Jabu Mncwango from the KwaMashu Hostel says she remembers seeing an ANC supporter beaten for wearing party colours but it doesn't deter her.
Forty-year-old Jabu Mncwango, from the KwaMashu Hostel in ward 39, says she once remembers seeing an ANC supporter beaten for wearing party colours in the early 2000s. The man was beaten so badly, with fists and sjamboks, that his T-shirt was shredded.
It is an indelible image, yet it does not deter her from wearing her party colours with pride. On voting day, it is an orange skirt and a white blouse denoting her unequivocal support for the National Freedom Party, which is competing in the national elections for the first time after splitting from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 2011.
Mncwango is unemployed except in her role as a ward committee member and says she got into politics “to enable improvement in the lives of people – especially because we live in a place like this”.
Her husband and children have misgivings about her involvement. Since the beginning of the year at least eight people have been killed in politically motivated violence.
Mncwango says she left the IFP because “everything in its structures operated by force”. She says she was placed on a hit list because of intra-party squabbles over control of resources.
“My family doesn’t approve but if God sees fit for me to live, I’ll continue to live, and if he wants me dead, I’ll die.”
Despite the danger and the fact that shacks now obscure the original brick structures and put pressure on services, Mncwango says there are redeeming aspects to hostel living.
“It just needs to be improved. In some ways living here is easy,” she says outside eMazambaneni, a voting station in the KwaMashu hostel. “You pay hardly any rent” [rent is about R38 a bed, a month], including services. If I was living in the township,” she adds, “I’d pay probably 10 times that amount and still have to fork out for electricity.”
Mncwango only joined the IFP in 2009. But her political knowledge has grown, and she has remained on the ward committee since leaving to join the NFP. Asked about her thoughts on the milestone of 20 years of democracy, and how she reads the trajectory of the country, she turns to politicking: “In the ruling party, it’s still family first, then the party, then governance. In Nongoma, where I lived [before], we only got taps and toilets last year. Here, the first hurdle to jump is an old one: political intolerance. But maybe this election will go some way towards that.”