South African elections
Giving a voice to the Cape Flats

Michells Plain CT

Dweller waved in an area near Cape Town in South Africa. In the background is visible part of Table Mountain.

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On Wednesday, the 15th of May, the Liberal Workshop, in collaboration with the organisation Cape Flats Stories, hosted a political debate in Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats, Cape Town, in the run-up to the May 29th elections. The Cape Flats, located on the outskirts of the CBD of Cape Town, is commonly known as the dumping ground of Apartheid, a space where people of colour were "dumped" during the oppressive regime.

Various political players from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Good Party, Patriotic Alliance (PA), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), National Coloured Congress (NCC), Aljama-ah Muslim Political Party, People's Movement for Change (PMC), ARA, United Independent Movement (UIM), and the African National Congress (ANC) participated in this heated debate, offering their solutions to the people of the Cape.

Challenges faced by the people of the Cape Flats

In his address, the Secretary-General of the Good Party, Brett Herron, said that his manifesto, focused on "ending the suffering," will support the people of the Cape Flats who are struggling due to a lack of economic inclusion. "In 1994 we got freedom to move and do what we want. However, our people are still suffering every day. Hence, we are fighting for the basic income grant since a lot of our people are unemployed in this country."

According to Herron, the unemployment in South Africa won't be easily solved, and therefore his party is calling for a basic income grant that will help people to survive. "The economy is not growing; hence we are calling for a basic income grant at R999 per month, and our government can afford it," he said.

The new kid on the block, PMC, led by former Minister Marius Fransman, said their party will fight for community and ubuntu. The party said that they will focus on people-centered politics and not stomach politics. "We want to create strong communities that do not depend on begging; communities must stand up for themselves," the party argued.

The ANC said they "acknowledged their mistakes but are the only party for South Africa." Faiez Jacobs said that his party has a plan to support struggling people. "We support the Good Party, we want to give people a basic income grant, we want to bring down the cost of living," he said. 

Fadiel Adams, leader of the NCC, a party focused on bringing restorative justice to the so-called coloured community, said his party is already doing things to fight unemployment on the Cape Flats. "Our manifesto is focused on the coloured people, because our people are dying due to the unemployment crisis. We shut down businesses so that our people could be included in the job market."

He said that his party empowers, and skills people even though they are not yet in government. "Judge us on our actions; go and see what we have done. [For example] we equip and train hairdressers, and this is how we empower our people."

Ricardo Mackenzie, a member of Parliament for the DA, said his party loves jobs and that their key priority is jobs. "Statistics show that the DA creates the biggest number of jobs; the main way to fight poverty is jobs." He says the DA created an opportunity for unemployed people to get free bus tickets so that they could get to job interviews. "We are intentional about creating jobs for our people," he said.

Mackenzie said his party is working hard to combat crime on the Cape Flats. "We want to make our communities safer. Guns get stolen at Mitchells Plain Police Station, and there are no consequences. The problem lies with the ANC-led national government," he said.


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Voices of the people

"We need new faces, and we need women leaders," said one of the female attendees of the event. She echoed her disappointment in the male-dominated panel and said it is time for women to be represented in politics. Another woman in the audience said she is disappointed with the old political establishment, "the older parties have failed us," she said.

Crime is a huge problem on the Cape Flats, and the majority of the attendees were concerned and asked parties to address the influx of crime in these communities. On this, Mackenzie said the only reason why the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town created a safety plan is because of the failure of the police led by the ANC.

"You may not like the answer, but it is because of the failure of the police. The ANC collapsed the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the State Security. If they did not do this, we would not have cut our budget and spent one billion rand on safety," he said.


Cape Flats Stories Partnership

On the outcome of the event, Stanley Jacobs, founder of Cape Flats Stories, an NPO focused on storytelling and community upliftment on the Cape Flats, said that he takes a lot of knowledge and experience from this collaboration. "This knowledge will be packaged, and we will make sure our people, especially our youth, are targeted so we can give more young people, and women, the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts," he said.

He said that he is glad that the platform gave a voice to the voiceless. "Nothing was censored or fabricated, and I think that made it a success. The lesson I'm walking away with is that we need to tell people that it's okay to exercise their democratic rights and that politicians and respective parties must be held accountable, not only during elections but every day."