Elections 2014: Walmer – united by name, divided by politics

“It’s like two different faces on the same person,” said Walmer Township resident Nozibele Mcunukelwa. “Walmer suburb and Walmer Township are so close, but the one is rich and the other one is poor.” 

Mcunukelwa was talking about two residential areas in Port Elizabeth with vastly different life experiences and election hopes. Walmer suburb is leafy green with boutique shops and neat streets. On Wednesday, long queues of voters stretched down the road next to lush lawns leading up to the Walmer Town Hall. On the wall at the Super Spar across the road is printed: “Under CCTV surveillance 24hrs”. 

Most of the people the Mail & Guardian spoke to outside the town hall said they had voted for the Democratic Alliance (DA). Sisters Keri (23) and Hayley (22) Plumstead were among them. 

“I like the way Cape Town is run … I hope Port Elizabeth can be the same,” Keri said. “I heard the ANC and the DA are fighting to take over the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole. I hope the DA gets it.” 

The next municipal elections will be held in 2016. The ANC won 51% of the votes and the DA 40% in the 2011 municipal elections.

Different story
At Walmer Primary school in the township a mere five-minute drive away, residents trickled into one of the classrooms to vote. Dogs and goats trawled the roads for food as residents dodged filthy water and sewage from broken drains. Ward councillors in the Walmer areas are ANC and DA members.

Mongezi Jomda (30), a Walmer township resident, said he voted for the ANC because he “saw positive change over the years and now I’m hoping for more change”. 

He had cuts on the bridge of his nose and forehead from an attack by local muggers, who hit him with a bottle a few days ago and stole his wallet and cellphone. 

Talking about the attack, Jomda said the ANC “does things bit by bit, hopefully they will get on to [crime] soon”. 

Mcunukelwa, who works for the South African Red Cross Society, said she lives just behind the school. “People here vote ANC mostly … that side, in the suburb, it’s DA,” she said. “In the township we have a problem with methane gas in the one area so they can’t build houses there … a lot of the toilets are still on a bucket system, there’s no water or electricity, and the people have to get water from the tap on the corner.” 

Mcunukelwa said incidents of crime were high at night and on the weekends “because the people here drink and there are always a lot of rapes”. The drinking also meant that “people defaulted on taking their medication for TB and HIV”. 

In the suburb, “the white people are privileged … they always have been”. When a drain broke in the township it was fixed in three to five days, “but if a drain breaks in the suburb, it’s fixed the same day”. 

It didn’t matter that South Africa was celebrating 20 years of democracy: “White people are still treated differently,” Mcunukelwa said.

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