The ANC maintained its seats in the Emfuleni municipality during the November 2021 local government elections even though in the past, the party’s administration has hindered the efforts of young people to get an education.
As I look out of the window at my cousin’s house in the Vaal Triangle on yet another productive Monday, I see school pupils rushing to get to school early. A parent passes by, accompanied by a young boy pushing a rusty wheelbarrow carrying a 20-litre bucket.
That is when it hits me: They are going to fetch water somewhere. The boy chants to some of his friends, “O jwetse Thabiso ke batla toy yaka” (tell Thabiso I need my toy back). This is what the majority of young people living in the Vaal are subjected to.
The lights have been out since Thursday, October 21, 2021. As someone who is stressed about attending my online class, I could imagine the challenges faced by those who are preparing to go to school, including the matriculants who will be writing their final examinations.
The struggles of studying in the dark and the stress of no running water to prepare a warm breakfast continue in Vaal.
Evaton West is a small township that forms part of the Vaal, which is located in Gauteng province. The Evaton area alone has more than 10 schools, primary and secondary.The area is massively polluted and there is a greater chance of children and adults catching certain diseases, due to the unfit conditions people are living under. A majority of townships in the Vaal Triangle suffer from sewage problems.
Pupils are also the victims of lack of service delivery by the Emfuleni municipality, considering the living conditions they are subjected to. There is a garbage and sewage problem inside and outside schools and households in Vaal.
Thabo Moakgi, a resident in the area, took it into his hands to deal with illegal dumping. He shared pictures on Facebook showing him and his colleague cleaning up an illegal dumping site next to one of the primary schools.
The Emfuleni municipality falls under the Sedibeng district, which contains three municipalities: Mid-Vaal, Emfuleni and Lesedi. Emfuleni holds six township areas: Evaton, Sebokeng, Boipatong, Sharpeville, Bophelong and Tshepiso. The townships cover the entire southern area of Gauteng.
These townships are badly affected by Emfuleni’s lack of service delivery. The administration has taken massive blows from companies such as Eskom and Rand Water.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, an anti-corruption advocacy organisation tackling government corruption, declared the Emfuleni municipality a human disaster in 2018.
Sowetan Live published an article on Monday, September 20, 2021, stating that more than 98 tenders under the Emfuleni municipality had expired. This highlights how incompetent the municipality has been in providing proper service delivery that will help better the lives of pupils and the public.
The article goes on to emphasise that the municipality owes Rand Water an estimated R1.3 billion, with R3.2 billion owed to Eskom as well.
Emfuleni municipality’s manager, Lucky Leseane, has been placed under suspension for the second time, facing charges of poor performance and misconduct.
Will my vote make any difference?
The government encouraged youth above the age of 18 to go out and vote in the previous local government elections. Wits Vuvuzela Interviewed one of the young people in the area who was not looking forward to voting on November 1.
Thabang Moloi (22) said he had not seen any change taking place. Only his mother and big sister had the time to go and vote. “I have never voted before. I do not see any change taking place after my family or colleagues have voted,” he said.
A research paper released by The Midpoint shows the number of South African youths who voted in national elections in 2019: “Out of 11.7 million young people in South Africa from the ages of 18 to 29, only 5.6 million registered to vote,” the paper states.
Engaging with young adults and school learners in the area indicated that this generation is not concerned with politics, and they are not planning on introducing a new perspective to the political field.
Isabella Mothobi (33), a Vaal resident who was also a candidate in the 2021 local elections for the Spectrum National Party, did not secure a seat in the final outcome, when the ANC and DA won the majority of votes. She told Wits Vuvuzela she was disappointed to see young people drinking instead of going to vote. “The youth in Vaal do not realise they are not voting for themselves, but for their children’s future and their future,” she said.
This is one of the things young people in Vaal are missing when it comes to voting. Mothobi went further, saying that even many of those registered to vote, did not. By default, their votes went to the ruling party, the ANC: The same party that led the municipality into shambles.
“Kganthe ke ya kgona ho vota?” (Am I able to vote?) a grade 12 pupil by the name of Naledi Masenya (18) at Maxeke Secondary School asked me. She did not know she was eligible to vote, and was not even bothered with the upcoming elections. Masenya seemed to be more worried about writing her final-year exams on October 27, 2021.
