Solly Masimang seen speaking to the resident of Alexandra. Picture: Dimpho Maja/ African News Agency (ANA)

The Democratic Alliance’s election push was forced to dead brake yesterday afternoon at the gates of Madala Hostel in Alexandra township north of Johannesburg.

A committee of leaders - Izinduna - who preside over the management of the hostel told Solly Msimanga, the DA’s Gauteng candidate for premier, and about 40 DA supporters they could not campaign inside the hostel unless they were accompanied by Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, the city’s MMC for housing Meshack van Wyk, and executive director for housing Moses Metileni.

“We want Mashaba, the MMC and the ED of housing. We want to know what’s happening,” said one of the hostel’s committee leaders, Mthobisi Sokhela.  He said, “The person we want to see is Mashaba. We want feedback from him about our grievances which we expressed to Mashaba before he was even mayor, while he was still campaigning in 2016 (municipal elections).  He (Mashaba) promised to come back to us, but still, we are waiting for his feedback. Mashaba promised that if he won, he would fix the hostel. To listen to anyone else would be a waste of time, because, it means we have to start from scratch.”  

Sokhela said Mashaba had made promises to the hostel’s residents. “We want to see Mashaba about the promises he made.”

He said last week he received a delegation from the DA.  He informed them they would have to be accompanied by Mashaba, failing which they would not be allowed to campaign within the hostel.  “They promised Mashaba would be here today, at 12h00, today,” said Sokhela.

“We don’t mix with politics,” claimed Sokhela, though a poster of the Inkatha Freedom Party bearing the face of longtime leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi hung on the wall at the hostel’s entrance.     

When, yesterday afternoon, at about 12h15, Msimanga arrived at the gates of the hostel with a legion of DA supporters to conduct door-to-door engagement with residents, he was told to go get Mashaba, and would only enter the hostel at his own risk.

This forced Msimanga to conduct his campaign at the hostel gates and canvas for votes around the hostel precinct. 

Sokhela said: “We want someone who will show us proof of what they will do for us.  An official letter of the government signed. We want a new hostel. Look at this place.  Would you say this is fit for human habitation? But we live here. All in government are making empty promises.  This hostel caught fire in 2013 (pointing to the largely roofless, and visibly derelict top floor), and since then it has not been fixed.  The insurance company said it would not pay for the rehabilitation of the hostel because the government was no longer maintaining the hostel.”  

He added: “Perhaps it’s not taken care of because we are Zulus. Zulus live here. But, we vote.”

Sokhela then listed a litany of things wrong with the hostel:  “Kitchen sinks are blocked. Seventeen people live in one room.  Men and women use the same toilets. Just imagine.

“We even wrote a letter to Makhura (the premier of Gauteng, David Makhura) in February, this year, and we are still waiting for a reply. He (Makhura) said he would call us all to a meeting in April this year.  We are still waiting.

“The plan, we were told, was that while they fixed the hostel, we would be moved to extension 31, but apparently the contractor squandered the funds,” said Sokhela, who also confirmed that Madala hostel residents had received no formal communication about this from neither the City of Johannesburg nor the Gauteng provincial government."