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Faith and doubt in Durban : New Frame

Faith and doubt in Durban

The ruling party’s birthday celebrations and 2019 election manifesto launch drew tens of thousands of its true believers. But many others, now disillusioned, stayed at home.

The crowing roosters outside Sabatha Maria Mazubane’s house in Chicago Crescent, Umlazi AA section, signal the beginning of a new day.

Mama Mazubane, 54, has hardly slept thinking about her party’s 107th birthday celebration at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Not deterred by the scorching heat, the mother of one bathes at the communal showers made of corrugated iron about 30 metres from her RDP house.

“I don’t care what they say, I love the ANC,” says Mazubane.

Beaming with pride, she lays out her neatly ironed green and black blouse and skirt on her bed next to her ANC Women’s League uniform, together with black stockings and her shoes, which are new and black patent leather with low block heels.

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12 January 2019. Sabatha Maria Mazubane in her ANC Women’s League uniform ahead of the ANC birthday celebrations and election manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)

Portraits of former presidents Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela are displayed on her TV stand.

About 15 minutes away, a community leader at the eMathinini Transit Camp, Baba Bheki Ngema, herds his goats in defiance of the ANC’s celebrations, which he says spit in the face of the poor.

Unlike the loyal card-carrying Mazubane, Ngema, who is unemployed, did not join the thousands of ANC supporters revelling in the festivities. He spent the day looking for the next meal for his family of four.

He was not the only one boycotting the festivities.

At uMlazi’s AA section, at 6.40am on Saturday morning, ANC event coordinators tell Mazubane to get ready as one of the five buses ferrying community members and ANC supporters to the stadium has arrived.

“The bus will wait for us, don’t worry,” she says.

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12 January 2019. Sabatha Maria Mazubane boarding the bus taking party members from AA Section in uMlazi to the Moses Mabhida Stadium. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)

Leaving her unemployed daughter Nomfundo, 22, behind, Mabuzane heads off to join fellow comrades and community members gathering at the corner of Chicago Cresent and Mafikizolo Grove, within walking distance of her home.

Mazubane boards the bus and heads for a window seat close to the back. Excitement for the day ahead is palpable and the bus is a hive of activity as the driver starts the engine, which he does promptly at 7.20am.

Shon’ malanga. Sizodibana nebhazuka ehlathini is the first struggle song to set the tone for the two-hour journey in the overcrowded bus.

Singing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Zizojika izinto, young and old, male and female bang on the roof, stomp their feet, ululate and clap their hands, making the bus bounce up and down.

After a 10-minute drive, the bus comes to an abrupt stop opposite King Zwelithini Stadium and uMlazi Sports Hub, where members are given yellow party T-shirts emblazoned with Ramaphosa’s face.

Although the members appeared united, some have made it clear that their loyalty remains with Zuma.

The journey ends when the bus drops its passengers off in the Olive Convention Centre parking lot. As Mazubane makes her way into the stadium, others crack open bottles of alcohol and head to the beachfront.

Mazubane makes her way straight towards a block of chairs painted black and green. This is where the ANC Women’s League members will be sitting.

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12 January 2019. Sabatha Maria Mazubane (centre) sitting among her fellow ANC Women’s League members during the ANC election manifesto launch. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)

Life story of an ANC supporter

Mazubane told New Frame she was born in Oshabeni, Port Shepstone, in 1963. Her father, Solomon, who died in 2010, was mentally ill and never worked while her mother, Ntombinjane, now 88, did odd jobs like gardening and small-scale farming to feed the family.

Raised by poor parents, Mazubane left school in standard two (now grade four).

“There was no money and so I started looking after children in the community for money to help my family. I was 14 at the time.”

Mazubane said it was her brother, Zibuse, that inspired her to join the party.

“He went to Johannesburg around the year 1989 and he arrived during heightened black-on-black violence during apartheid. He returned home with nothing but the clothes he was wearing and his ID, and he found that there was black-on-black violence here, too.”

She said Zibuse was killed by Inkatha.

“I joined the ANC in 1990. At the time, I would attend meetings and get a political education. My family and I love the ANC, my brother died for it,” she said.

Mazubane moved to Durban in 1995 and, in 2011, became deeply involved in party politics. “I sat on the Branch Executive Committee until now and I am the chairperson of the Women’s League in ward 84, Bhekithemba Branch.”

