Mzansi Voters: Mnikelo Ndabankulu

The one thing shack dwellers like Mnikelo Ndabankulu are guaranteed of after every election, is more building material for their mjondolos.
Once the ballots have been cast, election posters make their way into informal settlements like Foreman Road, a sprawl of rusted metal, wood and cardboard shacks arranged on a precipitous slope overlooking the middle-class suburb of Clare Estate in Durban.

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, 25, Unemployed activist, Foreman Road informal settlement, eThekwini, KZN

Vote quote: “I am not sure which party I will vote for in this election.” (Photo: Rogan Ward)
Ndabankulu has been living here in a one room shack since 2001. The youngest of six children, he dropped out of school after Grade 11 and moved to Durban from Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape because “there were more jobs and better incentives in the city”.

Yet aside from helping out in his brother’s spaza shop in Foreman Road, he has not worked much in the past eight years. His involvement with Abahlali baseMjondolo—the shack dwellers’ movement that started in Durban in 2005 and spread through KZN and the Western and Eastern Cape—has kept him busy.
“I’m single and I don’t have children,” he says, “so it’s been easier for me to get by with just helping out at the shop.”

Born on June 16, the 25-year-old can trace his lineage through the mounted warriors who defied the implementation of the Bantu Authority system during the 1959 Pondoland Uprising. Rebellion is in Mnikelo Ndabankulu’s blood.

I was born into the ANC and I have voted for the party in every election except for the last one when Abahlali decided on the ‘No Land. No House. No Vote.’ campaign. When we formed Abahlali many of us were doing so as unsatisfied members of the ANC— it was about fighting for the practicalities of the theory in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution.

I am not sure which party I will vote for in this election. The DA or Cope knows that it will have to prioritise development in poor black areas - to build houses for shack dwellers—if they want to market their party among the poor and stay in power.

The ANC as an opposition party will definitely worry those parties, now in opposition, to deliver. The ANC will have to, at some point, learn to move away from the “when Jesus comes home” mentality and realize that if they get people’s votes they need to remain in contact with them.

I like the kind of leadership that will not compromise on its principles and its promises— The ANC has lobbied support for elections and when we remind them of the promises they made, when we quote them, they get angry with us.

What happened to the Cornubia development? [which would have included 15 000 low cost houses] [eThekwini mayor Obed] Mlaba made a promise before the last election. Then nothing. He mentioned it again before this election, why? Is it just an empty promise? Or, if they are sincere, why has building not started? And where has the money gone, if it has not been built?

When we say we want houses, we are not saying we want houses in general. We need government to talk to us about how removals may affect our access to our jobs and transport and about the possibility of uplifting informal settlements that already exist.

People in the mjondolos are expecting more from Zuma because he is a Zulu. I don’t see why that should make a difference. Zuma is a Zulu, but he tells people what they want to hear. You are never sure of what he actually believes in. He is like an unwabu [a colour shifting snake] who tells the workers what they want to hear, the investors what they want to hear and the Shembes what they want to hear.

I find the dishonesty in politics frustrating.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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