STORIFY: University students across South Africa take time out to make their mark
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22-year-old Shafee Verachia took his 86-year-old grandmother Fatima, by the hand, as they walked to the Malboro Gardens voting station early this morning.
The Wits SRC (Students Representatives Council) President, wearing African National Congress (ANC) party regalia, made it a family affair, as he joined his grandmother, aunt and brother at the polling station.
“It’s the first election where we are staying with granny so we have brought her to vote with us,” he said.
Fatima Verachia, 86, said in a trembling voice, “I am voting for the ANC, for Mandela, and his legacy.”
“Mandela?” asked Shafee,
“Yes, Mandela,” granny replied,
“And what about Zuma granny?” asked Zubair.
“Yes, Zuma,” she replied after a short breath.
Granny did not say much in words but her thoughts drew expressions of confidence on her face.
Verachia’s 62-year-old aunt Amiena Verachia said she was born during the oppressive regime in South Africa and the freedom that came 20 years ago was the reason for her ANC vote.
First-time voter Verachia says in his childhood he heard a lot of stories about the oppressive South Africa. “Hearing these stories drew an impact in our lives, and I think our generation sees that as something special,” he said.
“I think it’s because of my father, Hussain Verachia, who was in the ANC during the 80s,” said 23-year-old Zubair. He explained their father was part of the struggle and that may have influenced their granny. “There might even be something more that we may not know” the elder brother added.
“Personally, it’s about honouring the generation before me, they made the sacrifices for me to have this right to make this vote today,” said the SRC President.
Zubair Verachia begged to differ with his family on the matter of who they were voting for: “I don’t know who I am going to vote for yet”, he said, explaining that he had a problem with corruption in the ANC.
“At the same time I don’t think South Africa is ready for the DA (Democratic Alliance), as it does not have the empowerment for non-whites as the ANC does,” says Zubair.
He explained that his initial problem was, regardless of ANC’s reach to middle and working class people, most of the leaders in the party used a lot of money for their own benefit.
“I believe in what the ANC stands for, not what it’s become” he said.
James Dlalala is from the town of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal and today he cast his vote in Johannesburg as part of the national general elections.
Voting almost 500 kilometres away from the town that is the talk of the election period this year, Dlalala admits he was not persuaded to vote for any other party but the African National Congress (ANC) despite the negative publicity around Nkandla.
“We didn’t have gas and water before the ANC,” said healthcare worker Dlalala.
Despite the controversy surrounding the security upgrades to President Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla, Dlalala is adamant that the ANC “has helped South Africans more than it has damaged them,” citing the building of hospitals in rural KwaZulu-Natal as one of the developments that has been introduced to the area.
Dlalala, who is from the section of iPholela in Nkandla, insists the report released last month by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is not an accurate representation of President Jacob Zuma. “I don’t trust that this is the truth … Nkandla is a beautiful place”.
After casting his vote at the Jan Hofmeyer community centre in Vrededorp, Dlalala was not shy to say: “I don’t breathe in the DA – it is difficult to speak on the DA.”
When South Africans head to the polls in just over seven hours from now, stringent measures have been put in place to ensure their safety.
The South African Police Services (SAPS) are taking a “zero tolerance” approach to criminal activities related to the elections.
SAPS spokesperson Solomon Makgale spoke to Wits Vuvuzela earlier today and said: “We will not tolerate any activities by criminals who intend to disrupt the elections.”
Police officers will be monitoring polling stations and people who are found to be in possession of dangerous weapons, firearms and alcohol will be dealt with, he added.
Makgale said if one is found guilty of these charges, they may face a jail term of up to 5 years, or be fined anything up to R100 000.
“Everyone has a right to vote and no one may interfere with that right,” he said.
The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) have reported that 63 people have been arrested to date in cases related to various contraventions of the Electoral Act.
These offences include public violence, intimidation, assault with intent to cause grievously bodily harm, common assault, malicious damage to property, including the unlawful removal of posters.
“Those who break the law will be arrested and prosecuted” Makgale said.
Makgale said that political parties are free to campaign wherever they would like to, “we will not allow the creation of no-go zones” he said. According to the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission), political parties are only to campaign until midnight tonight.
The police are not allowed to be inside the area where booths are located, unless requested by the electoral officer in charge of that station. But SAPS officers will partol the perimeters of the stations and stand guard at the gates.
While an official number has not been made available, media reports suggest that close to 200 000 police officers will be deployed for the elections alone.
WITS played host to a first-0f-their-kind series of political debates in the lead up to to South Africa’s elections on May 7.
The purpose of the debates was to provide a platform for discourse to take place between political parties and the general public. We take a look back at some of the key issues that were raised and discussed at the debates.
Nkandla: a case of state denialism?
The issue of public money being spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla was a hot topic on the first night of the debate. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe rejected accusations of corruption.
“Nkandla was not built with state money,” Mantashe said.
The ANC’s denialism towards state corruption set the general the tone for the first round of election debates, which left the ANC open to criticism from opposition parties.
Agang leader Mamphele Ramphele and the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s federal chair Dr. Wilmot James, both cited Mantashe’s dismissal of ANC corruption as an indication of the failing legitimacy of the ANC, setting the general the tone for the debates that were to follow.
Delinquent behavior was the order of the day at the second debate, when a scuffle involving ANC and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters. On the stage, the ANC’s Bonisile Modise faced the DA’s Mbali Nthuli and the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu.
“Hooliganism is in the DNA of the ANC. We are not shocked that such happened,” said Shivambu in response to the conflict in the crowd.
Despite the tensions among the political parties, the debate continued with the credibility of the ANC at the front of the debate discussions
“If government has a good story to tell why hasn’t the ANC been able to secure this country and nation [after 20 years of democracy],” asked Student Representative Council (SRC) member Jamie Mighti.
Dynamite comes in small packages
Small parties in South Africa made their voices heard in the third debate when the Congress of the People’s Farouk Cassim, Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhulelo Hlengwa and the United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa, articulated a ‘quality over quantity’ argument.
The little-league of political parties used the opportunity to voice their dissent towards the ANC and the largest opposition party, the DA, suggesting that their small numbers should not marginalize them.
“[It is] not about numbers, [but rather] about quality that counts in the politics of a country…Look at the numbers of big parties, they can’t even deal with their corrupt president,” said Holomisa.
Countdown to the elections
The penultimate showdown between the DA and the ANC addressed issues of race and accountability.
The DA’s Mmusi Maimane and the ANC’s Paul Mashitile went to head-to-head in war of words on the misuse of funds by government in Gauteng.
“ANC says it scans its lists for people charged with corruption but Zuma is [still] on top despite Nkandla,” said Maimane.
The final the debate marked the official countdown to the general elections.
ANC’s Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and DA’s finance spokesperson Tim Harris discussed economic growth in light of corruption.
According to Harris, the DA could create six million jobs and cut corruption over a period of five years.
“Cutting corruption leads to jobs for all,” Harris said.
The debate concluded with both parties emphasising their shared goal of creating jobs and ensuring economic sustainability for all.