Born-free finally gets a chance to make his voice count
Nicholas Tlatane waited impatiently to turn 18 so he could vote, and with each step to a polling station in the farming community of De Doorns, he thought: “I can finally share my voice.”
“It's my first opportunity to vote. I'm 18 now. It's a day of exultation. I want all this to be better,” he said, pointing to hundreds of shacks, dusty brown roads and rolling green fields behind him.
Early last year and late in 2012 De Doorns, in the Hex River Valley, was the epicentre of farm worker strikes over wages that spanned two weeks and saw vineyards being set alight, major roads being blocked with burning debris and farmers losing millions of rands due to lack of productivity.
Three years before that, in November 2009, De Doorns was also the scene of xenophobic violence with Zimbabwean residents being driven out the informal settlement areas.
Yesterday hundreds of residents queued to vote at a sports hall opposite the informal settlement of Stofland.
At other stations in the area, there were fewer voters.
Hlengiwe Hlutyana (cor), 81, a former farm worker who was frail and needed a walking frame to move about, stood outside the biggest voting centre and made her mark on ballot papers in the hope it would lead to the improvement in the lives of her four children and grandchildren.
“This could be the last time I vote. I hope it changes things,”she said.
Hlutyana lived in a shack until last year when, with the help of her children, she moved into a brick house.
She did not want her grandchildren growing up in a shack.
Stanford Mbele(cor), 48, a farm worker who lived in Stofland, said he hoped his vote meant his daughters, aged 13, 14 and 18, would not end up with jobs similar to his.
He said he had not participated in the previous wage strikes, but understood why most of his friends had.
“We make little money. I want my children to learn and work for the government or become doctors. It can't happen the way things are now. I need to earn more,” he said.