‘They forget us as soon as they’re at the top’

7 03 2009

MMANALEDI MATABOGE

Mar 07 2009 06:00

Source: Mail and Guardian

From the outside, Badirile township in Brandvlei, Randfontein, looks like any other reconstruction and development programme (RDP) housing project that has become one of the ANC-led government’s marks of achievement.
But Badirile is different from other RDP townships — residents here are forced to use candles for lighting and wood and coal fires as well as paraffin stoves for cooking because the houses have no water or electricity.

Unhappy residents in this new settlement on the West Rand of Gauteng believe that occupation was rushed to ensure they moved in before the elections — an apparent move by the ANC to appease voters. But the ANC will not get their votes, say the majority of beneficiaries who spoke to the Mail & Guardian.

“We were told that we will have water and electricity before the elections. It’s March and we still don’t have electricity,” says 49-year-old Gertrude, a resident who refuses to give her surname because she fears victimisation by local ANC leaders.

The houses consist of two bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen, a lounge and a bathroom. The 400 families who live here share five communal taps for their daily water. There is one chemical plastic toilet for every four families.

Few of the residents the M&G visited have access to television and a few rely on battery-operated radios to keep up with political developments in the country. Dimakatso Mosepele, a 26-year-old employee at a nearby chicken farm, is still undecided about which party to vote for, but it’s definitely not the ANC. “Some people believe that the ANC built us houses. I say it’s not the ANC, it’s our government,” she says. “The ANC is just a party with the majority in our government.”

For Mary Diabo, a 43-year-old unemployed mother of two, living without electricity is not just an inconvenience as her health has been affected by the cooking methods she uses. Diabo has full-blown Aids and is on antiretrovirals and tuberculosis medication.

“The smell of paraffin and a wood-fire is contributing to the decline of my health,” she says. Although she is thankful for a house, Diabo says her life has taken a turn for the worse since she moved from the Elandsvlei farm, where she and her family were renting a room for R200 a month from the farm owner: “Yes, I have a house, but life was better in Elandsvlei farm as we had electricity and water.”

Diabo is not going to vote on April 22. “Who are we going to vote for? They are going to forget us as soon as they get to the top, just like the ANC did,” she says.

Wagon Sematle, a 37-year-old unemployed father of two, received an “urgent notice” from the municipality demanding he pays R295, an amount that ward councillor Thembi Matuane says is for sewerage connection. Sematle did not bother registering to vote, saying: “I want nothing to do with elections, I want nothing to do with the ANC.”

He kicked out representatives of the ANC, the Congress of the People and the Democratic Alliance when they came to his house as part of election campaigns. “I’ve been voting for the ANC since 1994. I told them I won’t vote, they should leave me alone,” he says.

Electricity will be installed only once the entire housing project has been completed, Matuane says. Only 400 of the 714 planned houses have been built. The chief of operations at the Gauteng department of housing, Mongezi Mnyani, says it is the municipality’s responsibility to ensure that newly built houses are electrified and have running water.

“We don’t normally allow people to move into the houses without water,” he says. Beneficiaries moved into the houses in November last year. Most of them were moved from nearby farms.

The executive mayor of the Randfontein local municipality, Zeph Mhlongo, says occupation of the township was fast-tracked because there were threats of vandalism and illegal occupation. But the process of providing water to Badirile township is under way, he says, and residents will soon have taps in their houses.

Two pensioners, 68-year-old Caroline Mahlangu and her 78-year-old neighbour Maria Ntwampe, were the only two beneficiaries who sing the ANC’s praises.

“We are who we are today because of the ANC. They freed us from the slavery of apartheid,” says Mahlangu. “The name Mandela means so much to me, that’s why I am patient with the ANC. I can’t blame the ANC if some people in the party are corrupt.” Says Ntwampe: “We won’t stop voting for the ANC, even if they are playing us. I know no other party but the ANC.”

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