Tuesday, February 28, 2006

'We always vote but our lives don't improve'

Durban, South Africa
28 February 2006 07:38
The rural community of Ndwedwe, north of Durban, has no electricity, running water and tarred roads, says an area headman.

"We were promised development a long time ago. Government officials always come and address us with the chief, especially during the elections, but nothing happens," Shangase headman Phenyamadoda Mchunu says while waiting on a dusty road to catch a taxi.

"We wash ourselves in the [Mdloti] river. The women also wash their clothes in the river. The water is dirty; it's easy to get sick."

The community, which mainly lives in mud rondavels, often enquires about the slow pace of delivery, but they are told there is no money.

"[Minister of Finance] Trevor Manuel has just presented his Budget. We know money has been made available by the government, but it does not reach us. The question is what happens to it."

Mchunu says he sees no point in voting in the local government elections on Wednesday.

"Tell me one reason why I should vote. We always vote but our lives don't improve," he says, wiping his brow in the early-morning heat.

Unlike Mchunu, other community members say they will not forfeit their vote.

Sikhathi Makhanya, of Thafamasi, says: "I am going to vote so that the people I elect can hear my grievances. That is the right we fought for."

Makhanya says many feel the area is being neglected by the municipality and its councillors.

"Our councillor is too lazy to visit us and hear our needs. All she does is drive around to council meetings.

"She gets money for nothing," he says to the laughter of a small group of men sitting around him on wooden benches.

There are many elderly who qualify for government grants but do not receive them.

"Social department officials have never visited our old people who are unable to walk long distances to the public offices. Their families are starving because the government has neglected them."

A few hundred metres from Makhanya's home lives another Makhanya family.

Albert Makhanya and his wife are both unemployed and live with their three children. If lucky, they earn R10 a day from selling peanuts and crisps.

"We were promised proper houses by the government since 2002. We have registered about three times to get a house.

"When [Nelson] Mandela was president, he was asked by a listener on Ukhozi FM what happened to all the promises. He answered sometimes you have to lie in order to get a woman."

However, Albert says he will cast his ballot in the hope that it will bring him a brighter future. -- Sapa

Source: http://www.mg.co.za/