Community to Represent Itself in the Polls

Rustenburg is under construction. Freshly mixed cement is being laid for what will soon be a bus stop. Men in green overalls, faces hidden by dust masks, direct cars away from the chaos. The construction has been under way for a while already, but now there is a renewed sense of urgency. It’s an election year.

About 10 minutes from the town’s centre, 2km from Anglo American Platinum’s Thembelani mine shaft, sits – literally on a heap of rubble – Boitekong’s Ward 21.

The excitement from down the road does not reach this corner of Rustenburg, where the wind carries with it odours of manure, rotting food and chemicals. Boitekong’s story is no different from other mining towns around the country – a discarded community barely making a living. Half-naked children and goats trample over shards of glass, bits of plastic and other piles of rubbish.

On a street corner outside the local clinic on Wednesday, a group of young people wearing lime-green shirts gather. They call themselves the Botho Community Movement, or BCM, which was registered as a political party in September. The BCM says the ANC and other opposition parties have failed them. Some of their members previously stood as independent candidates, but that didn’t work for them, so they formed the party specifically to contest their neighbourhood in Ward 21.

“No one can change this community but us. There is no Zuma or Malema. We have to stand up for ourselves,” says group member Lindile Mlotshwa.

The 31-year-old stays with his unemployed sister. His mother is a pensioner. He is studying to be an IT technician at a local college. He laments the fact that the area’s young people have no mentors, no parks and no facilities to occupy them. Instead, many loiter outside one of the many taverns in the area. Mlotshwa’s compatriot, Ofentse Kombe, bemoans the fact that the local clinic, which serves thousands of people, is only open until 6pm and is closed on weekends.

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S'Thembile Cele