Standing under the big tree on the grounds belonging tohis village’s musanda (chief) on the morning of the elections, Khorombi Sadiki slowly beat the flat steel bar hanging from one of the branches with a knobkierrie-shaped piece of iron.
Soon a trickle of elders — some dressed in the T-shirts of different political parties — responded and began gradually moving into the homestead on a hillock in Tshitungulwane, one of more than 30 villages in the Vuwani district of Limpopo.
About an hour earlier, Sadiki had cast his vote at Ratshikwekwete Secondary School in the village. Many elders went to the dilapidated school building to make their mark.
Several young people stood a distance away from the polling station watching proceedings, declaring they would not be voting; lamenting the lack of development in their village.
A day earlier, at a packed and incomplete sports stadium in Vyeboom, not far from Tshitungulwane, the Pro-Makhado Demarcation Task Team had repeated its call for people to boycott the elections.
This team is leading the resistance to the incorporation of Vuwani into the newly formed Collins Chabane local municipality. Instead, they want the area to be reincorporated into the Makhado local municipality, which they believe will deliver better services to the largely rural area and its villages.
During the 2016 local government elections, people from the community burnt down more than 20 schools and stopped learners going to school. In 2017, a similar move stopped students trying to write their matric exams.
In response, then president Jacob Zuma went to Vuwani to meet the task team’s leaders little has happened since then.
As dawn broke on Wednesday, there was still uncertainty in some areas of Vuwani as to whether the people would be able to cast their ballots after the call by the task team. The arrest on Monday of a person said to be the leader of the group — the police refused to confirm this — only served to increase tension in the area.
Wary of this, residents such as Sadiki rose early to cast their votes.
“We are not happy with what they have done to us. They just put us under a municipality we did not choose. But staying away from voting will not help us,” he said.
In Vyeboom, which has been the epicentre of the protests, there were no snaking queues of people eager to vote.
Instead, the streets were desertedand polling stations stood empty. Armoured police vehicles were parked at strategic spots, ready to defuse any sign of trouble.
In her home in Tshivulana, a part of Vyeboom, Elizabeth Mukobi rose early and switched on the radio to hear if it was safe for her to proceed to the polling station.
“I heard there were many police to protect people who wanted to vote. So I decided I was going [to vote],” she said, dressed in a yellow T-shirt bearing the face of a smiling President Cyril Ramaphosa.
By 8am her vote had been cast and she was on her way home to face the daily reality of trying to find water. Her vote, she said, would hopefully go some way towards fixing this, and other challenges such as poor healthcare facilities and bad roads.
“I had to vote. I was living in Soweto during the 1976 strike, and I know what life was under apartheid. The youth that say we must not vote don’t know where we come from. That is why it is easy for them to say we should not vote,” Mukobi said. Her brother, an ANC combatant, was killed by apartheid security forces in Botswana in 1981.
Mukobi said when she made her mark on the ballot paper, she thought of the great sacrifice he made. “I was overcome by emotion,” she said. — Mukurukuru Media