Rustenburg - Residents in the mining town of Marikana in Rustenburg say they have seen and heard it all from politicians trying to woo them for their votes whenever election season comes around, and 2016 is no different.
David Xabala, who has been a miner at Lonmin for the past 16, says he has heard it all.
"We hear the promises they make but we don't know whether they will or won't do as they promise. But we will vote and only then will we be able to see if those promises will actually come true.
"We'll see," he says sitting on a porch with his wife and young son on a Tuesday afternoon. He rests a bandaged arm on his lap as he speaks to News24 reporters who are in the town for the week. He says his right wrist is healing from an operation earlier this month.
The 53-year-old says he slipped while walking underground at work on June 4.
"I slipped and fell, I used my right hand to gain balance and my bone snapped," Xabala said.
Not much improvement
During the operation metal pins were inserted in his hand to keep his bone straight. He has been recovering at home since, and says he not sure whether he will be sent back underground once he has healed.
"Maybe they are going to change my job and place me above the ground. If my hand does heal and I can still grab hold of things, then I can go back down there. But If I can't maybe they'll send me up," he says.
Originally from Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape, Xabala said he had been in Marikana long enough to see that living conditions had not improved much for the residents. There was limited access to water and the living conditions in informal settlements were even worse, he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters posters were dominant in the area's streets, promising free Wi-Fi, water, electricity and spacious houses.
"The politicians keep coming but we don't know, we'll see from their actions. I'm not convinced by any of them, so we'll just wait to see what they actually do."
No real accountability
James Mabika, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal, disagreed with sentiments that there has not been much change in the area over the years.
"Since I arrived here, things weren't like the way they are now… If I had to tell you about some of the things that used to happen here at Wonderkop you would not believe me."
Mabika said before South Africa became a democracy, there had always been a heavy and constant presence of police near the mine.
He also recalled how miners were forced to live in designated hostels based solely on their nationalities.
He said the number of work-related deaths were also unreasonably high in apartheid South Africa, and that there was no real accountability.
"The number of deaths has gone down a lot. The way that people used to die before, there never used to be investigations to figure out what had caused the person's death and things like that."
He said they no longer lived in hostels where about 16 to 20 people shared a unit.
'I'm just here to work'
"We are happier because our lives have changed since then," he said.
Mabika arrived in Marikana in 1988 when he was 22. Now 52, he said he still had another seven working years left in him before going into retirement. He felt fit and healthy but he also had a wife and four children to look after.
"I have a family back at home, I'm just here to work. They know what work I'm doing and that I'm doing it for them," he said.
He complained that the level of crime in the area was too high and that service delivery in the area could do with some improvements.
There was not enough access to water, electricity and effective street-lights. Residents were often attacked or mugged in the evenings. He also said the proliferation of shacks needed to be addressed due to the high number of fire-related deaths.
"Maybe if they could build them a metre apart because it's obvious that if one shack catches fire then the ones next to it will burn as well.
"That's the least they can do because shacks aren't going to go away, people will continue to live in them as their families grow."
The African National Congress got 40%, 44% and 52% of ballots cast in all three voting stations in Marikana during the 2014 national and provincial elections.
A miner's wife, who asked not to be named, said she would be casting a vote back home in the Eastern Cape because although she no longer had faith in the political parties, she still wanted to exercise her right to vote.
"The promises never end," she says laughing. "They never end."
"They are quick to come and ask for our votes and make us promises but they aren't quick to sort out our problems.
"But it's not a problem because we will still cast our votes, we have to exercise our right to vote.
She said people needed to learn to have more patience and ultimately things would work themselves out.
"Things will come in time, they always take time, they never come in a rush."
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