Local not so lekker for citizens in rural Limpopo

Using piles of rocks, protesters have blocked the only road leading into Morutsi village in Limpopo. The strip of orange soil has been turned into a mud bath by unseasonal rains and a heavy flow of taxis ferrying ­voters to the polling stations. The sudden roadblock is an attempt by non-voter lobbyists to disrupt polling, say passers-by.

Some vehicles have stopped at the barricade and stones come hurtling through the morning air at the Mail & Guardian car. Then more determined drivers confront the group and remove the obstruction and the dissidents quickly vanish into the dense surrounding bush.

“They say we shouldn’t vote for the ANC because they’ve done nothing for us. We should show them that we’re angry by not voting,” says local resident Justice Magwati.

The Mail & Guardian travelled around Johannesburg on election day to find out how people felt about casting their vote. Service delivery seemed to be the main concern for most voters, followed closely by housing and job creation: South Africa wants results.

Morutsi lies in the foothills of Limpopo’s Mopani district — a world away from the relative prosperity of the nearest town, Tzaneen. Local police say they have not heard about the roadblock and neither has the Independent Electoral Commission’s provincial electoral officer, Nkaro Mateta. He maintains that voting in the district has proceeded smoothly, except for some instances of ­intimidation that are “continuing to happen”.

A visit to Morutsi confirms that most voters are undeterred by the roadblock. But petty as it is, the protest is significant: it is unprecedented during elections in this part of rural Limpopo, which has been overwhelmingly loyal to the ANC since 1994. The ANC’s Mopani district chairperson, Joshua Motlou, concedes that the non-voter trend is a concern but insists that vigorous campaigning will win back support for the party.

Random interviews make it clear that many loyal supporters in this rural ANC stronghold have become disillusioned with the ruling party. But in many cases they cannot bring themselves to vote for anyone else.

And this is the Democratic Alliance’s problem — how to translate anger about the ANC’s governance and lack of service delivery into active votes for itself.

High school teacher Nomvulelelo Sibi says she wants to “damage” the ANC but will not give her vote to another party, especially not the DA. “The DA doesn’t care about Limpopo. They’re only here to get our votes so Helen Zille can brag at how well she’s doing,” says Sibi.

Patience Nyoka (22) lives with her five siblings in the informal settlement of Dan village. The family’s corrugated iron sheet house is too fragile to keep out the rain and wind. “They [the politicians] come here when it’s election time and promise us all these things, but then where are they?” asks Nyoka. “My ­family was promised an RDP house but instead we had to build one ourselves. We don’t even have water.” Still Nyoka cannot bring herself to vote for another party.

Spaza shop owner Vusi Mathebula (53) is prepared to give the ANC another chance. Citing the “racist policies of opposition parties” he says: “You can’t betray the ANC. For sure they have problems, but look, they’ve promised to change their candidate lists next time. They learn from their mistakes.”

Samuel Phasha (27) says his rejection of the ANC applies only to the municipal poll and the party’s local government candidates. “We want the ANC to learn that it must work for us, so [now] we will vote for others — maybe UDM [United Democratic Movement] or even the DA. In the national elections we’ll vote ANC. But [now] we want our councillors to know that we can remove them.”

For exclusively M&G articles and multimedia on the local government elections 2011 click here:

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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