by Uveka Rangappa
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Just when I thought we were going to have the most boring, uneventful day in Port Elizabeth, this eNCA Election Bus trip got very interesting.
We spoke to young South Africans who are students, those who are a little longer in the tooth at a retirement village and we delved into the world of gangsterism.
Unlike Cape Town where young South Africans said they were not voting, in PE, students are certain they will vote they just don’t know who they’ll vote for yet.
We then headed to an old age home where the conditions and the stories broke my heart. It’s a municipal-run home, but you can barely swing a cat in the room where they sleep and cook, and doors don’t even lock.
Can you believe they have to share a bathroom? Ten people - men and women- using one bathroom. Some have been waiting for a house which was promised to them decades ago - and they’ve lost all hope. They won’t be voting. Others are politically active at this home and are members of smaller political parties.
The common sentiment I picked up was that things were slightly better when Athol Trollip was mayor. Our students say they were safer in their digs because metro police patrolled outside, but that doesn’t happen now. The elderly said when he was mayor the area was at least cleaner: that also doesn't happen any more.
And then we headed to Helenvale where gangsterism has forced the closure of the only clinic in the area. Children playing barefoot amongst trash bags, have witnessed shootings and seen bodies. Children here are killers.
Two gangsters told me they were given very little choice - gangsterism prevented them from from going to school. They are gangsters who have children themselves and they need to provide, so they stand at the “borders” of their territory, collecting money from taxi drivers to allow them to operate in their territory. They say if they had proper jobs, they would leave this dark world in a heartbeat.
I asked a 17-year-old gangster called Killer if he would talk to me and he said, “Let’s talk about you and me.” I told him, “I am nearly 44, married with two kids and I’m old enough to be your mother!” You should have seen the horror on his face, and he said, “Oh ok I’ll leave you alone”. This is the same child who just a few minutes before that had told me, “Bring Cyril Ramaphosa here. I want to rape him.”