Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 13:12 UK
South Africa: Township reports

Lenny lives in Joe Slovo
Lenny has decided not to vote in the coming elections

South Africans living in the townships of Port Elizabeth are reporting for the BBC World Service on their lives and the issues that matter to them ahead of the country's most competitive election since the end of apartheid.

Mncedisi "Lenny" Mkhize, a 56-year-old artist and musician, lives in Joe Slovo, a semi-formal settlement which sprang up in the 1990s on Port Elizabeth's outskirts - a mix of wooden shacks and new government-funded houses:

People who live in Joe Slovo, most of them don't have money, we are a struggling community, most of the people they have nothing, most of the people are uneducated like myself.

I'm living in a wooden shack just now, built by me and my wife. I've been longing to have a proper house, and we have a new cement house next to our shack, but because of corruption and incompetence, that was left by the contractor half done so I had to finish it myself.

I'm scared to move in because of the cracks... I'm scared that my children will suffer with the cold and the draughts this winter.

Lenny's house
Lenny's son's plumbing skills has meant he has running water

We used to have a pit toilet in the garden until my son had to put the pipes in so we could have water.

The story that I'm telling is common, most of the people that I speak to are singing the same song about dissatisfaction with the building of their houses, they're not well built, they're falling apart.

I think most people still prefer their shacks to the so-called new houses we're getting.

I hope with the new elections this will come to an end, they'll get rid of the corrupt contractors, and start getting good contractors so we can get proper houses.

'Tough living'

My friend lives up the road, we call him "Coco" and he's been here in Joe Slovo for many years.

We grew up together in New Brighton, we were both hippies in the time of hippie-ism and Beatlemania.

Rosie lives in Joe Slovo
We voted before but nothing happened: We still have no water, no sanitation, no ceilings
Neighbour Rosie Vena

Now we're grown-ups, and he has got white hair. I went to ask him what he thinks.

"In this time of freedom most of our people are suffering ... I feel it was better during the apartheid time," he said.

Coco added: "Apartheid was wrong but during that time you could feed a family for 15 rand ($1.60). There was no crime, like there is so much now. "

"Today it is tough living. The reason we are starving is because of the current government... They keep on making promises and nothing comes down to the people," Coco told me.

I don't think it is as bad as apartheid times. During apartheid we wouldn't be able to talk about elections like this, we would be behind bars.

After I saw Coco, I spoke to 63-year-old Rosie Vena, who was outside doing her washing. Does she foresee a brighter future?

"It's been bad and it looks like it's going to be worse beyond elections. I never expected this but it's happening; it's becoming worse and worse," she said.

"We voted before but nothing happened: We still have no water, no sanitation, no ceilings... so we have no hope."

As I walked back to my house, I came across a guy in an ANC T-shirt, he told me his name was Melumsi Qosho.

"After the election I hope the ANC will do more for us, for the people.

"Already the ANC has done a lot - built houses for the poor, built toilets... Now we have toilets inside."

Melumsi added: "I know that some houses are not finished but we must be patient."


The government has promised new houses, and to get everyone out of shacks by 2014, but I doubt it very much. We remove shacks, and more shacks are springing up.

I'm feeling very bad about the elections because most people around Joe Slovo are feeling hopeless about the outcome.

When people do not have hope something must be done. For me I would say to the government: "Don't make promises then fly away far away from people.

"Get back there to the people again and say, 'Thanks for voting for me into power, thanks for giving me the opportunity to rule, thanks for making me your leader.'

"Don't run away, promise people you won't run away."

As for voting, I'm sorry, I've decided I can't go for a vote. I'll only vote in the next elections when I see that things are well done.

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