In 2009, ahead of the presidential election, the ANC returned the township to Gauteng, in an apparent bid to win votes. It worked. The township, including its poorest residents, overwhelmingly voted for the ANC.
But today, residents say little has changed.
Sikhulu Ndwandwe, 33, a social worker, and his family have been waiting for 16 years for a house, and they don’t expect to get one soon. Their only source of electricity is an illegal hookup.
“How can I vote for a party that is corrupt?” said Ndwandwe, as his friends and father nodded in agreement. “We need change.”
At the same time, though, Ndwandwe knows there are few alternatives. Since 1994, the ANC has overwhelmingly won every election and now controls two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. The Democratic Alliance is still largely perceived as too white, and many blacks remain loyal to the ANC, despite its failings, because it brought them freedom.
“The ANC is good. It liberated us,” Ndwandwe said. “What’s killing us is our leadership. If we change them, things will go smooth.”
But other residents said they are so frustrated that they will vote against the ANC.
Mbongiseni Dlamini, a 29-year-old miner who has participated in the strikes, lives in a green shack with no electricity or running water. Open sewage runs nearby. At night, he uses candles and paraffin lamps to read and cook.
Dlamini, who voted for the ANC in the last elections, said he now plans to vote for the Democratic Alliance.
“The DA is not just for white people,” he said. “We want a party that will bring change, and the ANC has failed us.”
For now, though, many people say there’s a single way to force action from the government — and the ANC. “In South Africa,” Ndwandwe said, “if you want to be heard, you have to go to the streets.”