How I exercise my X – I vote for repaired pot-holes, enforced by-laws and the safety of children

2011-03-26 07:47

I am certainly going to be one of the millions of South Africans to choose my councillors for the next five years.

I have been a loyal South African who values his vote, and I have made sure that my voice and my vote has counted in all the democratic elections since 1994.

Come May 18, I will be at my local voting station early to choose the person whom I believe will best deliver on my everyday needs.

During the last municipal elections, it had only been a year since I had moved into a suburb in the west of Johannesburg, and then my vote was based on racial lines.

However, the past five years have afforded me an opportunity to look at the local government elections from a different perspective: one that looks at what the councillor I choose can deliver to me as an individual first and then as a resident of the City of Johannesburg.

Going into these elections, I am not as spoiled for choice as I would have expected.

The ANC promised to bring candidate councillors to community meetings so residents could have a say in their choice of representatives.

I could have missed that meeting but I didn’t, as I make sure that I am abreast of what is happening in my ward.

Parties have now submitted their prospective councillor lists to the Independent Electoral Commission – without my input of who I wanted to be my councillor.

This is not a biggie for me, though.

My councillor, Mike Tonkin from the DA, has in the past five years, done extremely well in my books.

I experience crime like any other South African, drive on potholed roads, smell the stench of rubbish bins when they are not moved for days due to striking workers, and experience random electricity cuts.

Despite all this, I still feel I have received value from my incumbent councillor and making a choice to dump him based on the colour of his skin or the party he represents will be an injustice to a well-deserving individual.

I have learned that these elections are not about which party ultimately wins, but about what your councillor can do for you and your community.

There was a time when I could not let my kids wander the streets. My wife would drive home and tell me she nearly ran over some drunkard on the streets. They were patrons of an illegal shebeen operating in my neighbourhood.

Several attempts to close it down had failed until our councillor intervened and told us which route to follow.

Residents’ power emerged victorious and my kids can now ride their bicycles and disappear around the street corner without me following them for fear of someone stealing their prized little two-wheelers.

The women in the neighbourhood can walk the streets with their children and not fear bumping into a drunk man urinating.

In the years I have lived here, I have never driven past a pothole that has been standing open for longer than a month – unlike in many other areas.

Here, potholes are filled timeously and there is regular maintenance of the roads and pavements.

The rubbish bins are emptied on time – unless municipal workers are on strike.

In our attempts to fight domestic crime, this councillor attends our residents’ meetings to give us feedback from the council’s side on crime and also from the police’s cluster meeting for the area.

This is what I call service delivery and this is what local government is all about to me.

The other candidate councillors for this election have not told me what they will offer and choosing them would be like going on a blind date.

Their failure to come and knock on my door means my vote will go to that face that I am familiar with.

I am not going to dump this relationship for something or someone I don’t know and am ignorant as to what he or she represents.

Perhaps when the next local government elections comes along, they will do better and visit my neighbourhood and knock on my door?

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