'No use in voting' - Thomson informal settlement residents

2016-07-09 14:16

Kimberley – Tearing freshly packed morogo (wild spinach leaves) into an orange plastic bowl, Kathrina Olivier remained unapologetic about her decision not to vote in the upcoming local government elections on August 3.

"I have been living here for four years and we are still struggling - nothing has improved in this area," the 34-year-old told News24 on Monday, at her home in the Thomson informal settlement, about 40km outside Kimberley in the Northern Cape.

Dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, Olivier sat on a chair outside her neighbour’s shack, slowly tearing her morogo with her bare hands as she prepared a meal for her family. 

When asked whether she was voting in the upcoming local elections, Olivier - who first spoke in Afrikaans and then switched to Tswana - scratched her head and said, "there is no use in voting".

"The ANC has failed us. They were here yesterday [Sunday] making more promises, but we don't trust anyone," she said.

In the dry and dusty informal settlement, the struggle for service delivery has come down to casting a ballot or not, for some residents.

Nearby, a group of young boys were playing soccer on a dusty field lined with dried yellow grass. 

Two adults and a child slowly walked past the field, carrying firewood stuffed inside plastic bags.

"The only party that we know is the ANC, and if I don’t want to vote for the ANC, then I am not voting for anyone else,” said Safariena Thisi, while playing cards with a young girl, close to her neatly kept shack.

The shack’s lounge was decorated with pictures of her daughter’s wedding, at least two crucifixes, drinking glasses and a painting of The Last Supper.

Thisi told News24 that the only time she saw change in the area was when the late Nelson Mandela was president.

The 66-year-old pointed at a primary school, a few metres from her home, and said the community had fought to get it.

Thisi has been living in the informal settlement for 16 years.

"I am not voting. I have had enough of empty promises. I don't see any use in voting because government is not doing anything for us. I don’t want to vote for any political party," she said, while glancing at her hands and rubbing her knees repeatedly.

"People die in this area because ambulances don’t reach us on time – we don’t have access to water and electricity and we have been voting for those things for a while – in this past five years, we are still crying for the same things even today."

Describing their plight, Thisi said water, electricity and toilets were a major concern in the area.

“Those things don’t satisfy us and the ANC is lying to us and they want us to listen to their promises. I am fed up; 16 years living in [an informal settlement] and we are still in darkness. We are struggling. We don’t have toilets. We dug our own toilets."

Another woman, who was seen hanging clothes a few metres away on the line, said she was unsure if she wanted to participate in the upcoming local elections.

The visibly shy elderly woman refused to comment further, then turned back to continue with her laundry, while her two dogs lay in the sun and a rooster roamed the yard.

A few metres from where she was, a group of young men gathered and a young boy pushed a wheelbarrow with empty buckets in it.

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