‘Forgotten’ citizens can see the conference, but it won’t help them

2017-12-15 13:45
Bar owner David Classen hopes ANC delegates will visit his place. INSET: Riverlea pensioner, Kenneth Smith, says drugs and alcohol have destroyed the community.

Bar owner David Classen hopes ANC delegates will visit his place. INSET: Riverlea pensioner, Kenneth Smith, says drugs and alcohol have destroyed the community. (Sabelo Nsele)

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While the ANC elective conference has generated a lot of interest nationally and abroad, residents of the impoverished township of Riverlea, a stone’s throw from the conference venue, are paying little attention.

“I was born here and since I finished school in 2012 I have never been able to find any job. My parents, my friends and most of the people that I know around here are struggling.

“The government has never done anything for us — why should we worry about who will become the next president when we know very well that the person will do nothing do change our lives?” Mpho Matjila (27) said.

The area, on a hill facing the iconic Nasrec Expo Centre, stands out like a sore thumb in comparison with developments in the area, including the multi-million rand FNB stadium.

David Classen, a 54-year-old bar owner, said despite the community having played a major role in supporting local soccer by spending the little they have in purchasing soccer tickets for matches played at the stadium, they have very little to show for it.

“If it were not for us some of the soccer games would have been played before an empty stadium. But despite that soccer bosses and the government have done nothing to try to develop this area and its people.

“People are not interested in the conference because they have been lied to by politicians before. Whether it is Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma who wins people have lost hope,” he said.

An Orlando Pirates diehard, Classen has even named his bar “Buccaneers” in honour of his favourite soccer club.

“Even though business is very bad in this area due to unemployment, local Orlando Pirates supporters have kept me going.

“I heard there would be thousands of delegates at the conference, I’m hoping that some of them are Pirates fans who will come here in evenings to support me,” he said.

Kenneth Smith, a pensioner who survives on government’s old-age grant, said politicians had looked on as the Riverlea community was destroyed by social ills such as alcohol and drug abuse.

“Crime is very bad in this area due to drugs. Politicians only come here during elections time only to disappear thereafter.

“As the Riverlea community we have watched as other townships were being developed, the government has done nothing for us. I hope those ANC people who will be at the conference will take some time to visit this area so that they could see how we have been neglected,” he said.

More than 5 000 ANC delegates will on Saturday converge at the Nasrec Expo Centre, where a new ruling party president will be elected on Sunday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  anc conference

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