Alexander Winning and Sisipho Skweyiya, Reuters, April 11, 2019
The shocking conditions in which people like Ditsela live are a big problem for the governing African National Congress (ANC), which faces mounting public anger over its failure to improve the lives of millions of the poorest citizens, 25 years after the end of white minority rule.
Ditsela’s Johannesburg township, Alexandra, has seen protests against overcrowding and poor public services in the run-up to a general election on May 8.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was campaigning for the ANC in Alexandra on Thursday, blamed the opposition Democratic Alliance party, which has controlled Johannesburg since 2016, saying: “It is upon the shoulders of local government to clean up this area.”
But he said the ANC provincial government would do more to develop the township and put a stop to newcomers erecting illegal shacks in already overcrowded areas.
The ANC is expected to win another parliamentary majority next month, but analysts say its share of the vote will probably fall from the 62 percent it received in 2014. if turnout is low, it could lose control of Johannesburg’s Gauteng province.
MODEL GATHERS DUST
Alexandra residents say a government project to develop the township, launched to much fanfare in 2001, has barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done.
A model of how Alexandra was meant to look once the project was completed — with parks interspersed between neat rows of houses — now gathers dust in a children’s library on 3rd Avenue, its lights no longer working.
Outside the library, ANC placards in the party’s black, green and gold promising economic growth ring hollow. So, too, do those of the DA, which has failed to meaningfully improve many people’s lives since it took control of Johannesburg.
High-profile politicians stop by Alexandra before elections, but residents say that, when the votes are counted, the visits dry up.
Both parties say an audit is needed to work out what went wrong. Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba told Reuters the ANC had incited recent protests in Alexandra to smear the DA’s reputation — a claim denied by the ANC.