Voting will always be special in SA

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Copy of ca p3 marie pienaar done INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Maria Pienaar from Plett with her sisters Dorris Lucas, Christina Kamoetie and Annie Lucas. Photo: Yolande Stander

Cape Town - Years may have come and gone and democratic elections may today be considered the norm, but for many people in this country, making a cross on a ballot paper remains a momentous occasion.

The right to freely vote for the public representative of their choice is still held close to the heart and treasured like a precious possession.

While the horrors that Maria Pienaar, an elderly Plettenberg Bay resident, experienced during apartheid continue to haunt her, it also motivated her to make her mark on Wednesday, despite ill health.

“I still remember clearly how a friend and I accidentally used the whites’ door at the post office as young girls.

“A women called Mrs Koekemoer shouted at us and sprayed us with Doom in an attempt to chase us out,” Pienaar said.

“I laugh about it now, but those years were terrifying and today I voted not only to ensure that those horrors are never repeated, but to make sure my six grandchildren have a bright future.”

iol news pic Gamja and Fatima Gamja Dante and Fatima Dante outside the Schotschekloof Civic Centre. Photo: David Ritchie INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Pienaar and her nine siblings grew up in the Piesang River Valley in Plettenberg Bay, but were forcibly removed during the late 1960s.

Pienaar said the first time she felt free was the day she voted for the first time.

Stanley George Wenman, 94, arrived at Milnerton High School with the aid of his wife, Ruth, and a walking frame.

“But his mind’s as sharp as a razor!” Ruth Wenman said of her husband.

Wenman first voted, he said, when he returned from serving in the Imperial Light Horse brigade in the North African theatre of World War 2, including the significant Battle of Bardia in the Western Desert near Tripoli, Libya.

“I was born in 1919, but my first vote would only have been in 1948 for the United Party and Jannie Smuts,” he recalled.

Queueing in the parking lot of Rhodes High School might not seem remarkable, but Majaj Mdingi has suffered to be here.

On Wednesday, he voted for the fourth time at the voting station in Mowbray, spending a few minutes in a short line - a privilege he is thankful for.

“I spent 10 years on Robben Island,” he said. “This is always a great day, it has great significance.”

The 68-year-old was part of the struggle, fighting for freedom under an oppressive government. After the dawn of democracy, Mdingi moved to Mowbray.

“I like it here, voting always goes quickly. Remember, this didn’t come easy.”

While it might not be the first time that elderly couple Gamja Dante, 83, and his wife Fatima, 81, cast their votes, the two said they got excited every time they made their mark.

The couple have been living in Bo-Kaap for more than 50 years and said thanks to democracy, they had seen change in their suburb.

Gamja said: “Bo-Kaap houses were not as colourful as they are today. Our houses used to be painted white or dark brown and you couldn’t repaint it. Now they look lively and beautiful.”

The two walked hand-in-hand at the Schotchekloof Civic Centre where they were told to jump the line.

“We can’t tell you who we voted for,” Fatima laughs, “but each time we do vote, we get even more excited. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

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Cape Argus


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