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Electricity, water, crime, and grime – voters make their mark for change

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The running of South Africa’s municipal election on 1 November has come in for some criticism, but voting stations in wards 72, 73, and 74 in Johannesburg appeared to be mostly smooth sailing on Monday.

A few families living in the same house discovered they were somehow voting in different stations, not too far apart. In one station, people were told to return later when they temporarily ran out of ballot papers and at another, there was a delay when ballot papers were also in short supply. At Jabula Recreation Centre, voting started late as ballot papers arrived late.

There was a generally positive atmosphere at the stations, with people chatting in the short queues as they waited their turn. IEC (Electoral Commission of South Africa) officials seemed to be running things fairly smoothly.

Volunteers for the Democratic Alliance (DA), the African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) ward 73 candidate Fikile Msimango, and some voters marvelled at what appeared to be a large number of people going to the polls in these areas.

However, ActionSA volunteer Neville Kahn and election observer Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), hoped the turnout at Jabula would improve in the afternoon.

A United Independent Movement (UIM) volunteer in Orange Grove, who gave only his first name – Jacob – said, “Now people are coming two-by-two, but earlier this morning, there were too many people here.”

Aki Kalliatakis, an avid SA Jewish Report reader voting at Linksfield Primary School early in the morning, said, “The turnout doesn’t represent our population. I mean, it might represent our suburb, but we’ll have to wait and see. However, there’s a sense of enthusiasm. I think people are saying, ‘I have to do this’.”

Independent candidate Dave Fisher and voter Joan Lurie didn’t believe that the turnout had been negatively impacted by the elections being held on a Monday, making it a long weekend.

“It’s good they made it a public holiday and opened up the vaccination booths so that more people would go from voting to being vaccinated,” said Lurie.

She said she hoped her vote would result in “no more power cuts, no more water shortages, good Wi-Fi, no more potholes, and peace for everybody”.

Leah Fehler, too, voted for improved access to electricity and water. “We want to have the facilities that we need, and less crime,” she said.

Eradicating crime is one of the campaign promises made by UIM ward 72 candidate Evette Chen. Her father, a volunteer at Jabula, said the one-year-old party was well represented in the Eastern Cape and Western Province. He suggested that the UIM didn’t necessarily want to take votes from the DA, and was rather targeting voters from other parties.

Rosalee Bental was eager to see if her vote would enable “the DA to stay as the opposition, do its job properly, and keep the ANC on its toes”.

“I’m also interested in the small splinter parties like Herman Mashaba’s party, but I have to look where my vote will play best. That’s why I’m going for the DA.”

Allan Fehler also voted for the DA because he wants a better life, hopes for change, and feels he can rely on the party’s ward 72 candidate, Daniel Schay.

He hopes that the DA, if elected, will give homes to people and remove the refuse. “It’s terrible when you see paper, litter all over the show. The city has become a slum. It should be cleaned up,” says Fehler.

An IEC official told the SA Jewish Report that he also voted for the DA because he believes “all streets must be perfect with no potholes and, at night, everything must be cleaned up”.

A number of voters told the SA Jewish Report that they voted for ActionSA because they know Colin Morris, the party’s candidate for ward 72.

A female volunteer for ward 74 candidate Dave Fischer, said she was putting her support behind the man who had been serving as the DA councillor in the area for the past five years. “He did a great job during that time,” she said.

Others, such as voter Kara Gordan, this year changed who they normally voted for in the election. “I believe that the next generation is going to bring a bit of a change,” said Gordan. “My aim is to try and help implement that change, so I’m voting for a party I wouldn’t normally vote for.”

She believes you can’t complain and ask for change if you don’t vote. “Hopefully, some of our complaints are going to be heard,” she said.

Kalliatakis encouraged voters to vote for any party other than the ANC. “We shouldn’t let any politician have a sense of ‘this is mine’. It’s really about keeping them honest. The ANC at the moment is extremely comfortable, it has been so for three decades, and it’s now time for it to either wake up or be removed. I don’t necessarily think that any party is going to make too much of a difference, but at least it’s those little things that make a difference.”

Flkile Msimango, the EFF’s ward 73 candidate, said, “A lot of things are going to change around here” if she is elected.

An activist since the age of 16, Msimango started with the ANC before joining the EFF. “There’s a lot of opportunities in the EFF. We’re being trained to work the ground and help people. I’ve got a warm welcome when it comes to the EFF. I’m happy there.”

She plans to clean the parks in her ward and bring children, especially African children, who wander around Louis Botha to the Paterson Park Recreation Centre.

“I also want to clean up the streets and provide education and jobs for those sleeping on the streets,” said Msimango. “For those who are matriculating this year, I’m sending them a link to job opportunities. I’ve got my own soup kitchen, which I’m going to start operating maybe next month.”

According to Msimango – who also served as party agent on the day – and several volunteers, their main role was to answer questions and check the voters’ roll to inform people if they were registered.

Election observers, meanwhile, served as an independent eye to ensure that the elections were fair and flowing smoothly.

The SAJBD’s multicultural and multifaith observer team was present across the country.

Started about two decades ago, it’s registered with the IEC and reports any issues it notices to South Africa’s election management body.

Neville Kahn hoped that ActionSA would get good results in the election even though it’s a new party. “It hasn’t really had a chance to establish. I think once it can prove what it can do, it can only grow,” Kahn said.

Freedom Front Plus volunteer Glen Chatz said he thought the party’s chances were “very good”.

“If you read its charter, you will see that it’s pro-Jewish, pro-everybody actually. It’s not a white or black party. I think it’s definitely a party for a future.”

Jacob, a UIM volunteer at ward 72, and William Moloi, a life-long ANC supporter volunteering at ward 73, were both confident that their party would win their respective ward.

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