It’s just after 10am on election day in Diepkloof, Soweto, and a group of five young men sit around a table at a local tavern as alcohol flows freely between them.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared November 1 a public holiday in an effort to make it easier for registered voters to cast their ballots, but some Soweto youth say they won’t be wasting their holiday in a voting queue.
Among the group at the tavern is Sandile Magazi (26), who seems to be the only one willing to vote in today’s local government elections.
“I needed beer first then I will go vote,” he tells City Press.
Reaching for a bottle, Magazi says:
He says he needs to vote so that next time “I am part of a protest, I know exactly why I feel I have the right to do so”.
However, the three others around the table are clear about the fact that they will not be voting.
Hasare Moloi (26), says: “They gave us a holiday, right? I will enjoy it and I will not go and vote. Vote for what? For who?
“I will sit here and spend my money. I will not waste my energy, I will enjoy my day off.
“We are tired. They [politicians] do nothing for us. Which other party is there to vote for if not the ANC? After you vote, you as a South African citizen are out of the minds of politicians,” he says as his friends nod in agreement.
Outside the tavern, the sounds of holiday music fill the streets as local car wash businesses fill up. Less than 500m from Magazi and his friends, voting is underway at the Ekhaya Centre. The voting station is quiet, with mostly elderly residents coming in to cast their vote.
Wheelchair-bound Martin Tloubatla (82) has been a resident of the area for “more than half my life”. Wheeled into the voting station by his 19-year-old great-grandson, Tloubatla tells City Press that he was part of the first cohort of South Africans who cast their ballots in 1994 and would not be deterred from doing so again.
“Voting is something that has always been important to me,” he said. But he is aware of voter apathy among young people, adding, “even this young son of mine made it clear that he will not vote.”
No voting will happen here
Just down the road from the voting station, a liquor outlet is abuzz with people of all ages.
“It’s a holiday,” resident Thabo Mofolo proudly says. Like his neighbours, the 27-year-old said he would rather spend his day doing what makes him happy rather than pleasing “those who only care on days like these when they want our votes”.
Last week, a large group of disgruntled residents barricaded the Soweto Highway using rocks, burning tyres and trees as they protested a lack of electricity in their township.
The enraged community members had vowed to shut down all polling stations on election day. However, by Monday, the threats seemed not to have materialised as the two voting stations in Diepkloof that City Press visited remain calm and open.
Nomzamo Park on protest alert
Ten minutes away from Diepkloof, an SA Police Service nyala is parked outside the Nomzamo Park Community Hall as residents of the area gradually make their way into the voting station.
According to an Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) official at the voting station, police presence had been put in place after “a rumour was making the rounds that community members would disrupt voting because of the electricity issues they have been facing”.
Last year, angry Nomzamo Park residents took to the street in protest, saying they had not had electricity for more than eight months.
The official says that, while turnout had been slow throughout the morning, he is expecting more voters to make their way to the station later in the day, adding that the voting station had had to turn away South Africans who wished to vote but had not registered to do so.
“We had about 1 421 registered voters, but only 1 356 were verified and 65 have been rejected.”
According to the IEC, over 99% of the 23 148 voting stations opened on time.
“As at 12.30pm over 3.5 million voters had already voted,” the commission said in a statement.