Subsequently the ANC forced Thabo Mbeki to step down as the president of South Africa. Kgalema Mothlante was sworn in as the president of South Africa until 2009 election. Certain members of the ANC did not agree with the change, so they resigned and have started their own party, Congress of the People (COPE).?
In a short period of time COPE has gained many supporters in all the nine provinces of South Africa. For the first time since 1994, another political party is set to provide the ANC with a lot of competition. It is promising people a corrupt-free country and also more opportunities in terms of jobs and service delivery.? “I like the new party. I think it has a lot of potentials,” said Mpho Ngwenya. “It’s still fresh and it needs to prove itself. People should give the new party a chance. And I feel it is about time a new party took over because the ANC is too comfortable in governing sit, and they are not doing us any good.”
However, not everyone is hopeful that the party will bring anything different to the communities.? “The people who formed Congress of the People party are the same people who come from same party that has failed us,” said Thulisile Mabuza in a loud, worried tone. “They have failed us before. Who is to say they won’t do the same again after they get our votes.”??