Tshwane residents have lost faith in the ANC and complain bitterly about crime
Nelson Moroawana is a street vendor who sells sweets, chips and fruit a few blocks from the Gautrain station in Pretoria. He lives in Atteridgeville and originally comes from Limpopo.
He has been making a living in this way since 1998 and has living in the Tshwane metro for 14 years. He has registered to vote and plans to use his X in the local government elections come August 3.
“We vote for service delivery to come to us,” he says. But this often means people lose focus on what they can do for themselves.
He is critical of South Africans who destroy public and private property when protesting against the ANC. He says he lives among many foreigners and he sees them hustling to make a living and he feels South Africans need to embody the same spirit.
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His biggest issue is crime in Atteridgeville, where he says the nyaope addicts are the biggest perpetrators.
A total of 1 231 crimes committed in Atteridgeville in 2015 were flagged as drug related, almost double that of other areas in the metro, such as Mamelodi, Soshanguve, Pretoria West and Sunnyside.
In Pretoria, criminals target his business. “Crime really affects me negatively,” he says. “The police need to protect small businesses from criminals.”
There were just short of 13 000 crimes committed in the city centre in 2015, and almost 20% of those were robbery or burglary at a nonresidential place.
For about four years, the street vendors had a major problem with the metropolitan police and felt they were being harassed.
“The police were saying that the people selling on the street were responsible for crimes and were selling drugs,” Moroawana says. “It was all negative.”
But the street vendors organised themselves and formed the Tshwane Barekishi Forum, and then approached the mayor. They subsequently met the metro police and sorted out the misconceptions.
“The relationship has been a lot better since then,” he says.
Tshwane is the largest municipality in South Africa, covering 6 368km2. It houses a population of 2.9-million, in 911 536 households, according to the 2011 census. That is an average of 464 people per square kilometre and three per household.
Of the population, 72% are of working age, but 24% are unemployed, with youth unemployment sitting at 33%. Only 34% of young people over the age of 20 have matric and only 23% go on to tertiary education.
Thirty-six percent of Tshwane residents live without piped water to their homes, 23% don’t have a flushing toilet, 19% are without weekly refuse collection and 11% don’t have electricity.
Crime and policing seem to be the hottest issues on most Tshwane residents’ lips – from the resident of the wealthy suburb of Montana at the foothills of the Magaliesberg (“there are people in the street that are not meant to be there”) to the government employee having lunch at McDonalds, who lives in Pretoria West and had his car broken into while it was in his yard. “The police took two weeks to come take fingerprints,” he says.
One resident was anxious about an ATM bombing that had taken place near his home in Elardus Park at 3am. A group of men with automatic weapons shot a security guard during the heist.
Shoni Rabambi, a Pretoria West resident is a lawyer with the state attorney.
He singles out the way that the metro police and South African Police Service officers harass Tshwane residents, particularly foreigners. “They are a law unto themselves,” he says.
Housing is a burning issue. With all the informal settlements in Tshwane, it’s one of the needs that must be addressed, he says. He also has gripes about electricity billing problems.
Another person with safety and security on her mind is Malebo Tlhagale, who works at the Wimpy in Sunnypark Mall and lives in Mamelodi Extension Six.
She is registered and is going to vote. Housing is also a big issue for her.
Like Moraowana, she attributes most of the crime in her neighbourhood to the nyaope addicts.
Her right hand is heavily bandaged. She broke it a few weeks ago while trying to escape from a protest, during which buses were burnt. “I was trying to get away from the fire in the street and I fell.”
In the middle of June, Tshwane was rocked by protests after the ANC announced Thoko Didiza as the mayoral candidate for the municipality. Buses were burnt, shops were looted and at least four people were killed.
The protests have left scars on many residents. They detest the violent nature of the protests and the looting.
“How do you loot people’s shops because you are angry with the ANC?” an Atteridgeville man asked.
His friend adds: “You come into my place to steal from me, we are going to have a problem.”
In the 2011 local government elections, the ANC took 55.3% of the vote and the Democratic Alliance 38.7%. The ANC took 68 wards and the DA 37.
There are 210 council seats in Tshwane, 105 for ward councillors and 105 for proportional representative councillors. That left the ANC with a 11-seat majority in the council, the DA with 82 seats, and the Freedom Front Plus and Congress of the People (Cope) getting four seats and two seats respectively.
Last week’s Ispos election poll had the DA getting 39% of the vote, marginally above its performance five years ago. But it showed the ANC losing more than 50% of its electorate support – falling to 26%.
Some of that support will go to the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is predicted to get 12% of the vote. The EFF is the only major party that didn’t contest the 2011 elections.
Of the Ipsos sample, 16% of voters were still undecided, which could make it a much tighter race.
Conwell Mokhabela, a businessperson who lives in Pretoria West, says the race for the municipality is going to be “highly contested”.
“If the ANC were to lose Tshwane, it will be a huge wake-up call for them. They think they will rule until Jesus comes back; we know that is not going to happen.”
Yet Mokhabela says he will be putting his cross next to the ANC for ideological reasons.
“They represent what I stand for. It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for EFF. I am a capitalist and they want socialism. I am not convinced by the DA. I still feel like it’s a white man’s party,” he says.
Outside the Tshwane South College Atteridgeville campus at about 10am, three young men agree to talk local government politics anonymously.
“I’m registered to vote and I’m voting DA,” says the tallest.
He is a qualified artisan but can’t find work. “I am voting for the DA because I want to see job creation and opportunities for young people.”
He says the government has been in Atteridgeville fixing robots for the past two months but he says he is not fooled by it – it’s just because of the elections.
His two friends are students, studying auditing and civil engineering and both live in Centurion. They have not registered to vote.
Not far from there, President Jacob Zuma’s face beams down from a giant billboard, with the pay-off line: “Together advancing people’s power to every community”.
The industrial heartland of Rosslyn is on lunch break and the streets around the shops are busy.
“This country is corrupt,” says a young timber worker, who lives in Soshanguve. “I want our government to listen to the people and stop corruption.”
He says he feels South Africans do not want Zuma as president and that the ANC are forcing him on the electorate.
Turning the spotlight to his neighbourhood, Extension Four, he says the biggest problem he faces is crime. “I was robbed at gunpoint last month. I could tell from their accents that they were not South African.
“People are crying when they get mugged and the cops are just in the station drinking tea,” he says.
A few hundred metres from him, a nurse who lives in Soshanguve, says her garden furniture was stolen the day before.
Many people in Rosslyn are not planning to vote, even if they are registered.
“What’s the point?”, “I don’t have time to stand in a queue”, “I don’t care about these elections” and “What will it change?” were some of their responses.
Perhaps their mood was best expressed by a cook from Soshanguve named Wonderman. “I will not be voting. I am hustling to be a breadwinner. I am trying to provide for my parents,” he says.
He has had his job for a month.
All the ANC posters in Atteridgeville that can be reached have been vandalised – Zuma’s head has been torn from them. But the ANC logo and campaign message are still intact.
In the shopping centre, a nattily dressed, navy-suited Mamelodi businessperson, who is meeting some friends, agrees to talk politics as long as he remains anonymous.
“I am considering change, whether that is Cope, the ACDP [African Christian Democratic Party] or the DA,” he says. “It’s time to give another a chance.
“It’s like cars. If you don’t drive them all, how do you know which one is best? You might be driving around, going ‘I have the best car’, and you find out it’s the worst.”