Ekurhuleni locals from all walks of life concur: Don’t neglect us after the election
For residents of Katlehong, which means “the place of success” in Sesotho, there is evidence that government has been working. Yet people still feel neglected when it comes to their basic needs.
Ndabayakhe Ngobese (55) is standing outside a supermarket at the Katlehong shopping complex on the corner of Hospital and Moseu streets in Hlahatsi Section.
He watches over his two bags of groceries while waiting for the rain to subside before making his way home to Mazibuko Hostel, situated at the end of the township.
Ngobese needs to walk two blocks to get a taxi back to his home.
He has lived at the hostel for 30 years now, since moving to Gauteng from Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal to work as an artisan in a factory. Ngobese is the induna of Mazibuko and his core responsibility is to liaise with the local councillors about the needs of the hostel residents.
“Look at this hostel, the roof leaks and is coming off, some of the windows are broken. You would think that people don’t live here.” Ngobese says he and other hostel leaders have been in talks about the possibility of rebuilding or renovating Mazibuko but they have not reached a consensus yet.
“We want to live like humans, we are people. It’s not just about the building, the area around the hostel has been neglected – it sometimes feels like we are not part of Katlehong.”
Mazibuko Hostel was previously an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) stronghold, according to Ngobese, because many of the residents are migrant workers from KwaZuluNatal employed at the manufacturing and mining companies in Ekurhuleni. Many moved to the National Freedom Party (NFP) after it was formed in 2011.
Ngobese was part of the mass exodus that followed NFP leader Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi. He joined and voted for the NFP in the 2011 local government elections. “I believe in her [kaMagwazaMsibi] mainly because she is a woman. She is a disciplined and strong leader,” he says.
“Women build our homes and raise nations, that is why I believe that the NFP is the party to shape my community.” As it stands, the NFP cannot contest these elections, and Ngobese is in the market for a political party he believes will take the needs and concerns of blue-collar workers like the residents of Mazibuko seriously.
“I want our section not to be an afterthought. We must be taken seriously throughout the year and leaders must engage with us beyond government elections.” Ngobese says he is satisfied with Katlehong but he would like to see more job opportunities in the community – especially for young people.
Across the hill from Mazibuko Hostel is a compact room and soon-to-be bakery owned by the Khoza brothers. The eldest brother, Malibongwe (29), has worked in some of the biggest bakeries in South Africa. He resigned three months ago to return home to resume the family business that collapsed years ago.
“I came back home to make a difference and empower my brothers and other young people in our community,” he says. “Unemployment is rife and there is nothing to do, but through transferring skills such as baking, things can get better.”
Khoza is hopeful that government entities such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the department of small business development will help them make a success of their bakery.
He believes the ANC government has proven itself through youth empowerment and it is the only one that can help make his dreams a reality. His younger brother, 27-year-old Sandile Khoza, will be casting his first vote. Until now, he hasn’t been impressed or convinced by any political party.
“I am proud to be finally voting. It may have taken me long but I now have the political knowledge and maturity to cast a vote,” he says. “I am a born-again Christian, my spirituality means the world to me and I want to vote for a political party that reflects the spirit of God.”
Sandile Khoza will vote for the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) next week; he trusts the party to bring much-needed spiritual guidance to his community. For the Khoza brothers, their dream of being the biggest supplier of baked goods in Thokoza and Katlehong is also about restoring honour to their family. “We want to honour our uncle who owned a small bakery in Vosloorus many years ago. The business failed because of financial reasons,” says Malibongwe.
Along the N3 highway from Katlehong to Germiston, blank patches of land become dotted with high-walled estates. The offramp takes you on to Van Buuren Road in Bedfordview, where stores like Woolworths are a staple and people can renew their licences at the nearby drive-thru service.
Around Bedfordview’s streets, drivers may spot the Residents’ Action Group vehicles patrolling the area. Colin McKenzie, chairperson of the action group, says: “There’s a big drive to get rid of the beggars, and the support of beggars. In the last week or so, four or five beggars have been arrested. They are known beggars, and they’re all linked to crime. So you know, beggars, I think they’re destitute, but there’s an element to them that is linked to criminal activities.”
Crime has a significant sway in the Bedfordview vote. Radovan Krejcír and Lolly Jackson, kingpins of organised crime in South Africa, had homes and businesses in the town. It’s not the organised crime world that has Bedfordview residents shaken, however, it’s mostly the Mercedes Benz or the Citi Golf with four black males in the car, says McKenzie.
He’s lived in Bedfordview since 1969. He remembers Bedfordview as a farming area back then, and says the old infrastructure that existed has not been upgraded despite the numerous houses and properties that have been developed. “The most disgusting thing here is that people spend a lot of money on their houses, and it’s absolutely unacceptable to find sewage running down your street,” he says.
The Democratic Alliance enjoys strong support in Bedfordview. Some believe, come August 3, the queues will be longer than in the previous election because they are trying to put the DA into the mayor’s office. Some residents believe the ANC has failed to deliver on its promises to provide communities in Ekurhuleni with services.
Twenty minutes away from Bedfordview, a meeting is beginning at the Edenvale community centre. Candidates will take questions from Edenvale residents in a last effort to win votes before the election. The majority of candidates are older, wear blue DA shirts, and have some experience of working in local government. There is one ANC candidate and one from the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). At least two independent representatives are there, too. The community hall is half full, but the support for the DA is tangible.
One resident begins her question to a DA candidate with: “When the DA wins the election …” There’s some bickering among the candidates, but the DA has the numbers and their voices are the loudest. The residents’ concerns range from degrading heritage sites (a DA candidate casts blame on the ANC mayoral office) to sports fields not receiving enough care. Cleanliness in Edenvale seems to be of greatest concerns to those residents, along with crime.
Across the expanse of Ekurhuleni, each district has its own pressing needs, defined by the severity of the environment in which a voter lives. The experiences of residents around Ekurhuleni differ vastly, yet they all live in a single metropolitan and vie for local government to attend to their concerns, which they all believe are a priority.