Rafiek Louw’s weapon of choice is a 20cm screwdriver with a yellow plastic grip that he carries hidden on his skinny body.
”People call me ‘Kaffers’ because I’m so brutal when killing or disciplining, it looks as though 30 kaffirs have dealt with you and not just me,” he says. Louw lives in Uitsig between Ravensmead and Elsiesriver. He is 47, unemployed, a drug user and a member of the 27s gang.
On Tuesday he was released from Riebeeck West prison where he was held for four days for ”taking without asking — I don’t steal”. In Uitsig Louw is a completely ordinary man. And if political parties want his vote, they are going about it in a pretty half-hearted way.
Few lampposts display the smiling face of unblemished DA-leader Helen Zille, the funny-shaped head of ANC president Jacob Zuma, Cope’s difficult-to-read posters or Patricia de Lille’s Timotei-hair blowing in the wind. In Gousblom Street somebody has added the word ”damage” to an ANC ”Together we can do more” poster.
Uitsig is home to 12 000 people, almost 90% of whom are coloured. Light fractures off the broken bottles in the roads, barbed wire encircles the two primary schools and high school, the churches have windows of wire-reinforced glass. The council hasn’t removed the rubbish for two months and plastic bags and refuse blow against every fence and gate.
Officially the unemployment rate is 40%, but it is probably higher. Most houses have their occupants following the shade, shooting the breeze all day long with feral dogs and gangs of youngsters on bicycles tearing down the streets.
Like scores of others, Louw and his friend Fabian Briessies skarrel (rummage) for a living, scouring the streets for taps, scrap, an open door or window, a dropped 5c coin. They make an average of R60 a day — enough to buy tik or Mandrax, sometimes food. There’s free entertainment when dogs chase an 18-year-old freaking out, displaying all the symptoms of a three-day tik binge: manic jerking, tremors, aggression, rapid speech.
A half-dressed three-year-old with snot hardened on her cheeks cowers behind her teenage sister’s legs as the tik kop runs down Connaught Road, spitting and screaming. Other onlookers howl with laughter.
”You want to understand Uitsig, you repeat: ‘A quarter for the daughter and the gram for the mam’ and you know daughters are tikking with their mothers, and you understand our Uitsig,” says Briessies. ”Or: ‘Hop op die piepie want niks is vernietie [Jump on the penis’ cause nothing comes for free].’ Then you know a lot of people here have nothing but their sex to pay for tik.”
Uitsig is an edgy place where horses, sheep and goats roam the streets competing with the non-schoolgoing children for shade. Almost half the residents dropped out of the education system before high school. Local police get four to six reports of child abuse or neglect daily.
Uitsig has been a DA stronghold since 1996, but ANC officials say they will take it this year. Said ANC local branch leader Jack Feris: ”The swart gevaar is gone — coloured people aren’t scared of the ANC any more. The people of Uitsig have voted for the DA for many years. Now they know the DA only cares for the wealthy. They won’t support them again. Over 70% of the people in parts of Uitsig are saying they’re going to vote ANC.”
There’s little evidence to back this claim. Most of those interviewed haven’t registered to vote. A local policeman said: ”Not even the cops are inspired to vote. I’m not voting. The people I’m locking up aren’t voting. The hope that things will change when you vote differently is gone, my friend.”
Feris believes the ANC will read the situation correctly this time. ”We’re going to ask for the big guns to come talk to the people, somebody who can speak Afrikaans — Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Pallo Jordan or Trevor Manuel.”
Mother of two Aviva Booysens, whose boyfriend is serving a three-and-half-year sentence for murder, isn’t one of the ANC’s ”70%”.
”This time I vote for the white woman. I used to vote for the ANC but we’re poorer now. I was laid off last year. I’ve been on the housing waiting list for 14 years. My life is kak. We’re not voting.”