'On voting day, I felt somewhat left out'

2014-05-08 12:23

May 7 was a proud day for South Africa with millions of citizens exercising their right to vote. But the voices of many non-voters went unheard amid the election fever.

For some, the elections were simply another day in a long list of public holidays. Peter Chauke (23) has lived in South Africa for three years and polling day proved to be a great day for rest.

“I’m happy for the day off. It was a relaxed day,” Chauke said, who works at the airport. He doesn’t follow South African politics, but believes it’s a better country than his home in Guinea.

“I like to work and there are a lot of jobs here,” he said.

However, other foreign nationals are waiting anxiously for their chance to queue alongside their South African neighbours. Hafizishdaq Ahmad (35) moved to South Africa from Pakistan 10 years ago. He has yet to apply for citizenship, but hopes to do so for the next election.

“Maybe next [time] I can register my vote,” Ahmad said. He owns a spaza shop in Braamfontein, but has seen a lot of changes since he opened its doors in 2007.

“The ANC is not running the country like before,” Ahmad said. Since moving here, he has been troubled by the weakening rand and the growing corruption.

“They told me that South Africa is the best country to run a business. It’s different now,” Ahmad said.

Zimbabwean-born honours student Tendai Dube (22) moved to South Africa with her family when she was only a month old. Yesterday was her 22nd birthday, but she felt little cause for celebration. She’s a little pessimistic about South African politics. She applied for citizenship three years ago, but still hasn’t received the necessary documentation.

Dube has been in the country for all five democratic elections and has permanent residency, but it was only yesterday that she felt an eagerness to vote.

“I was surprised and shocked by my reaction ... in general I feel like everyone else. I feel included, but yesterday I felt somewhat left out.”

She’s not alone in wanting to feel included.

“I would love to vote if I were a citizen,” said Wale, a Nigerian-born immigrant. Because he did not have permit papers, he did not feel comfortable giving his surname.

“South Africa is a good country. You can sleep and eat. I’m not going to talk badly about the country,” he said.

However, he shares the same sentiments as Ahmad. Wale moved to South Africa in 2008 and has experienced the same decline in job opportunities, as well as xenophobia.

“Because I’m a foreigner, they won’t give me a job,” he said. Wale is self-employed as a stylist and moonlights in TV advertising. He was joined by his friend, Kenny, who made the move from Nigeria in 2009. Both men said they supported the ANC.

“We support the ANC because the ANC brought us here,” Kenny said. The only issue he had was that, he claims, the ANC-run government is slow in providing permit papers. Without permits, Wale, Kenny and hundreds like them are unable to obtain South African citizenship even after living in the country for the mandatory 10 years.

“I wish to vote here, I wish to have kids here. If we were citizens, we will go and vote ANC,” Kenny said.

» Click here for the live election results.

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