Marked by low voter turnout, problems with the voters roll in some areas resulting in voters being turned away, network failure, loadshedding and a big number of independents, the 2021 local government elections went ahead despite the country being in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Cape Town
Voters braved the rainy weather to go cast their vote for sanitation, jobs, housing and an end to high electricity prices. Elitsha spoke to voters in two of the biggest townships in the province, Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. In Silvertown, Makhaza in Khayelitsha, we met 40-year-old Nosiphiwo Tisani who said that they do not have sanitation services where she lives. To access a communal toilet she has to walk about 200 meters. “I voted so that we can have sanitation services here. If one wants to use a toilet, they must walk to the nearby informal settlement otherwise one must ask those who stay in brick houses for a toilet. I have been staying in this area for almost 20 years, my 15-year-old daughter was born here and we still face the same situation. I’m not even talking about a house, I’m talking about having access to a basic human right issue like a toilet. We need to live in dignity,” she said.
The lack of sanitation was also raised by Thabisa Vellem from Nkanini informal settlement in Khayelitsha. She has been staying in the area for 20 years and also said that she voted for sanitation problems to be solved. “We relieve ourselves on a pail at night and take it to the communal toilets in the morning. It is difficult to share a toilet with six other households during a pandemic,” she said.
Potholes outside a voting station in Silvertown, Makhaza in Khayelitsha. Photo by Mzi Velapi
62-year-old Serena Williams from Beacon Valley in Mitchells Plain said that she voted for jobs and housing. “My daughter has been a backyard dweller for 20 years now and we really need houses and jobs in this area,” she said. Williams’ views on housing and job creation were also echoed by Mhlozayo Mkhululi (42) from Blowey informal settlement in Khayelitsha.
“The electricity prices, loadshedding and gangsterism are some of the issues that I hope my vote would solve for Eastridge community,” said 45-year-old Natalie Solomon.
In East London
Voters in the Buffalo City Metro expect the outcome of the 2021 local government elections to improve service delivery and youth unemployment.
There were no major incidents reported except some voters who claimed to have been refused their right to vote because of the artificial nails on their fingers and some, like Yoliswa Gqalangile, who said she was turned away from the voting station she registered at in September because her name was not on the roll. Ngqalangile lives in ward 8, Duncan Village in East London.
A 48-year-old resident of Ward 7 in Duncan Village, Shelley Wildvogel said she hopes the ward will have a new councillor who will prioritise the needs of her community and service delivery. She wants to see improvement in rubbish collection and in the response to fixing broken drains which she said are often vandalised. “This area has been filthy. For the past five weeks we have had sewage running through the streets. Municipal services like rubbish collection are inconsistent, sometimes a rubbish truck comes, other times it doesn’t come,” she said.
Thulani Qamba checking his name on the voters roll at Duncan Village ward 2, Buffalo City Metro. Photo by Johnnie Isaac
27-year-old Thulani Qamba said he hopes the outcome of these elections will open doors of employment. “We need jobs for the youth and for the elderly. We need consistent service delivery that will reach people’s needs.”
In ward 23 in Mdantsane, 31-year-old Simnikiwe Ngxoweni said she is a young person who is unemployed. “It’s not the first time I vote but I hope this time my vote will bring change in youth unemployment,” said Ngxoweni.
42-year-old Nomthandazo Nkamani who voted at the Greenwood Park VD in ward 34, north of Durban said she wants to see change in the living conditions for all South Africans. “As someone who lives in an informal settlement, we experience a lot of challenges especially sanitation and garbage collection. Like many informal settlements in eThekwini, electricity is also a problem. I want to see people in informal settlements get prioritised when it comes to service delivery because it is obvious that it will take years before all of us get housing, so provide the services where we are,” said Nkamani.
Musa Xulu (48) voted at the Bhekuzulu Hall in ward 46, KwaMashu. He said service delivery in the area is a bit slow but he is hoping that the incoming councillor will make a difference. According to Xulu, people are hesitant to vote now because they believe nothing is going to change. Water leaks are my main issue; you find leaks in almost all the roads that remain unfixed and I want to see that change,” Xulu said.
Voting queue at Greenwood Park in Durban during the 2021 local government elections. Photo by Nokulunga Majola
Ayabulela Maduna (35) who voted at the Sea Cow Lake Secondary School in ward 34 in Durban said they are tired of complaining about service delivery, from sewerage leaks to uncollected garbage. She voted because she believes her vote can make a difference.
While others saw an opportunity on a special public holiday to clean their houses, do laundry and hang around with friends and enjoy drinks, other residents of Alexandra residents woke up on the morning of the elections with some kind of hopes that their votes will bring much needed change to better their lives. Although many have been voting in the past and saw changes at a snail pace, every local government election brings to them a sense of optimism. Those who voted on the 1st of November had houses, services and jobs topping their minds.
“We want houses and want to see our streets being clean. There is too much lawlessness in Alexandra, many people due to lack of space and [with a] high need of accommodation [they] end up building on the pavements. There are too many illegal structures on the pavement. Today I’ve voted for the return of houses and the enforcement of by-laws,” says Frans Rankapule of 6th avenue.
Nthabiseng Dikobe of 54-3rd avenue is a student who believes unemployment of young people must be addressed in this election. “It is quite atrocious that we are sitting with such a high number of young people who are unemployed; really something needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Another thing, basic needs such as electricity and water need to be prioritised. Today, I’m exercising my power and will want to encourage other youth that it doesn’t help to be complacent but changes we want to see must start with us,” she says.
A voter being inked in Alexandra township during the 2021 local government elections. Photo by Ramatamo Sehoai
Another resident, Sipho Mabuse said he has been waiting for a house since 1996. He says the police need to do their work when they report housing corruption to them. “The housing issue is a big problem for the residents of Alex. I hope that the party that I have voted for will fix that mess. Another thing is the influx of illegal foreigners in Alexandra [who] are benefitting from the basic services meant for the people of Alex. I hope after this election that will stop,” he said.
Audrey Noge, another voter said she is very happy that she has voted. Top of her mind was water and electricity and believes that her vote will help to address these. “Constant power and water cuts are a big headache for us in Alex. If they can fix that, I’ll be happy. Otherwise, I’m very happy with other things, especially the social grants, including the new one of R350. These are very important for single parents. We are very grateful to the government for that,” she said.