Vuwani residents divided over elections

Amid the continued distress over the demarcation of the Limpopo town, many choose abstention in protest against the poor services and lack of jobs in the area.

As some of the residents in Vuwani outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo were slowly casting their votes at various stations, Magau Phathutshedzo, 24, sat on a blue 20-litre container next to her rusted wheelbarrow and waited for her turn to get water. “I am not going to vote. What is the reason for me to vote?” she asked New Frame.

Phathutshedzo told New Frame she had been struggling to get employment since she graduated from Thohoyandou’s Northern Technical College in 2015.

“We are suffering. There is no water, as you can see,” she said, pointing to the dry tap next to the pipe that now gave them water. The mother of one said residents have been struggling to access water since 2014. It only became available again on 4 May 2019.

“They gave us water now because they see we have to go vote. We are still not going to vote. We will fetch the water, then go home and sleep when we are tired.

“They want to bribe us, but we won’t be bribed,” she continued.

Phathutshedzo said they had water piped to their yards in previous years but that changed when the Municipal Demarcation Board moved Vuwani from Makhado Local Municipality to the newly created Collins Chabane Local Municipality. More than 20 schools in the community were set alight in the wave of protests that followed.

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8 May 2019: An electoral officer scans a woman’s ID at Tshivhulana Primary School in Vuwani. Many community members boycotted the elections, demanding to be returned to the Makhado Local Municipality.

Voter turnout

This is not the first time residents such as Phathusatshezo have decided not to vote. In 2016, there was a major boycott of the local elections. Out of the 44 000 registered voters in the area, only 1 600 people went to the polls. In 2019, 2 606 759 were registered to vote in the general elections in Limpopo. By midday on Thursday, numbers were still trickling in, but all indications are that voter turnout remained low.

The IEC regional coordinator in Vhembe, Jeffrey Radzilani said 512 people registered for special votes, but only 490 voted. “For election day statistics our computers are inaccessible due to results capturing.”

In 2017, then President Jacob Zuma met with the traditional authority in the area, including the king, to find solutions. On election day, police were placed at voting stations and protest hotspots. But that didn’t help the turnout.

Phathutshedzo said when they were under the Makhado Local Municipality, they had better services. The municipality they had been assigned to now is not taking care of them, she added. “Even the pipe that gives us the water, we fixed it ourselves by paying someone,” she explained.

Another Vuwani resident, Tshililo Mashau, 30, who sells eggs and mango achar, said she took the day off to vote. “I am voting ANC. Maybe [Cyril] Ramaphosa will come and change our problems,” she said.

The mother of two said all six members of her family are voting ANC. She has accepted that Vuwani has been incorporated into another municipality. “We don’t care about it because there will be no change. We are just waiting for development,” she said. “Maybe when the demarcation board sits again [there will be change]. But for now, we are tired,” she said.

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8 May 2019: Residents of Vuwani leave Tshivhulana Primary School after casting their votes. An electricity outage delayed the opening of voting stations.

Protestors

Arnold Mulaudzi, the deputy chairperson of the pro-Makhado Demarcation Task Team, which hopes to get Vuwani reincorporated under the Makhado Local Municipality, was arrested on 7 May and released on Thursday morning on R5 000 bail.

Speaking to New Frame at the Vuwani Magistrate’s Court,  Mulaudzi said that his arrest is motivated by politics.

Mulaudzi added the task team will still have to sit down and discuss whether it will meet with the government to discuss the demarcation crisis.

Speaking to New Frame, the national spokesperson of the South African Police Services, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, said Mulaudzi was “charged with intimidation and contravention of the electoral act after he allegedly incited people not to go and vote on national television”.

The chairperson of the pro-Makhado Demarcation Task Team, Takalane Mukhudi, said he was pleased with the boycott of the elections because there was no reported violence.

The team had resolved to negotiate with the government after the elections.

The Electoral Commission’s provincial manager for Limpopo, Itumeleng Seanego, said there were a few disruptions in the area on Wednesday. “There were issues, particularly at Avhatondwi in Vyeboom.

“We have a group of people who do not want the elections to go on. And we have another group that would rather go for elections. Those who are not happy with the elections are those who are still saying that this demarcation issue must be sorted out,” Seanego said.

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8 May 2019: Members of the South African Police Service prepare to occupy strategic intersections to maintain calm in Vuwani as voting takes place.
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