affiliations of gangs in the notorious Northern Areas
outside of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, could spark violence on election
day and future elections but it is government’s response to the gang problem
that is drawing votes, some community members say.
“I’ve heard gangs
shouting ‘Julle is ANC, julle is corrupt [You are ANC, you are corrupt]’,” community member Andrew Saulls told
“There haven’t been any
killings by gang members because of affiliations, but everyone has their party.”
At a recent
distribution of food parcels in the area, gang members had complained to
Saulls: “These Xhosa people, they are ANC, you see how they are getting these
food parcels here, they mustn’t be here.”
The gangs had used this as
an excuse to “go back and rob those people”, said Saulls.
Saulls, who is
chairperson of the Bethelsdorp school governing body forum that represents 69
schools in the area, said elections time “is extremely divisive”.
“It pulls people apart
and in a place that is already incredibly volatile with gang violence, this is
He would be one of the
attendants at his local polling station in Floral Park, a community in the
Northern Areas, on Wednesday. He had been hired by the Independent Electoral
Commission especially, he said, to “keep an eye out for any warnings of
Gang members “blamed
the ANC for their place in life”, he said.
“For not having jobs,
dropping out of school because they couldn’t read because they didn’t have good
The 13 wards of the
Northern Areas are all run by the Democratic Alliance (DA), said Saulls.
The education system
was in “tatters”, he said, and the recent scandal over unpaid teachers and
vacant teacher posts in the province would “swing votes big time”.
Last month the Legal
Resources Centre in Grahamstown successfully won a court order forcing the
provincial education department to pay R25-million to 32 schools which, because
the department had failed to pay its own employees, had to pay teachers’ salaries out of its own coffers.
The case was turned into a class action
lawsuit so other schools in the same position could claim back money they were
owed by the department.
“This vote this year is an emotional one. We’ve seen thick, thick, thick ANC loyalists wearing DA T-shirts,” said Saulls.
But he will be voting
“They have good
policies, just bad implementation … I have hope it will change and I will help
In Helenvale, a
neighbouring community, trash blew around the feet of a group of about 60
community members huddled around local pastor, Samuel Davids, as he
MG that 40 people died in a “gang war” in March.
“Most of them were
children,” someone shouts nearby.
“One child was shot in
the mouth, the other was shot in the stomach,” he says, putting his finger in
his cheek. The group, some of them wearing ANC T-shirts, follow his movements.
“Since the DA was here
there are no services, no sports programmes to give the children something to
do after school … it can’t address the gang problems,” he said.
“We don’t trust the DA
so we are voting ANC.”
The group agrees
shouting “Ja, ja, ja” over each other’s heads and the music blaring from the
ANC office at the top of a flight of stairs nearby.
“The ANC has unit
structures, street committees, it knows how to govern communities, that’s how
you fix a problem.”
His ward, like the
others, has a DA councillor, but this would change in the next municipal
elections in 2016.
But on Wednesday this group
of people from what Saulls calls the “bleeding heart of the ganglands” will
vote for the ANC in the provincial and national elections.
‘Poor people’s interests’
Desira Davids, a social
worker wearing an ANC T-shirt, said she was grateful for the ANC government
because it has “poor people’s interests at heart”.
“It is bringing
services closer to the Northern Areas like courts and home affairs offices … it
also gives us start-up kits for food gardens.”
Charmaine van der
Merwe, a community member, agreed, saying “that business with Nkandla … The ANC
is not Zuma and Zuma is not the ANC”.
“The ANC put Nkandla
out in the open, it didn’t hide anything, it will deal with Nkandla.”
Ward committee member Henry Sillis pointed to the corner where a four-year-old child was shot by
warring gang members in 2011.
“I saw it happen here …
it’s been a big problem and never as bad as it was this year.”
But last month Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa visited the area “and got police in here and since then
there’s been no fighting, it’s been so peaceful”, he said.
“I’m going to vote ANC
tomorrow, we all will.”