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WATCH | Politicians? They’re hapless and hopeless, homeless Capetonians conclude

01 November 2021 - 15:58
Nonhlanhla Mncube with the small garden she cultivates near her tarpaulin shack in Sea Point, Cape Town, on November 1 2021.
Nonhlanhla Mncube with the small garden she cultivates near her tarpaulin shack in Sea Point, Cape Town, on November 1 2021.
Image: Aron Hyman

Most of Cape Town's homeless population — estimated at between 4,000 and 14,000 people — will not vote.

Many are on the streets because they were pushed out of their communities for being “troublemakers”. Others are simply down and out, and Cape Town is the place where they hoped their luck would finally change.

Nonhlanhla Mncube, 45, who lives in a tiny tarpaulin shack in Sea Point, is one of the thousands of homeless people who do not plan to vote on Monday.

The only party that has ever made a tangible difference in her life, she said, is the ANC when it brought her freedom to vote. Since then, however, she hasn't felt represented by any political party.

For her and many other homeless people, it takes immense willpower to make it through each day.

“Life itself has put me in that position where I don't even have the zest to wake up in the morning to go and vote,” said Mncube. “So much is going on. People are looking at us people who live on the streets and they only think negative things about us. Sometimes you just become uninterested.”

Mncube believes every vote makes a difference for the country and society, but she lost her ID document in a fire when her previous shack burnt down. Now she doesn't have the resources to get a new one.

She does not believe any political party represents her interests. “All of them  can represent whatever they represent but, according to me, you can see, it shows for itself, I'm outside here,” she added, sweeping the patch of land outside her shack.

A fire fuelled by plastic cooks something in a charred tin container behind her. She is surrounded by old-age homes and wealthy residences where people discard house plants that she collects for a tiny garden.

Her garden, adorned with shells and rocks from the nearby seashore, brings beauty to her little corner, and here she can implement her own eco-friendly policy.

“I'm trying to be eco-friendly in my own way. You must contribute also. Plant a tree, save the Earth,” she said.

“I'm staying next to the old-age home. The old ladies pass my garden, they are the ones who tell me, this plant likes this, or that plant likes that,” she said. “They told me I must take this orchid and put it in its own pot. The old ladies know about flowers.”

Cape Town law-enforcement officers regularly clamp down on illegal structures, and they have enquired about her garden on many a occasion.

“Even the law enforcement say, 'you make like this in your house'. I tell them, you know what, my grandmother used to say, 'my child, wherever you lay your head is your home'.

“It doesn't matter whether you live under a tree, look after yourself and the place where you are staying.”