Lo­cal Govern­ment

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

Rusten­burg is un­der con­struc­tion. Freshly mixed ce­ment is be­ing laid for what will soon be a bus stop. Men in green over­alls, faces hid­den by dust masks, di­rect cars away from the chaos. The con­struc­tion has been un­der way for a while al­ready, but now there is a re­newed sense of ur­gency. It’s an elec­tion year. About 10 min­utes from the town’s cen­tre, 2km from An­glo Amer­i­can Plat­inum’s Them­be­lani mine shaft, sits – lit­er­ally on a heap of rub­ble – Boitekong’s Ward 21.

The ex­cite­ment from down the road does not reach this cor­ner of Rusten­burg, where the wind car­ries with it odours of ma­nure, rot­ting food and chem­i­cals. It’s 34°C to­day.

Boitekong’s story is no dif­fer­ent from other min­ing towns around the coun­try – a dis­carded com­mu­nity barely mak­ing a liv­ing. Half-naked chil­dren and goats tram­ple over shards of glass, bits of plas­tic and other piles of rub­bish.

On a street cor­ner out­side the lo­cal clinic on Wed­nes­day, a group of young peo­ple wear­ing lime-green shirts gather. They call them­selves the Botho Com­mu­nity Move­ment, or BCM, which was reg­is­tered as a political party in Septem­ber. The BCM says the ANC and other op­po­si­tion par­ties have failed them. Some of their mem­bers pre­vi­ously stood as in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, but that didn’t work for them, so they formed the party specif­i­cally to con­test their neigh­bour­hood in Ward 21.

“No one can change this com­mu­nity but us. There is no [Pres­i­dent Ja­cob] Zuma or [ Julius] Malema. We have to stand up for our­selves,” says group mem­ber Lindile Mlotshwa.

The 31-year-old stays with his un­em­ployed sis­ter. His mother is a pen­sioner. He is study­ing to be an IT tech­ni­cian at a lo­cal col­lege.

He laments the fact that the area’s young peo­ple have no men­tors, no parks and no fa­cil­i­ties to oc­cupy them. In­stead, many loi­ter out­side one of the many tav­erns in the area.

Mlotshwa’s com­pa­triot, Ofentse Kombe, be­moans the fact that the lo­cal clinic, which serves thou­sands of peo­ple, is only open un­til 6pm and is closed on week­ends.

“Old peo­ple are forced to queue here from about 3am to get help,” says the 27-year-old com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment stu­dent.

The BCM mem­bers hop on to the back of a van, which pulls a trailer piled high with speak­ers. One young man holds a mi­cro­phone and the “show” slowly makes its way around the area. They re­cruit new mem­bers and re­mind oth­ers that the time to reg­is­ter to vote is just around the cor­ner.

In 2014, at least 7 500 peo­ple in the area reg­is­tered to vote, but only 65% of them made their mark at the polls.

“Be the change you want to see,” the speaker says from the back of the van, which trun­dles through deep ditches or makeshift drains in the road, and leaves a small cloud of dry dust in its wake. The van stops ev­ery few me­tres and the group’s mem­bers speak to res­i­dents.

The av­er­age per­son around here is 24 years old. Only 39% of the peo­ple are em­ployed, and only 33% get around to fin­ish­ing their ma­tric. Chil­dren younger than 18 make up 35% of the pop­u­la­tion. There are scream­ing tod­dlers ev­ery­where.

One young girl in a pink sum­mer dress tod­dles down the middle of the road with a green mar­garine lid in hand. She turns it as if she is driv­ing a car.

“Baby-mak­ing is a com­pe­ti­tion around here. If you don’t have at least one, you will get chased away. Peo­ple re­spect you if they know you can have a child as a young woman,” says one res­i­dent, who is only half-jok­ing.

Sit­ting out­side a metic­u­lously well-kept cor­ru­gated iron shack is Mapheto Mok­gobye (81), dig­ni­fied on an old stained mat­tress, her cracked heels tucked un­der­neath her. She has lived here since 1995 and has been wait­ing for a house ever since. She votes for the ANC and is dis­ap­pointed in the party, but has reser­va­tions about chang­ing her vote.

“Will there not be a fight when I vote for some­one else? I think peo­ple will come into my house and kill me at night. It is not worth it,” she says.

In­side, her 18-year-old grand­daugh­ter Keli­bogile cra­dles her baby, who is just a few months old. She left school af­ter com­plet­ing Grade 5. Her 22-year-old sis­ter Mathe­p­elo dropped out af­ter Grade 11. She tends to her new­born. Their un­em­ployed mother, Eve­lyn, nods while two young men from the BCM urge the girls to re­turn to school and break the cy­cle of poverty in their fam­ily.

A plan for a new school is un­der way, but it will be built only a few hun­dred me­tres from an­other school on what is a tired­look­ing sport­ing ground.

“There is a mis­con­cep­tion around here that we as the BCM don’t want the school to be built, but that is not the case. We are merely say­ing that it does not make sense to take away the one real sport­ing ground there is, or to build a school so close to an­other one. Chil­dren must walk more than 3km to get here from the other side of the com­mu­nity,” says Kombe.

Two tav­erns and a bot­tle store are just a short walk away. Fac­ing one is a young girl of about 12, who asks a young man walk­ing past to buy her a “guarana” – an al­co­holic drink.

Also on Wed­nes­day, ANC ward coun­cil­lor David Coetzee ad­dressed a group of res­i­dents at a crèche that is next door to a tav­ern he owns. The rum­bus­tious man tells them that to­mor­row they can sign up for RDP houses and stands, where they can build their own homes. The group chat­ter ex­cit­edly, many have been wait­ing for years.

“On Satur­day, I ask that you vote for me. Even if I don’t win, I will still have a pro­mo­tion wait­ing for me at the mayor’s of­fice,” he promised.

On Satur­day, the ANC will vote for its ward coun­cil­lor can­di­date in a hotly con­tested race be­tween Coetzee and Po­giso Bothomane, res­i­dents say.

The ANC won 74% of the vote in Ward 21 in 2014; the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers trailed in with 20%. The bat­tle is not for a party, but within the ANC it­self, and the two can­di­dates have been trash-talk­ing each other.

Coetzee gets ag­i­tated and then ag­gres­sive when tapped on the shoul­der and asked for a mo­ment of his time.

“What do you want? I de­spise the me­dia. You ar­rive here and want to write about what you see and hear. What about the projects we have been work­ing on since 2011? If you want to speak to me, make an ap­point­ment at the mayor’s of­fice,” he says.

A few min­utes later, Coetzee is more charm­ing and ex­plains that times are tense and his body­guards are on edge – be­ing tapped on the shoul­der in the middle of a crowd is not ideal.

Go to city­press.co.za for more pho­tos

PHOTO: LUCKY NX­U­MALO

TIME FOR CHANGE

Chil­dren run around in Boitekong, 6km from Rusten­burg. Boitekong’s story is no dif­fer­ent from other min­ing towns around the coun­try

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