Sunday, September 28, 2008

"With the ANC it's all about money"

Hendrietta Mtwayi has to squeeze along a narrow passage between two zinc shacks to get to her home in the crowded back alleys of Alexandra township, bordering Johannesburg's leafy northern suburbs.

"If the new government would take me out of here, I will thank my god," Mtwayi told AFP on Friday in her cramped room which is metres from a leaking communal toilet that she shares with her neighbours.

Mtwayi's hopes for change now rest on new President Kgalema Motlanthe who took office on Thursday in the country's worst political turmoil since 1994 after Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign.

Born at the height of apartheid's white minority rule in 1955, Mtwayi is unemployed, shares a one-roomed home with five family members, and lives in Alexandra's congested sprawl where 101 people were murdered in 12 months.

Loyalty to the ANC Despite this, her loyalty to the ruling African National Congress is unwavering.

"I'm happy with the ANC," she said, pointing to leaders like the country's first democratic president Nelson Mandela who were imprisoned for fighting apartheid.

"Even if the party had a white leader, I don't care as long as it's the ANC."

But Mbeki's removal has raised questions about the ANC's wisdom of potentially unsettling voters ahead of next year's elections when rival Jacob Zuma is expected to take office.

Like his predecessor, Motlanthe has vowed to fight poverty and stamp out crime in his short term before elections next year.

But it's a promise that South Africans have heard before, and one that rings with increasing cynicism at a time when the party has forced voters to choose between the rival Mbeki and Zuma camps.

"All of them promise but none of them are delivering," said Zinzi Msindwana. "The politicians just want power and they don't want to help people, they just want everything for themselves. But when they need votes, they want us to vote for them," said the 30-year-old from Cape Town who was visiting the Johannesburg township.

'No leader like Mandela anymore'
Msindwana, a Mbeki fan, has little faith in Zuma.

"He said he can make a difference in South Africa but I don't believe it because they all make promises," she said.

But Chester Mathebula, 20, disagreed and believed "he is the best" and offered an alternative style of leadership to Mbeki.

"Alex is still the same...before he (Mbeki) became president, he said people would get a better life but there is no better life."

Zuma enjoys a populist following and is perceived to be close to the grassroots poor, unlike Mbeki who was depicted as aloof and more focused on international affairs than business at home.

Sifiso Sibande, 31, who believed Mbeki's ouster was unfair, said he was disappointed with the ruling party's squabbles and trials.

"With the ANC it's all about money... who's going to be on top. At the moment I don't have faith in the ANC," he said, standing at a small roadside stall with friends.

"There's no leader like Mandela anymore."

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