From no water and electricity, to youth unemployment and slow councillors, Mafikeng residents registered to vote last weekend in the hope that they can make a difference to some of their most pressing concerns. But not all of them have faith in the power of their ballot. GOPOLANG BOKOTLHWANE spoke to a few people to find out how they feel about the upcoming local elections.
Tshepo Sefako, 18, matric student, Lonely Park
I am just [registering] because I’m being told to. I don’t see how voting is going to change anything for me, or people in my community. My parents have been voting since I was in primary school and today I am in high school. They still complain of the same things. In my ward, young people like me roam the streets because they have nothing to do or keep them busy. I would love if the councillor could lobby his comrades to build a recreational centre where we can keep ourselves occupied. As young citizens of South Africa, can we be given more access to opportunities? I am doing my matric. I don’t even know if I don’t make into university what the future holds for me. What happens when you don’t make to into university, what is the alternative can that be made clear? The media should report on the lack of facilities like a library. Stop writing stories about us not reading. Come see where we live and tell us, would you read, living like we do?
Boitumelo Sebolai, 24, unemployed, Lonely Park
I am voting because there was a time where people like my parents weren’t allowed to vote. I am exercising my right and in a way I honour those who died so I can be able to choose who leads me. I don’t always believe in the processes but I do it anyway. The only time I feel like voting will make a difference is when we are voting for a different party, not the ANC. As for the councillor in my ward, I know there’s a councillor but that’s just about it. I can’t tell you about his plans or his promises. The councillors themselves, are they really listening to us or after voting them in? Do they just go on about their business executing plans of their party and not what we the residents asked for? The roads in my ward in 2016 are something you’d only expected in an 80s drama. For people like myself who are unemployed and don’t have cars, you have to walk some distance to reach a taxi. And if you add the fact that I am a woman, that’s a dangerous situation.
I’m told it makes a difference to vote; I don’t think it makes a difference. I don’t know even know who I’ll be voting for, apparently we have a councillor. Last time I checked, when people don’t have water or young people like me don’t have a library, the councillor is supposed to bring these to the attention of government. If there is a councillor in my ward, he has not done such a thing. A lack of opportunities for us young people is depressing me. Sometimes by voting we add to our problems. Look at my ward: we voted for a councillor who is now part of our problems. The media needs to expose [this] corrupt councillor.
Mary Dinao, 52, small business owner, Tlapeng
Even though I never see what difference it makes, still I believe we should vote. Voting is a way of keeping hope alive; it is a way to say to our leaders, “We see you. Whether good or bad, we are watching”. I really hope that through voting something can be done about the high unemployment rates of young people. It is really scary for me. The double standards and “behind-the-doors” policies of politicians are very worrying – the fact that someone will be denied something just because they did not go behind the doors.
George Montewane, 32, NGO worker, Lonely Park
I am registered and I will be voting, I still think it makes no difference. My councillor, the man is useless and has no direction. Another reason I’m voting is that I am a party member and I cannot just fold my arms when my party needs me. So I am performing my duty as a party member. I work with people with disabilities, and my biggest issue is that they don’t have access to many things – even with this voter registration thing – unless we bring it up. The IEC, like most organisations, will not have the sense to think that there are disabled people out there who want to vote too. The councillor in my ward constantly snubs us when we raise the issue of lack of access for disabled people. I think the media could do more to expose the general public to the realities of people with disabilities. The lack of access to space like banks and schools faced by people with disabilities needs to highlighted by the media.
Keorapetse Mabote, 28, security guard, Magogoe Central
Honestly… hope. That’s the only reason I am voting. Hope that my ballot will finally deliver something different for all of us. It’s childish, I know, but it’s all we have. The councillor in my ward is hopeless, I don’t think that man knows what he is doing. The man is genius when it comes to campaigning but his genius does not extend to fixing our problems. Electricity and water are the historic crises of my ward. I grew up hearing people complain about them and today, here I am, complaining about them too.
Moeti Molefe, 30, cashier Magogoe Central
I am registered and will be voting, I don’t think it will change anything. The councillors, they come and go, but the problems they promised to fix never change. But still I am hopeful something will happen if I vote. In my ward, we need a proper working water system. The roads in my ward also need to be fixed. Generally, I am bothered by corruption and I hope there will be a time when corruption is not an issue. The media should expose corruption. Things don’t just happen during protests. Even when there’s no protest, the media should dig a little deeper to see what’s wrong.
Magdalene Chidiwo, 50, cleaner, Ramosadi
I have voted enough to know that for poor people like, me voting changes nothing. I have been voting since 1994 and here I am, still in poverty. But still, I will vote because you never know when things might change and what side you will be on by registering to vote. I hope when things change I’ll be on the right side. I can claim I was responsible for that change. We have a crisis of water and regular electricity cuts, but these are nothing new. They’ve been there for years. We’ve voted and voted still nothing’s changed. If something was ever to be done, which I know won’t be done, it would be to find something to do for the many young roaming the streets without jobs.
Olebogeng Kgajane, 51, security guard, Magogoe Central
Yes, I have registered and I will be voting. I believe it makes a difference although my councillor is a little slow. I still believe voting is the way to go, also what other way is there to change things? Protests can only do so much; we have to vote. We could do with streets lights in my ward for safety. But generally I think we as South Africans want too many things and we are a little unfair sometimes. I think we should be patient with our leaders. In the end I things will be fine, I believe.
Gopalelwe Mashwe, 20, matric student, Magogoe Central
I am registering to vote because I want change and I am hopeful through voting I can get that, especially as a young person. I hoping my vote can help create more opportunities for young people Also I want a new councillor in my ward, the current councillor, although likeable, is very slow in responding to our issues. The disconnect between older generation and us is worrying. Every time we want to change something, we have to check if the older generation agree. That worries me and I feel like that’s what’s holding back as young people. For example, in my ward, we want a new councillor but we know old people will keep the current one because they like him.
Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity