Cape Town - Come election day, the Enkanini Residents Committee has vowed to blockade voting stations to prevent anyone in the informal settlement from casting their ballot.
The committee said it considered votes as support for politicians who were not interested in improving the lives of people who lived in the settlement, which is outside Stellenbosch.
“We have (secret) supporters in the municipality, and they have warned us that Stellenbosch’s entire police service will be here on election day,” said Dumesani Sweleka, the leader of the residents committee.
“We will not throw stones. We will sit in front of the gates, and no one will pass. But, if the police shoot first, we will protect ourselves. If that fight happens, it will be a terrible mess. We are willing to die here.”
Such a protest and community-wide election boycott, if it happened, would be unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa, said Peter Alexander, who has studied informal settlement protests as a researcher for the University of Joburg since 2004.
Enkanini was founded in 2006. Municipal estimates put the population at about 2 400; the residents committee puts the number closer to 8 000.
Last Saturday, during the national voter registration weekend, police fired rubber bullets and arrested three people when protesters from the community temporarily forced the closure of the Independent Electorate Commission (IEC) tent at the nearby Kayamandi High School.
The Cape Argus visited Enkanini on Saturday to ask residents about the elections, scheduled for May 7.
Sweleka, who led the boycott march on the IEC station and who claims to have founded Enkanini when he erected a shack on a vacant hillside in 2006, explained that there had been a massive loss in voter confidence since the national elections in 2009.
“At that time Enkanini was new and people were very excited about the elections,” he said.
“I voted, and many others did as well. We all chose the ANC to represent our ward in the city council. They had made many promises to improve our lives, especially electricity, which was the main thing that we longed for.”
Today, election cynicism prevails. The few shacks that are electrified have illegal connections, or have accounts with a private solar power company.
The Cape Argus randomly spoke to about a dozen people on the informal settlement’s streets.
Not all were willing to challenge the police actively and blockade election stations. Yet they all had apparently voted in 2009 and had refused, willingly, not to register for this year’s national elections.
“Why would I vote? I have tried once before, but it was no use.
“My life has just become more difficult,” said Nomanhla Vusani, a 38-year-old single mother who lives next to one of Enkanini’s informal dumping grounds.
She complained about the flies, and the contaminated water from the dump to her shack.
“My child has diarrhoea and rashes because of these conditions.
“The government will probably clean this mess before the elections. But two weeks later it will be back to normal,” she added.
Sithembiseni Phokojoe, a shebeen owner, said the lack of electricity forced her to spend about R300 a week on ice. The expense drives down her profits and she barely breaks even.
“You see, this lack of services does not only affect our health but our livelihoods,” she said.
Vernon Bowers, spokesman for the Stellenbosch municipality, highlighted service delivery successes in Enkanini – toilets, taps and area cleaning, which the municipality claims happens once a week.
He explained that the provision of formal housing and electricity connections was hampered by the fact that the settlement was located on a steep hillside.