South Africa: 'Politicians Remain Politicians and They Will Never Take Us Seriously' - Jobs, Education Key in Limpopo

IEC voting station (file photo).

In 2014, Limpopo was unmistakably black, green and gold because it was there that the ANC recorded its most decisive victory of the eight provinces it won in that year's elections.

It bagged 78.6% of the vote and the EFF became the official opposition in the province after 10.74% of ballots cast went to the red berets.

But driving through small towns in the northern most province, one could be fooled into thinking that the EFF has the biggest drawcard, judging by the red wave of posters and billboards that line the streets.

As News24 entered Seshego, there was a massive red billboard which read: "Son of the soil", accompanied by a smiling Julius Malema. Nowhere is this more apt than in the EFF leader's hometown. The billboard of a grand smiling Malema was followed by dozens of smaller posters throughout the area.

While ANC posters are on street poles around the area, including in Seshego Zone 1 where Malema is from, these are clearly outnumbered by the EFF's posters.

A messiah-like figure

For many in Seshego, Malema is not only a local boy who made good, but a messiah-like figure who will finally deliver them from hardship once his party ascends to power.

A local woman in her 60s tells News24 the grant she receives from the government is far too little, and "this young one" (Malema) will make sure it is doubled.

"Go and tell them that we are old, the electricity is expensive," she exclaims.

Another woman, dressed in a long red skirt, a doek wrapped tightly around her head and a light jacket covering her upper body, explains why she'll be voting red on May 8: "I want Malema. He is from here and he has helped our children to get service stands at Juju Valley and he gave us blankets in December.

"I am not going to choose anyone who is not from here, they will play with us if we vote for them."

Further down the road, four young entrepreneurs are hard at work servicing clients at their car wash, under the watch of Malema's gaze from the billboard behind them.

"I am voting for that man there, grootman (brother). He is our only hope at getting jobs," 21-year-old Mahlatse Mahongwane says as he points to the one-time ANC Youth League president.

Combert Mabasa, also in his 20s, says it's important for the youth to vote.

"I have registered to vote and I will not disappoint the youth."

Lebogang Phukubje feels Malema and his party will deal with corruption if they come into power.

"Corruption will never end, but Malema may be able to change things for the better. Let's give him a chance like we gave the ANC one," he adds.

However, not everyone is moved by Malema's ties to Seshego and the province.

A man who has ANC posters tied to his front gate doesn't believe a new party needs to lead the province, even if it is one led by the township's most famous sons.

"I lived during apartheid. I am alive today and I see a changed country. So, I don't think we need a new party," he says while standing proudly in front of his gate.

Are days of large ANC victories over?

Community radio stations are like water coolers - the place where residents congregate to shoot the breeze, blow off steam or make their voices heard. And in Polokwane and its surroundings, politics and local issues have dominated conversations in recent weeks.

News24 spoke to Energy FM and Choice FM news editor Emmanuel Kwinda, who painted an interesting picture of what people were talking about on the radio.

"We interact with people daily on our elections programme, and we can tell that there is a lot of excitement, but at the same time noted a lot of anger in comments made by people in the station [who were] talking about elections."

"Interestingly some young people call in to applaud the current state of the ANC and seem to be in love with President Cyril Ramaphosa who has been portrayed as sort of a saviour," Kwinda says, suggesting the EFF may find it hard to oust the governing party or even drag its support lower than 50%.

Kwindi believes it will be tough for any single party to win the province by a large margin, despite the ANC's overwhelming win in the previous provincial polls.

Vhembe

In Thohoyandou, the heart of the Vhembe district, the roads leading to the University of Venda (Univen) give a hint that there is a battle for the minds and hearts of students. There, EFF and ANC posters compete for attention.

On campus, views differ over who will serve the youth best and a dominant wave of opinion doesn't emerge.

Maekanye Mokgobole, 21, said all she wanted was free education.

"We need education so we can move forward, and the ANC has now brought that," she says, referring to former president Jacob Zuma's December 2017 announcement that the government will subsidise free tertiary education for poor and working class students.

But another student, who preferred to be named Boitu Wa Azania, said her hopes were with the red berets.

"We need a firm voice to deal with the challenges of the youth and the EFF is our way to get to true liberation."

Mokgobole and Wa Azania are only two of the young people who will play an important role in deciding the future of this vast province.

Burgersfort

About 300km south, in Burgersfort, many people are poor yet the land they live on holds wealth and riches beyond their wildest imaginations.

The town is home to more than 30 mines - 17 have been built since 2001, leading to a rapid spike in the population in less than two decades.

In 2018, some of the opportunities presented by the presence of local and international miners dried up as Bakone Platinum Mine cut 2 500 jobs.

Residents here want the government to change local laws to force companies to employ locals, and develop the area.

Mary Buthelezi from Praktiseer knows what she wants - a government that will create jobs. But she's still undecided about who to vote for.

"I see banners and placards every day. But to me, politicians remain politicians and they will never take us seriously. But I am going to vote. I just don't know for who at this stage," she said.

Sello Kwala also reiterates the need for jobs.

"We have so many mines here in Burgersfort but only a handful of us work. When will we be taken seriously and not for a ride?" the young woman asked.

Later, News24 decided to experience the night life in Praktiseer and visited one of the watering holes on a Friday night to talk to the youth about their feelings about the elections and what mattered most to them.

Do the claims of state capture, the inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the scandal around the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank - stories which dominate national headlines - mean anything to them?

For Bismark Sello these matters of national importance aren't central to his life as his main concern is finding employment.

"Some of us here have boiler making, electrical and mechanical qualifications, but we are never considered for employment, and that is what matters to me because I am unemployed," he says.

Sello's friend Xolani Sehlangu echoes these sentiments, saying that while he sees the stories on TV and hears them on the radio, he is more concerned about jobs.

Employment tops the agenda of people in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo.

But that did not stop any political party from canvassing in the area. EFF posters are widely displayed and bear the slogan: "Our land and jobs now."

Sekhukhune is also an ANC stronghold, but that does not s stop people from wearing EFF and DA regalia.

Source: News24

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