By Melanie Nathan, May 04, 2014.
It reminds me largely of the “old” pre-Apartheid South Africa: — Township – a filthy dumping ground languishing in stark contrast to nearby spotless suburbs – no services- the stench of poverty – and then the ultimate reminder THE large police presence – challenging – the obnoxious scent of burning tires. The only difference between this post-Apartheid moment and the pre-Apartheid comparative, is the fact that the police were there, not because the township residents do NOT have a vote, but because they in fact DO have a vote. And it seems that the vote of the Bekkersdal community is being courted by the very party that has taken 20 years to fail it.
The ANC, the party of Mandela, turned out for a ‘vote for us’ rally, still hoping to win over the residents for the upcoming elections, despite their failure to deliver critical services, their failure to address the substantive needs of the community, during their past 20 years as the ruling party, and the undignified comment of an ANC leader.
The sad state of Bekkersdal is described in an excellent piece by Al Jazeera:
“The South Africa that shouldn’t exist, Bekkersdal has become one of the focal points of the simmering discontent with the ANC government”:
Carved in the dry Highveld known as the West Rand, the township of Bekkersdal is a stark emblem of the broken dream of millions of South Africans who live in squalor across the country.
Rubbish lies strewn across the streets, open sewage drips down and flows between rusty metal drums holding fresh fruit and vegetables for sale.
In the informal settlements strewn across the township, where there is no running water, electricity or sanitation, election posters urging residents to exercise their vote hang perilously from wire-mesh fences that surround donkey-drop outside toilets.
The township, built in 1945 is home to 50,000 people, many of whom are employed, or have been employed at some time, in the gold mines surrounding the township.
And the ANC attempt at schmooze:
“Police presence aids ANC rally in Bekkersda:”
The sight of ANC colours boils the blood of many in Bekkersdal, the west-of-Joburg township that remains volatile three days before the elections.
No sooner had a handful of ANC youths set up two marquees in a community park on May Day than a meeting by members of the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association resolved they should be removed.
The meeting heard that removing the ANC youths – dressed in the party’s T-shirts and drinking alcohol in the park – was in line with the community’s “resolution” that the party was not allowed in Bekkersdal, at least until Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane apologised for her “dirty votes” utterances.
Losing her cool at an angry, booing Bekkersdal crowd she was addressing in October, Mokonyane said the ANC didn’t want their “dirty votes”.
Now that the ANC was gathering publicly in the township, “we feel we’re being belittled and disregarded as a community”, Thabang Wesi, leader of the residents association, told the meeting on Thursday.
Throngs, many of whom were mobilised in the vicinity soon after the meeting, then descended on the park and chaos ensued as tyres went up in flames.
THE ANC came in anyway, despite the “dirty vote” to procure the “dirty” votes, under the pretense of being there (suddenly) to secure critical services for the Township, which to date had been languishing obscurely for 2 decades:
On Saturday, heavy police presence in Bekkersdal appeared to have aided the ANC hold its well-attended rally. Different units of police, including tactical response teams, were all over the township as part of a visit by the six security cluster ministers.
“The ministers knew very well there’s an ANC rally taking place in Bekkersdal. They pretended to be coming here to address the issues, knowing very well they are coming to protect ANC members so that they can campaign,” Wesi said.
But ANC national chairwoman Baleka Mbete rejected that heavy police presence was the reason the rally proceeded without intimidation.
“Our people are not unreasonable. I think it’s the people that decided that it’s time to allow the ANC to hold a rally here.”