June 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

South Africa elections 2024: A divided nation goes to the polls

South Africa elections 2024: A divided nation goes to the polls

Image source, Kayla Hermansen/BBC

Comment on the photo, Valdella Petersen turned what was once a hospital bathroom into her home

  • author, Barbara Plett Asher
  • Role, BBC Africa correspondent, Cape Town

A beautiful room was once a morgue; Feldila’s house was a bathroom; Bevil’s – A doctor’s office where he came to receive his diabetes medication.

They are all sitting in an abandoned hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, protesting what they see as the government’s failure to provide affordable housing.

The end of apartheid brought political rights and freedoms to all. But on the eve of the country’s seventh democratic election, persistent inequality continues to divide this country.

In many cases, the housing policies of the ruling African National Congress inadvertently reinforced the geography of apartheid, rather than reversing it.

Activists belonging to a movement called “Reclaim the City” occupied Woodstock Hospital in the dead of night seven years ago.

The goal was to seize properties close to the city center, says one of the leaders, Beville Lucas, because access to jobs and the services this provided was key to righting the wrongs of segregation.

He told the BBC that a “new form of economic apartheid” had replaced racist laws that kept black and colored people (as mixed-race South Africans are known) trapped in poverty in towns on the outskirts of Cape Town.

“The poor and weak in general have been pushed to the outskirts of the city.”

They now have the right to move but cannot afford the high rents demanded by downtown property developers.

For Jamila Davids, location was everything.

“I moved here because of my autistic son,” she says. “He goes to school around the corner. It was very close for him. It’s all there. And he’s thrived.”

She settled with her family in the former office of the hospital morgue.

Image source, Kayla Hermansen/BBC

Comment on the photo, The slogan “Reclaim the City” adorns the wall of the occupied hospital

“I get kicked out about 10 times a year,” she told me.

“But living in this profession has given me that opportunity to improve my life, I’m more free to do what I need to do, and it’s much closer to the city as well. It’s like coming home.”

City authorities have reached an agreement that the site can be developed for residential purposes, but describe the current tenants as illegal occupiers and say they need to leave before development begins.

The ANC came to power thirty years ago under a Freedom Charter that promised housing for populations deprived of safe and comfortable housing by apartheid. Since then, it has built more than three million and given away ownership for free or for rent at below-market rates.

But state house listings are still long — Ms. Davids has been waiting for nearly 30 years, and Ms. Petersen has been waiting even longer.

Most were built far from the city centre, where land was cheaper, failing to reflect apartheid spatial planning that entrenched inequality.

This is the case in Cape Town, says Nick Budlender, an urban policy researcher, describing it as “probably the most isolated urban area anywhere on Earth”.

It was the entry point for colonial settlers and they designed it that way, he says, so reversing that would require deliberate state intervention. But “since the end of apartheid, not a single affordable housing unit has been built in inner-city Cape Town.”

He took me on a tour of parking lots that store government vehicles, some gathering dust, and which activists have targeted as available public land that could be turned into low-income housing.

There are signs of a new approach. The provincial government, run by the Democratic Alliance (DA), is building a “better living” model on state land close to jobs and services in the city.

The Conradi Park project happens to be the site of a former hospital.

The first phase offers a mix of leveraged options and market value options, and the second phase is under construction.

Regional Infrastructure Minister Tertuis Simmers acknowledges there is a backlog of 600,000 people waiting for housing assistance, but says there are “ambitious” plans to deliver 29 similar social housing projects.

But budgets are small — he is seeking a private sector partnership — and timelines are uncertain.

Housing, often a hot topic in elections, has fallen to the bottom of the list of political priorities.

The statement of the Democratic Party, the official opposition party at the national level, did not specifically mention this, nor do other parties.

Image source, Kayla Hermansen/BBC

Comment on the photo, Noliema Titakom doubts that the elections will make any difference in her life

In the narrow lanes of Khayelitsha town, there is no shortage of hope for the future.

Many of those living in the sprawling corrugated iron shacks leave before dawn to commute to the city to work as their parents and even grandparents did.

The journey takes about 30 kilometers (18 miles), but the taxis and small trains they use are expensive, unreliable, and often unsafe.

Noliema Titakum has lived here for most of her 49 years. She gets water from the communal tap at the end of her alley and uses the public toilets.

Ms. Titacum has put an X on the ballot in every election so far, but “it doesn’t make any difference,” she told me.

“This time, I won’t vote,” she says, leaning her chair forward for emphasis, “because I’m tired. Because I’ve voted before, but I haven’t seen any change. I’m still here!”

The main thing on her mind is the coming winter rains that she expects to flood her hut again.

Image source, Kayla Hermansen/BBC

Comment on the photo, Bevil Lucas fears that if the housing crisis is not addressed it could lead to social unrest

Disappointment in the ruling African National Congress indicates that Hizb ut-Tahrir may for the first time lose the absolute majority it has controlled since 1994.

The third largest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is challenging what it calls decades of ANC failure by offering a radical “bailout” to redistribute the bulk of wealth still owned by a small minority.

A new party, Rise Mzansi, has exploited continuing divisions in Cape Town.

“We believe that South Africans should be able to stay closer to their workplaces,” national leader Songiso Zebe said recently during a campaign visit, accusing both the Democratic Alliance and the ANC of failing to do this kind of spatial planning for the fast-growing city. needs.

Mzansi’s rise is yet to be tested, but it comes without the burden of abuse of power that has hobbled the ANC, and the sweeping corruption that has cast a shadow over its decades of rule.

“The powers are very closely linked to the power of the monarchy,” Lucas says, speaking to me from his bed in the cramped living quarters, the room in which he consulted his doctor.

A former anti-apartheid activist who never stopped campaigning for social justice, he says he is disappointed by the outcome of the struggle, but insists the future still holds potential.

“Because it is an election, there is hope, which did not exist under the previous regime.”

He still hopes that the political authorities will pay attention to the extent of the social needs that remain a legacy of apartheid.

“If it’s not addressed appropriately, it could lead to social unrest, major social unrest,” Lucas says. “Because what do people have to lose when they actually become homeless, when they’re not able to get shelter?”

Image source, Getty Images/BBC