Sunday February 12, 2017
South African president Jacob Zuma looking on as he visits an area affected by floods on November 15, 2016 in Johannesburg. ANC is losing popularity among citizens. PHOTO | AFP
It is a surreal, instructive sight. On green hillside north of the windswept city of Port Elizabeth, hundreds of tiny brick cabins — each not much larger than a phone booth — stretch out into the distance in neat rows.
“We call this place Toilet Valley,” said 36-year-old Suzanne Stoltz, opening her cabin door to reveal a plastic toilet and a few bags of clothes stacked beside it.
Every toilet — more than 1,000 in all — sits on a larger slab of concrete, as if builders had started to erect proper homes, but lost interest.
They are a symbol of the failures of the local authorities here in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“It’s crazy. They tell us we’re going to get houses in three months. But we’ve been waiting for three years,” said Stoltz, a mother of three, who like her neighbours has built herself a shack from corrugated iron beside her toilet. Like many, she has no job.
The same complaints — in varying permutations — echo across surrounding townships.
Toilets without houses. Houses without water. Neighbourhoods without sewage pipes.
Schools closed because of overcrowding. Thousands of people dependent on a single tap.
In Port Elizabeth, whistleblowers have uncovered billions of rand that have been misspent, stolen or lost.
A depot has two dozen expensive — and now rusting — Volvo buses, bought for the 2010 World Cup.
“It boils down to corruption,” said Maria Hermans who was, until recently, the ANC’s speaker on the municipal council. “It is maladministration in the worst form. Negligence.”
DISLIKE FOR ANC
She says the situation got so bad in local government that there were murders.
“Every one of us is afraid because we don’t know who is next. We can’t run away from the fact that corruption happened when we were in power.”
Last August, voters installed a coalition of opposition parties, led by the Democratic Alliance.
The defeat was a shock to ANC, and seemed to indicate a broader shift away from the party that has governed South Africa since the advent of democracy in 1994.
“There’s been a shift,” said the city’s new Mayor Athol Trollip — a son of white farmers.
He accused the ANC of seeking to create a racial divide to divert attention from its failings.
“This is the only way out of trouble for South Africa,” he said, inspecting workers as they cleaned debris from a stream running through the city.
“We are steadfast that by 2019 we will put a coalition government together that will govern South Africa.”
One of the workers, a new graduate named Ntombi Baleni, who was managing the clean-up project, echoed that optimism.
“If the DA doesn’t lose focus, South Africa is set to boom. Boom!” she said.
Prominent figures within the ANC openly admit that the momentum is with the opposition.
“This city is on its knees. At the heart is misgovernance, corruption, and a brazen commitment and dedication to steal that is directed at a political level,” said Sipho Pitanya, chairman of the giant AngloGold Ashanti mining company.
“If we keep Jacob Zuma in power, we deserve to lose in 2019.
Meanwhile, President Zuma has hit out at Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters, describing them as an angry minority in South Africa.
EFF lawmakers disrupted the state of the nation address on Thursday night in Cape Town for more than an hour.
They took turns to call Zuma a constitutional delinquent.
The president hit out at the party, saying it was formed out of anger. Malema created EFF after being expelled from ANC youth league.
“If, for an example, you are dealing with an organisation that was established by young people who were expelled from the ANC‚ they must be angry with ANC. They must be trying their level best to fight back but they don’t know how,” Zuma said.
He added that if he were an ordinary citizen, he would have said‚ “these people must be out of parliament because they are changing parliament”.
“Democracy is not about angry young people. Democracy is about debating things. Debating what we need to do for our country,” he said.