She acknowledged that some residents complain about a lack of housing, high crime levels and a lack of water and sanitation.

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“As volunteers, we take these issues and we discuss them during branch executive committee, in the presence of a councillor. This is where we try to resolve issues affecting the community,” said Mazubane. She added that she received her RDP house, which is next to the shack she used to live in, when the government built the houses in 2016.

Despite the intense criticism of the ANC during Zuma’s administration, Mazubane remains a faithful member.

“Currently, I am happy with the status of my party. It appeared as though people were upset with the way that things were happening, especially under [Jacob] Zuma’s administration. But now, when we speak to the people, they have calmed down.”

Since Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension to the Presidency, Mazubane said, there is hope for the ANC.

“As members on the ground, we have hope that everything is going to be all right. The ANC needs to work on reducing the crime levels, fixing the education system and creating jobs for the youth.”

When asked who she was going to vote for in the upcoming elections, the answer was not surprising.

“I am going to vote for the ANC. Akujiki.”

Ngema did not share this sentiment.

“They are going to go to the celebrations to be deceived by food parcels,’’ he said derisively.

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12 January 2019: Community leader Bheki Ngema turning on one of the few water taps that supply the community at the eMathinini Transit Camp in uMlazi, Durban. (Photograph by Ihsaan Haffejee)

‘Food parcels, T-shirts and empty promises’

Ngema’s tin shack is one of 300 overlooking Q section in uMlazi, housing more than 1 000 people. Residents are forced to share four taps, toilets in a shipping container and rely on self-organised, and therefore illegal, electricity connections.

“I share this room with my three children, there is no privacy,” said Ngema.

He is reluctant to vote in the upcoming election because voting has not brought change in his life.

“We are heading towards the elections and they are going to come here and give us food parcels, T-shirts and empty promises. They think that we are fools. They steal money that is meant for the poor.”

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12 January 2019. Organisers handing out ANC-branded T-Shirts to party members on their way to the  ANC’s election manifesto launch. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)

Ngema said the money that was splurged on the manifesto celebrations could have been used instead to make a change in his community.

Some in Q section said that they still vote for the ANC. Other community members there are ardent Inkatha Freedom Party members. The shack settlement includes others that no longer vote for any party.

According to Ngema, eThekwini Municipality moved residents to eMathinini from section B in 2009 to make way for a shopping mall ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Ngema said the city promised to build them houses within 18 months, but 10 years later residents are still waiting for houses.

“I moved in here when my daughter was still in primary [school] and she has completed her matric and we are still living in these bad conditions,” he said.

The rooms flood during the rainy season and when it is windy, some of the roofs blow off, he added.

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12 January 2019: A roofless shack at the eMathinini Transit Camp in uMlazi, Durban. (Photograph by Ihsaan Haffejee)

Unfulfilled promises

Ngema’s neighbour, Maurine Mweshe, 45, shares her small shack with her parents, siblings and husband.

“We want the government to fulfil its promise and build the houses they promised to build us 10 years ago,” said Mweshe. The woman who shares the room with 10 people also complained about the lack of employment.

Born in 1958, Mavis Shabane told New Frame about the struggle of living in a room with her grown, 42-year-old daughter, Sindi.

“I am not going to vote for a party that has done nothing for me,” said Shabane.

Sindi shares the same views as her mother.

Umlazi remains an ANC stronghold with the IFP dominating only one section. It has a population of about 1 million people, most of them unemployed.

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12 January 2019. Members of the ANC during the launch of the party’s 2019 election manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)

Loyal supporter

Despite all the challenges, Mazubane remains firm in her confidence that the ANC will renew itself. Although she did not eat all day, she was pleased with the cutting of the cake and the popping of champagne to celebrate the party’s birthday and launch of its election manifesto.

Mazubane could not understand parts of Ramaphosa’s lengthy speech, but was happy that he addressed the issues of education, crime and political killings in the province.

“I think everyone is happy and they heard all the promises. I particularly liked when the president complimented KwaZulu-Natal’s performance in the matric results and that people were being arrested for political killings in the province,” she said.

Mazubane added that those who are abusing and killing women should also be arrested.

“As a comrade and member in good standing, who loves ANC, I was happy to be at the stadium. I am not tired because I came here for an organisation that I love dearly.”

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12 January 2019. Sabatha Maria Mazubane walking among the buses that transported members to the ANC gathering in Durban. (Photograph by Wikus de Wet)


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