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Local Government Elections 2021 – My day in the field in eThekweni

By Annisa Essack
02:10:2021

As we drove into Phoenix, north of Durban, on Monday, the red EFF posters dominated the lamp posts interspersed with the ANC green and gold with a smattering of the DA’s blue and

Previous elections have held a certain air of pride, anticipation, and even camaraderie, but a cloud of hopelessness hung over the nation this time around. People went about their day as if it was just another long weekend during the pandemic instead of a day that would allow us to change our fate and country’s.too.

The Phoenix area had experienced violence and looting a few months earlier and was regarded as a “hotspot”, but the police were only visible within the precincts of the voting stations, with a few stationed at large malls or busy sections.

Voting stations at the different schools were recognisable by the IEC branding, but instead of the long queues reminiscent of the previous polls, there were just a handful of people walking into the station, looking grim.

Some stations were well-kept, with the officials exuding warmth and a smile, which put voters at ease as they were ushered through the voting process. Since the turnout was low, the process was quick and efficient.

Most noticeable was the absence of young voters in the stations I visited. The feeling of hopelessness was made clear when I began talking to some voters. Many said they were marking their X but felt hopeless as they had done so several times before, and the change they coveted never materialised.

The few young people I did get to talk to shared their experiences during and after the July violence. Many said that there had been little tension between Indians and Africans until after the killings. They placed the blame squarely on the media reporting, which they said had fanned the flames of racism and hatred.

The common sentiment was that they wanted better education, better work opportunities, and better communication between societies to ensure that all South Africans had a more positive future.

Moving on to Verulam, a little further north, the streets were quiet and finding a voting station proved difficult, and when we did, it was well manned but with only a sprinkling of voters. The sparse turnout was a harbinger of what the results would reflect later in the week.

George Campbell Technical School was our next stop. The station was smaller than usual, and once again, a few people trickled in. Some even took advantage of the vaccination station outside.

During my chat with the Active Citizen’s Coalition candidate, Raeesah Mia, I found out about the irregularities at the station. The ink stain, a security backup to prevent voters from revoting should there be any computer glitches, was washing off for some.  Meanwhile, some voters were turned away even though they had been registered to vote at the station. They were turned away and sent to another station.

There were only two voters at the Addington Primary School voting station when I arrived. So, I decided to walk over to one of the TAFTA homes to chat with some old folk there. They sat in small groups and were happy to talk to the “Moslem girl from the radio.” Again that thread of hopelessness made its way into our conversations. Many shared that they were glad that their children had left the country for greener pastures, while others showed their disdain for corruption and crime. They wished for a prosperous country where their families could once again be united and be with them in their twilight years.

Many elders had made their mark, but they felt that the elections were another empty promise—their hard-earned freedom, traded for a prison whose bars were corruption, crime, and insecurity. I left feeling sad to see defeat and dejection etched into their weary faces.

My day ended when I arrived at the Hartley Primary School in Overport to cast my vote. Once again, the queues were short. My X was placed within a few minutes, and I returned home.

That evening I listened to the news channels talk about the irregularities, the protests, and violence in parts of our country.

My day ended with a heartfelt and sincere prayer that this election brings positive change to a country blessed with people of strength, courage, and faith.

The wait for the results will be filled with anticipation and fear, but we must never lose hope.

Surely there is in the person of Allah’s messenger an excellent example for you—for every person who has hope in Allah and the hereafter and who remembers Allah, reciting His name many times. (Quran 33:21)

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