The local government elections take place in less than two weeks. It is all about service delivery and tangible governance. However, in the Buffalo City Metro in the Eastern Cape, there is not much excitement as a large number of residents the SABC encountered while reporting in the lead-up to the elections are fed up with the lack of services from their chosen representatives.
Residents here are lambasting the City’s authorities for being unable to live up to the delivery promises these past five years.
The metro consists of East London, Mdantsane, Bhisho, Qonce and rural surroundings.
Data from Census 2011 puts more than 75% of the metro’s residents in formal dwellings of which about 69% have water-based sanitation. But that same data shows that less than 53% of the metro’s population have piped water in their dwellings.
Electricity & sanitation challenges
In Smiling Valley, which is next to the N2 and connects East London to Qonce, residents say they have nothing to celebrate. There is no electricity supply or proper sanitation and use pit latrines. But electricity is what they yearn for.
A resident of Smiling Valley, Ntombi Mgaju-Marhani says: “We need electricity so much. The government is failing us. There is a medication that needs to be refrigerated. We need electricity because even our children need it for the computers, we also need electricity [to combat] crime. The crime is so high in Smiling Valley. So, if you have electricity it will help to identify criminals entering your house.”
Many residents don’t even want to vote, a sentiment echoed by Nobantu Ntuku. “The municipality doesn’t care about us they only want our vote. We don’t care about those parties because they are going to do the same thing because they don’t recognise us as the voters of South Africa,” says Ntuku.
Smiley Valley residents appeal for basic services:
The residents of Buffalo City also want jobs, criticising their local government’s failure to stimulate economic growth.
The automotive and manufacturing sectors are key economic drivers in the metro. But former industrial hubs, like Dimbaza, bear testimony of the economic decline.
Under the former homeland of Ciskei, businesses here enjoyed tax breaks. It is now run-down and beset by poverty and unemployment as the industries here moved to other areas since Ciskei was reincorporated into South Africa in 1994.
A promise to revive this industrial town is yet to be realised. Resident Nandipha Rhini says: “It affects our economy because now that the factories are closed it affects a lot of people because even outside, they come here for employment we are suffering, we can’t even walk freely.”
The unemployment rate in the metro is more than 30%.
Many unsuccessful job hunters have turned into entrepreneurs to make ends meet.
Street hawker Bulelwa Lujabe Peter says: “I decided to start this business after struggling to find a job and it helps to put food on the table…I see that the municipality is building shelter for hawkers on the other side…I hope they will come to us too.”
Municipality acknowledges challenges
Buffalo City Mayor Xola Phakathi says the municipality acknowledges the challenges it faces but is working hard to provide housing and infrastructure like roads.
“We are not able to reach everybody because of the challenge of inward migration of communities into the city and another challenge is the urban and rural divide that characterises our metro where you have 60% of our people residing in nearby villages. So we got to stretch our resources to cover those metros as well.”
Twenty-six political parties and 21 independent candidates will feature on the ballot for the Buffalo City metro.
In the related video below, residents of Perfeville informal settlement at Duncan Village in East London are accusing Buffalo City Metro authorities of dragging their feet to address sanitation challenges in their area.
Residents say their living conditions are appalling as they are forced to relieve themselves using buckets.
They don’t have toilets and the drainage systems are blocked: