Gogo Thandi Mazibuko has to walk 2km to get to the borehole from which residents collect their water in Ndindindi village in the rural town of Nquthu, KwaZulu-Natal.
The borehole is in an area that houses mostly ANC members and supplies water to two communities of about 5 000 people. With six unemployed children — Zandile, Nkosinathi, Mduduzi, Zanele, Skhumbuzo and Senzekahle — it is a journey the 59-year-old is willing to make.
The family’s only source of income comes from afar: Mazibuko’s husband, Bongani, sells chicken to the men living at Kwesine hostel in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg.
“The borehole is far [away and it] is also not safe, so I do not always go there,” said Mazibuko, dressed in a brown pinafore with a bright green and yellow, African-print doek covering her hair.
Nquthu has a population of about 90 000. The town traditionally had been an IFP stronghold but an ANC-NFP administration governed it between 2011 and 2016.
16 January 2019: An ANC election poster bearing the face of former President Jacob Zuma is a reminder of an earlier poll.
All parties recruit top brass
So fierce was the campaigning for the vote in 2016 that the ANC deployed its top six executives, led by former president Jacob Zuma. The IFP sent its president, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and DA leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF leader Julius Malema also joined the hustings.
On 21 May 2016, while the ANC executives gathered at the Siyanqoba rally, Buthelezi wooed his supporters in a predominantly ANC ward.
When the votes were counted, the IFP won 19 seats and the ANC took 11.
Municipality spokesperson Thokozani Nyandeni, explaining that the municipality has 33 seats, said: “During the 2011-2015 council, both the ANC and the IFP held 14 seats and the ANC went into coalition with the NFP, which had five seats. This gave the ANC the majority.”
16 January 2019: From left, Ntombi Dlamini, Thandi Mazibuko and Khonzeni Mwelase collect water from a borehole. These elderly women walk kilometres through open fields to fetch water because they have been denied access to this basic right.
Mazibuko, a loyal ANC supporter, remains unfazed by the challenges that are costing her party votes at the polls.
With the overcast weather providing some relief from the heat, she takes a short right turn on to an uneven gravel road, a stretch that passes an unkempt cemetery on the path to the poorly built communal borehole.
There she meets her neighbours, Ntombi Dlamini and Khonzeni Mwelase, who are already collecting water. Mazibuko borrows a small bucket from one of the women so she can scoop water from the narrow borehole opening. She does this repeatedly until her 20-litre, yellow bucket is full. Then she heads home.
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Mazibuko said the community has not had water since the beginning of the year.
“I send my grandchildren to collect water when they return from school, because they can take the wheelbarrow and more buckets. Sometimes the kids are late for school because they wake up early in the morning and then they get to school late.”
While the school is aware of the water crisis facing the community, children who arrive late are locked out of school and told to return home, said Mazibuko.
“The school doesn’t have water itself.”
So dire is the situation that sometimes Mazibuko is forced to rely on rainwater.
“I usually place the bucket on top of the roof to collect raindrops. But the rainwater makes us sick. We were told that before we drink it, we must boil it or put a spoon of Jik, otherwise we will have runny tummies.”
16 January 2019: Thandi Mazibuko, her plastic bucket filled with water, pictured at the start of her long walk home.
Loyal despite challenges
On the day that New Frame visited, Mazibuko had a tummy bug. She suspected it was from drinking rainwater that had not been sterilised.
“Sometimes I get a rash after bathing with the water,” she adds.
Mazibuko said the community didn’t have this problem when it was governed by her party.
Halalisani “Joe” Sikhakhane, the local election coordinator for the ANC’s Inkosi Bhambatha region, said internal squabbles led to the party losing the municipality to the IFP, which is the second-biggest party in the province.
But IFP supporter Siyabonga Sikhakhane*, 38, from Vulamehlo said the fall-out was caused by the total disregard of ANC councillors when it came to delivering on election promises made in the general election in 2014.
Water, houses, toilets
Regardless of the party’s poor administration record in the municipality, Mazibuko will vote for the ANC in the upcoming national elections. “I have been voting for the ANC in every election and I am still going to vote for the ANC,” she said.
“We need water, RDP houses with proper toilets. They have been promising us this for the last 25 years. Our children are not working, me and my husband support them. My son Nkosinathi, who was the breadwinner, worked at a company which installed gutters and he was injured on duty when a machine cut off his right hand. After that, we have never been okay,” said Mazibuko, who joined the ANC in 1999.
“The [IFP] councillors here don’t care. The big competition here is between Inkatha and the ANC. Since Inkatha took over, we are struggling. My prayer is that the municipality returns to the ANC. When I pray, I say: ‘Dear God, please help us return the ANC because we have not seen change.’”
Unlike Mazibuko, Joe Sikhakhane’s unwavering loyalty to the ANC is fuelled by his region’s love for former president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma continues to wield power in various regions in KwaZulu-Natal.
16 January 2019: Halalisani Sikhakhane, an ANC member in Nquthu, says municipal taps are dry and he has to rely on his Jojo tanks for water.
“Unity is a process and not something that can take place overnight. Zuma has shown that he is a true cadre. He is the first former president to go back and be active as an ordinary member. He is fulfilling his promise that he made while he was the president.”
Before the party’s 54th National Conference in December, the region was — and still is — pro-Zuma, said Sikhakhane.
“We were in a coalition government with the NFP because it was a hung municipality. We realised that the people that we had deployed, including ANC mayor Emily Molefe, were often at loggerheads with the organisation, allowing opposition parties to capitalise on the poor relations.
“That is how IFP’s Siyabonga Mabilabila Kunene rose to the highest seat in the small town,” he said.
“The councillors were also misbehaving [drinking in public] and bringing the organisation into disrepute, and that led to internal instability in the party. Because of the hullabaloo, people decided to vote otherwise. People boycotted the party as a sign.”
16 January 2019: Siyabonga Sikhakhane 38, a loyal member of the IFP, sits outside his home in Nquthu.
IFP ‘does not lie’
Siyabonga Sikhakhane said people voted for the IFP “because they [the party] employs people, looks after people’s wellbeing and knows the needs of the community, and it does not lie to the people.
“These are the things that other parties are not able to do. We have water and electricity and everything that we need. Before we took over the ANC, we were made empty promises. The first time I walked into the municipal offices was under the new administration. The ANC used to be arrogant and employed their friends and their families,” he said.
Sikhakhane said he was going to continue to vote for his party. “Ayijiki, I will vote for Inkatha.” He added that he was aware Buthelezi would be stepping down soon as party president.
* Halalisani “Joe” Sikhakhane and Siyabonga Sikhakhane are not related.
16 January 2019: There are rows upon rows of RDP houses on the outskirts of Nquthu.