On my way to visit Maxeke Secondary School, I met up with Tumelo Lento, who completed his matric in 2019. He mentioned how he was in awe, finding himself in a staggering situation that prompted him to become violent just to get water in a crowd of old and young people.
“Yoo ho ne ho le rough sware, Ke bone ke pusha magriza leyena ang pusha hore re thole metsi” (It was very tense. I saw myself pushing an old woman while she pushed back so that she could get water), Lento said.
The concrete walls of Maxeke Secondary are covered with political posters. A huge truck carrying waste passes by. This is strange, as garbage trucks “only come once a month, or they do not come at all”, according to Lento.
I later found out on Facebook that residents of Zone 3 Sebokeng had blocked municipal garbage trucks from operating, due to an anticipated visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The situation was tense and the South African Police Service were called to intervene.
Walking inside the school yard, I could see the sports grounds overgrown with brown grass during this summer period. The condition of the classrooms is worse. Many of them have missing windows, the chairs are broken and the drainage is not working.
Adams Happyness, who is also a grade 12 pupil at Maxeke, told Wits Vuvuzela it becomes a challenge to study. “After some of my friends leave school, which comes out early due to water cuts, they have to travel to find water, which then affects their study time because they come back exhausted,” he said.
Happyness claims that pupils walk from Evaton to Extension 12 to get water. It is a 30-minute walk and an hour-long wait for them to get water.
Most facilities, roads and playgrounds are no longer in good condition for pupils to use in any way. After visiting Maxeke Secondary and other schools in the area, one saw that much is broken and not working.“ The broken smartboards are an act of vandalism by some of the learners in our school,” said Happyness.
Irene Macheli is the principal of Letshego Primary School in Evaton. She told Wits Vuvuzela how important arts and sports are for her learners to understand how to challenge life differently. “We still do not have enough sports grounds in our yard. We would normally use Pooe’s sports ground,” Macheli says. The sports ground she is referring to is owned by a local bottle store in the Evaton area.
Councillors not playing their role
Abel Pontsho Schauke has been an ANC ward councillor since 2011, and his term ended on October 1, 2021. Schauke told Wits Vuvuzela he is disheartened to see the conditions young people in the area are subjected to. “The youth are not living a dignified life, and this is because our municipality is not doing what they are supposed to do,” he said.
The councillor claimed to have brought a church, shops and community hall to his ward. The councillor emphasised helping to fix the electricity in his area, where residents in Mokhelele went without electricity for much of 2020.
Schauke says that as a ward councillor it is not his job to service the ward: ‘‘My job as a councillor is only to report to the relevant departments, which will come and attend to the matters presented.”
Lesedi Khaole, a former learner at Maxeke who is currently completing a chemical engineering degree at UCT, expressed how he lacked learning materials and spoke of the struggles of being sent home early because of water cuts. “I have seen no change, and things have definitely become worse. For example, in the street that I lived in there is still no tar road, just rocks and sand. The councillor promised he’d build one, but it has been years and nothing has been done.”
Khaole attended the Ikateleng programme, an education initiative held at North-West University’s Vaal Triangle campus for grade 12 learners. He told Wits Vuvuzela that the programme assisted him and it is the reason why he did well in his final exams. Programmes like this were some of the things that teachers and the public needed.
Areas such as Evaton, Beverly and Mokhelele have only one library serving close to 20 wards. Schauke pointed out how costly it is for learners in this area to travel to the library.
In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said, “At least there is a library, as the government has many demands.”
Puseletso Deniso, a teacher at Bophelong Secondary School, explained how important it is for the area to have more facilities, in order to help better the lives of pupils. “Libraries! We need those functioning libraries. I teach in an impoverished environment and the only way for learners to access online study material is through mobile devices. We need libraries with computers and smartboards where learners can either work individually or in groups at the library.
“Learners can only receive sufficient resources from us, as their educators. This impacts their ability to do and complete research on their own, because there are no resources for them to use,’’ Deniso added.
FEATURED IMAGE: Children carry water buckets during the endless water cuts in Vaal. Photo: Alfonso Nqunjana