Squalid conditions fuel frustration in SA’s township ahead of elections
Johanna Ditsela lives within sight of the gleaming skyscrapers of South Africa’s main financial district, but has existed in squalor for 30 years.
Unemployed and in her 50s, she picks her way along a stream full of sewage, dead rats and empty beer bottles to reach the cramped concrete and corrugated iron shack that she shares with her five children.
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.
Ditsela, a lifelong ANC supporter, wasn’t listening. She stayed at home rather than hear Ramaphosa, and like other residents of Alexandra, says she might not vote next month. "I normally vote, but the ANC is not doing anything for me, honestly," she said, sitting on a worn leather sofa in her shack and wiping away tears. "I need a job, and I need a house for my kids so that I can raise them in a dignified way."
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% it received in 2014. If turnout is low, it could lose control of Johannesburg’s Gauteng province.