'Give us jobs not food'

2014-01-05 14:00

Tlokwe residents rage against the ANC’s unfulfilled promises of food packages before the by-elections were held in the impoverished town.

Two days after New Year’s Day, Lisbeth Motabe’s cupboards are bare.

She says: “It is only the third of the month, but there is no food here. I don’t know when this will be refilled. There is no help here. Only promises.”

Motabe lives in one of Tlokwe Ward?7’s informal settlements in Potchefstroom.

The ward is one of the most hotly contested ones in the Tlokwe municipality.

It held a by-election in September after its councillor, Stone Mahlabe, was fired for colluding with the DA in the famous ousting of the ANC in Tlokwe.

“They came here in yellow T-shirts, took down our names, the names of our children and promised us food packages and help. But where are the food packages? There is nothing here. Just their empty promises.”

“They” are the ANC according to Precious Obusite, who spits on the ground when asked about the food parcels she was promised.

“I registered. They promised. I got nothing till this day.”

A crowd forms around her as she raises her voice from under a rickety umbrella shielding her from the Potchefstroom sun. Dust flies as a delivery vehicle negotiates its way along the rutted dirt road. The whole settlement reeks of the aftermath of New Year’s Eve festivities.

Joseph Seithlolo says he was also promised food packages by the “yellow T-shirts”, but they didn’t come back after the by-election.

Daphne Manju says she considered voting to get the food package, but did not make the effort.

She says: “They promised us groceries every month till I don’t know when. I wanted to believe them, but I didn’t.”

In the 20-strong crowd, no one admits to having voted in the by-election.

Obusite laughs about the promises.

“I didn’t vote. I voted ANC all my life. But I still live in this s***-hole. Not many people in this township voted in this election. I won’t vote. What does it help? We vote for nothing.”

Joanna Romyna says: “They come here with their glib mouths and promises of food, and you will be the food if you believe them. If they had given us food, I would have eaten it and still not have voted.”

Councillor Mahlabe listens as he stands in a corner.

The ANC won the ward with 90% support in the past decade with Mahlabe as the candidate. But on September 18, Mahlabe won as an independent with 61% of the votes.

He was the only one of the fired ANC councillors who managed to win his ward back as an independent candidate. “I did this despite all these food parcel shenanigans,” he says.

“If the people don’t like me, they can vote me out. I want to work for them, help them. But I have no food parcels to give.”

In September, the DA and independent candidates accused the ANC of buying votes with food after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini visited the town shortly before the by-election.

Mahlabe said he heard what had happened and was livid. But he could not find anyone in his ward who had received food.

Jakes Ramela jokes: “That was mostly an ANC event. We heard that you had to carry an ANC card.”

Martha Malibatse says some of her friends attended and received food parcels. But they also decided not

to vote.

Obusite says any political party trying to buy votes with food packages has to think twice.

“We eat the food, it is finished and we are hungry again.

“They have to give us jobs and land to build our houses if they want us to vote. No service delivery, no vote,” she says.

Food for votes?

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