/ 17 October 2005

Strong belief in ANC persists

Tell me exactly what difference there is between the Vaal in 1994 and the Vaal in 2005, challenged a resident sitting on a street corner in Small Farms, Evaton.

This old township was visited by President Thabo Mbeki three years ago. He pledged to turn its fortunes around with a new strategy called the Evaton Renewal Project.

Molefi Moyana’s question was therefore a jolt. But he continued: ”Why do you think I am selling dagga here? Look at the sewerage running through that field and those houses. I can’t see any change except this fake tar road, which already has potholes and no drainage. The only meetings our councillor Petros Mokoena convenes are ANC meetings where they discuss their political lists for the next elections.”

Moyana was unaware that Mbeki is due to return to Evaton for an imbizo this Sunday — but he insisted this was not likely to change anything.

But his despair is not characteristic of all Vaal residents — in some cases, strong belief in the ANC persists in adversity.

In Sharpeville, Teboho Katze and about 40 other people sit under a tree after cleaning the local cemetery, a ritual they started doing voluntarily and in the hope that the council will eventually keep a promise to pay them.

In December last year, they got a once-off grant of R600 each. But they remain optimistic that Mbeki will deliver the goods.

”My friends and I remain even more committed to the ANC because we realise it is the local councillors who are failing us. The problem is that councillors are not nominated by the community but by card-carrying ANC members. So we have no choice but to vote for the party because we can’t choose an individual.”

Katze added: ”We don’t need a weak ANC because if the ANC is weak, then government will be weak.”

Katze and his comrades are mild compared with the radicals in the Sedibeng Organised Residents Forum (SORF). This umbrella body for 17 civic and political organisations has called for the complete dissolution of the local council, saying there is little in the way of delivery.

Rev Enoch Tlebere, of the affiliated Christian Knowledge Independent Churches Forum, said SORF recently organised a march to channel people’s anger. ”There has been no development at all since the 1980s and the people are angry. The Vaal is like an isolated place, neither in Gauteng nor in the Free State. We hear of Gauteng’s Blue IQ, which helps in Johannesburg, Alexandra, Ekurhuleni and Pretoria — but does nothing in the Vaal.”

Mbeki faces a tough task. He will have to convince sceptics like SORF that his visit is not just about drumming up support for local councillors before the local government elections.