Johannesburg - Sophy Wentzel spent her day walking the neighbourhood in Kliptown Ext 10, skipping over sewerage spills on the narrow streets, to collect signatures for a petition demanding toilets.
It’s not the first time that Wentzel, a community activist in the area bordering the racially defined ghettoes of Eldorado Park and Tshiawelo in Soweto, has embarked on a crusade to raise awareness of the plight of her community.
After recent floods ravaged the area, destroying houses, Wentzel campaigned for the victims, but to no avail.
“The remaining facebrick houses you see here were built before 1994. We have had to try to do things ourselves by rebuilding the collapsed houses,” she said. “We have nine families sharing one toilet and that is not fair. Our community is 80 percent single women and unemployed youth, so toilets are not our only problems.”
Some also wanted proper homes because their houses, built more than a century ago, were falling apart. They wanted electricity and roads enjoyed by some across the Klipspruit – a few blocks away.
“It feels like we live in no man’s land despite Kliptown being the earliest area to house people of all races. It’s disappointing because we live right next to a heritage area where the Freedom Charter was adopted,” she added. “But you get a feeling that what we have been denied is shipped past us to others. Our parents died in these circumstances without anyone taking notice, and we don’t want to do the same.”
Across several blocks from where Wentzel was stalking the gutted remains of what was once a popular movie house – Sans Soucie – voters delivered a mixed message in last week’s national and provincial election results.
At the Kliptown Community Centre the ANC received 66 percent of the votes cast in the area, the DA 18 percent and the EFF 11 percent.
In Kliptown Secondary School in Eldorado Park, the DA received a resounding 78 percent of the votes, the ANC 13.8 percent and the EFF a mere 2.7 percent.
The results were mirrored in Kliptown Ebenezer Congregational Church and Eldorado Park Primary, where the DA received 76 percent, and 81 percent.
In 1994, Eldorado Park voted ANC. It was one of the few coloured townships to do so, but now it is firmly in DA hands.
The DA says it has gained significant support from traditionally coloured and Indian areas, especially in Eldorado Park, Lenasia and Ennerdale, all south of the city.
At home in Eldorado Park, Mark van Wyk, an ANC member, spoke frankly of his party’s declining support among coloured voters.
“The ANC is a mighty organisation and it’s because of it that we are all where we are now,” he said. “But they have to realise that they are going to lose power. With the frustration that people had with our government, they couldn’t wait for this election to come.
“The ANC will go down if they don’t listen to the people on the ground.”
Van Wyk said perception among many of his neighbours was that coloureds were overlooked and that the necessities and developments were by-passing them.
“They are frustrated because they feel that everything else they need is also going to other areas,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me what the voting patterns were in this election. People believe that they can now put their faith in other parties which are coming up to solve their problems. We must wake up and ensure that we meet people’s demands or risk losing it all.”
Van Wyk said the biggest issues that affected people in Eldorado Park related to drugs, lack of facilities and infrastructure.
The majority of people in his area – extension 9, dubbed the “Sandton” of Eldorado Park because of its middle-class population of teachers and nurses, among others – were disillusioned with e-tolls.
Moses Petersen, 48, who lives across the road from Kliptown Secondary School, was celebrating the ANC’s declining support, calling it the “beginning of a major collapse”.
Petersen, who sells bunny chow to pupils to support his family, is one of the area’s street patrollers at night battling the drug problem.
“Drugs are killing our children and what has this government done for them? Nothing,” he said. “When I grew up here in the 70s our people were passionate about the ANC and Mandela because they gave us all hope. All that is gone now. If Mandela was younger and lived longer maybe things would have been better.”
Petersen said he was equally frustrated by the rate of unemployment among young people and the lack of recreational facilities to take the children off the streets.