Campaigning for the ANC means answering some hard questions
Being a governing party volunteer means you not only have to tell potential voters what your party can do but also why it hasn’t yet done it.
George Khumalo (36), an ANC volunteer in Olievenhoutbosch near Centurion, knows this very well and his calm demeanour is essential to the questions he’ll inevitably be asked. Residents in his area want to know why they still live in shacks, where the jobs are and why the ANC is still the only party to vote for.
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“You want us to vote. Why? Why should I vote when I live in this squalor, suffering, begging for shelter under other people’s roofs and you expect my vote?” a distressed Johanna Masimine asks Khumalo.
She points to the bare walls of her home.
The icy winter chill filters through the gaping spaces in the roof and the walls where she sits on a double bed in a dark corner of the room.
Khumalo tries to pacify her. “There is a process that government is busy with where you give us your information and we will follow up for you and ask them where the hold-up is.”
It isn’t enough to calm the visibly fuming Masimine. “There is always the problem that our names won’t be on the list – can you promise me I will be on the list?
“My children don’t have a place to call their own and I am sick and will die anytime. When God takes me, can I at least know that my children have a place of their own?” she asks.
The volunteers promise to get back to her and move on to a home a few doors down.
They’re confronted by another disheartened person, who speaks of how difficult it is for youth to find employment in the area. Ashley Ndlovu says her family would like nothing more than a decent life.
“I am registered to vote but I am not sure your party would be the way to go because here I am without a job. I can’t afford further education and wait on tables. I don’t really want to get involved in politics; we want services and jobs,” she says.
She is not the only one who unreservedly expresses her opinion of the ruling party. In zone four a man and his sons are sweeping the dusty patch of ground in front of their newly built shack. He seems displeased when the volunteers come knocking.
“Why should I give the ANC my details when I am still living in a shack?” he asks, crossing his arms.
Khumalo attempts to neutralise the situation. “For now we simply want to ensure you are registered. We will come back at a later stage to ensure you vote for the ANC,” he replies, laughing.
Khumalo truly believes in the liberation movement. “I joined the ANC because of its vision of a united, non-racial, nonsexist and democratic society. I am still committed to its vision and I believe the ANC should continue to be in power so that it can accomplish its mission.”
He joined the ANC Youth League when he was 19 – a time, he says, when the struggle was about bringing basic services to people. He’s been doing ANC work since 1999, informing his community about the party’s programmes, taking up their service delivery issues and recruiting new members.
The father of one believes that 18 years from now his party will still be relevant for his baby daughter.
“She will have the choice of going to any political party she wants, but I am definitely going to advise her to be an ANC comrade and to be as active as her father.
“The ANC liberated us from the shackles of apartheid and poverty. The party has proven itself as a party that delivers, especially to us who either come from rural areas or informal settlements. I’ve seen it with my own eyes where people who never had electricity before can now flip a switch – and there’s running water.”
But he is also aware that there is a growing sense of discontent over the party’s failure to deliver on its promises.
“Normally people who complain about the ANC are the ones who tell you that the ANC has done nothing for them. We explain to people that the majority can see the difference the party has made and they definitely will see a change for themselves too.”
He adds that there is little to no opposition in Olievenhoutbosch.
Anna Ditshabe echoes his sentiments. “I will never leave the ANC. Even if Mandela left us with [President Jacob] Zuma, we will vote for him,” she says, nailing her colours to the ruling party’s mast.
“The ANC should not be scared of little boys like Julius [Malema] with rotten English. The ANC has a home in all of us here,” says a resolute Ditshabe.