Why we refuse to vote
By Staff Reporters and Sapa
A community living on the fringes of Cape Town is sick and tired of being used by politicians, and won't vote in Wednesday's elections.
The Symphony Way pavement dwellers, who set up house on the pavement of Delft Street and are refusing to budge until they get proper homes, have accused political parties of trying to bribe them with offers of help only during election time.
The residents, wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "No Houses, No Land, No Vote", said COPE went as far as to offer to provide an advocate to help them in their court battle against their eviction.
There are no election posters here.
Anti-Eviction Campaign secretary Kareemah Linneveldt said they told parties not to put up posters because they would have no interest in elections until they had proper housing.
"For 13 months we have lived on the pavement and not a single politician visited us. Now everyone is offering us help," she said.
The Symphony Way residents were back yard dwellers who illegally occupied newly built houses in Delft before moving to the pavement.
Of the COPE offer, Linneveldt said: "We were told that if we won the case, we should say COPE won it for us, and that we should wear their T-shirts and support them."
News of their planned stayaway - and a similar action by residents of nearby Blikkiesdorp, many of whom were moved from Symphony Way - comes as expatriates in London have shown astonishing enthusiasm.
In London, 7 427 South Africans were registered - and voted at the high commission in Trafalgar Square last week.
Government spokesman Themba Maseko said: "The enthusiasm evident in those who queued outside South Africa House throughout the day bodes well for creating the atmosphere for more South Africans to return and make a contribution through deploying their skills in the nation-building effort or creating more jobs."
Meanwhile, a new survey points to the Western Cape as having the highest incidence of ANC intimidation ahead of the elections.
The latest Ipsos Markinor survey, released on Monday, warned that the province could be a "political hot spot" on Wednesday.
Townships where ANC support is high could be volatile, it said.
Conducted between February and March, the study drew information from 3 531 respondents across South Africa.
Researchers aimed to assess political intolerance, particularly after COPE's arrival on the political scene in October.
Findings include that the ANC and COPE are the first and second least-liked political parties.
They are also "equal recipients of intolerant attitudes", with 16 percent and 13 percent of eligible voters in the survey stating these were the parties they most dislike.
COPE has displaced the ANC Youth League, which tied with the DA at 9 percent, as the second least-liked political group.
Because no party received more than 16 percent, the survey found political intolerance remained "broad-based rather than focused on one specific party or group".
The survey said many respondents cited the ANC as guilty of intimidation in the Western Cape because of the "contentious nature" of politics in this province.
"The Western Cape also has the largest number of independent voters and therefore there is much at stake for political parties contesting the provincial ballot."
Respondents were asked which parties had been guilty of intimidation in their own communities, and 11 percent cited the ANC. The IFP came second with 10 percent, followed by Cope with 8 percent and the DA with 3 percent.
Though the Symphony Way and Blikkiesdorp residents know they need help, they won't accept it now from politicians with "hidden agendas".
"Where were all of the parties when we moved here?
"Because we're poor, they think they can come here and bribe us. It doesn't work that way," Linneveldt said.
Cope responded that while it had been involved in helping communities with grievances, it had not officially offered to help these residents with their court case.
Provincial spokesperson Nils Flaaten said many COPE members had volunteered to help communities in need.
"No official decision has been taken, but we know many members are offering help when there is a need, in their own capacity.
"And this is possibly what happened here."
Linneveldt said that while they did not intend to vote, they would not do anything to disrupt the election.
"It will be business as usual for us."
In Blikkiesdorp, residents are just as disillusioned.
"All of the parties are full of promises. Promises are a comfort to fools," said a man who identified himself as Rasta.
No matter which party won the elections, nothing would change in his life, he said.
"There is disease here. Cockroaches run over your face when you sleep. There is still no electricity. My life is the same as it was 15 years ago."
Another disappointed resident is I-man Dunn.
He was a "soldier for the ANC in the struggle" - he said he was shot in the leg during a riot in the 1980s and imprisoned.
"Not all of (Nelson) Mandela's promises came true. Government does nothing and means nothing to me, because they don't feel the pain of my children. I won't vote," he said.
* This article was originally published on page 1 of The Cape Argus http://www.capeargus.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4945711 on April 21, 2009