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Rural Perspectives on the 2024 Elections in Cwebe Village

Written by Zipho Xego

As South Africa prepares for the 2024 elections, rural communities like Cwebe Village offer insights into the hopes, concerns, and aspirations of ordinary citizens. Despite historical marginalization and challenges such as limited access to basic services, economic disparities, and infrastructural deficiencies, there is a sense of resilience and community spirit shaping perspectives on governance and democracy. In the past, Cwebe Village boycotted elections due to grievances, but now there is a willingness to engage in the electoral process despite concerns about the ruling party. Efforts by community leaders and local organizations aim to educate and mobilize residents, particularly addressing the lack of enthusiasm among youth voters. The influence of media and social networks, with slogans echoing the empowerment of the 1994 democratic elections, has resonated with the public. Access to basic services, land reform, economic empowerment, and leadership accountability are central issues driving electoral discourse in Cwebe Village, with residents seeking candidates who prioritize rural community needs and demonstrate accountability. Despite challenges, there is potential for meaningful participation in shaping the future through the upcoming elections.

Figure 1: Cwebe farming community (Photo taken by: Zipho Xego)

The perspectives of rural communities like Cwebe offer invaluable insights into the hopes, concerns, and aspirations of ordinary citizens. Historically marginalized and often overlooked, Cwebe faces a myriad of challenges, ranging from limited access to basic services to economic disparities and infrastructural deficiencies. Despite these obstacles, rural communities possess a rich culture of resilience, and community spirit that shape their perspectives on governance and democracy. As the 2024 elections loom on the horizon, the residents of Cwebe Village find themselves at a crossroads, grappling with a myriad of issues that will shape their voting decisions. From access to basic services to land reform and economic empowerment, the concerns of rural citizens reflect the broader challenges facing South Africa as a whole. However, amidst these challenges, there is a palpable sense of hope and determination as the villagers prepare to exercise their democratic right. This has not always been the case as in 2019 during the national and government elections, the community of Cwebe boycotted the elections. They locked the voting stations as they were not happy with government processes which included their grievances towards not being recognized as partners in the nature reserve but also the fact that they did not have electricity. At the time, the schools and the Haven Hotel were the only places that had electricity and so these led to the decision of the community boycotting the elections. The community later got electricity which calmed the situation even though not all of their issues have been addressed and new ones have emerged. The feeling from the community interactions I have heard is suggesting that these elections will not be boycotted and that they do not see alternatives from the current ruling party even though they are largely unhappy with how it runs things. One respondent even mentioned that “bayafana bonke bafuna utya imali, kubhetele aba sele bekhona kunabazoqala bafike besalambe kakhulu” this basically means that better these ones that we know that have been in the system than new people that are still hungry. 

Community leaders, local organizations, and government agencies have collaborated to disseminate information, conduct voter registration drives, and address concerns to educate the masses about the importance of voting and the power it holds over the choice of government. Despite the challenges posed by their rural setting, the people of Cwebe Village are eager and willing to engage in the electoral process. For many, the opportunity to cast their vote represents more than just a civic duty, it is a chance to shape the future of their community and country. From spirited discussions in community gatherings to grassroots mobilization efforts, the villagers are actively involved in shaping the electoral discourse and advocating for their priorities. However, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm among the youth, especially those casting their votes for the first time. Efforts from community leaders to persuade them that voting is crucial have been noted.

Moreover, the influence of media and social networks with the slogan that "2024 is the new 1994" has resonated with the public. People feel empowered, similar to the sense of empowerment during the 1994 democratic elections, believing that they hold the power to effect change through their votes. This concerted effort from various stakeholders, coupled with the sense of empowerment among the populace, underscores the potential for meaningful participation in the electoral process, despite the challenges encountered. At the heart of the electoral landscape in Cwebe Village are the issues that resonate most deeply with its residents. Chief among these is access to basic services, including clean water, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. For decades, Cwebe has grappled with inadequate service delivery, leaving many residents marginalized and underserved. This is one of the areas that has a high rate of poverty in the municipality and therefore the residents are thinking long and hard about their vote. As they cast their votes in the upcoming elections, the villagers will be looking for candidates who prioritize the needs of rural communities and are committed to addressing these pressing issues.

Figure 2: Women of Cwebe Community gathered at Women RISE Hunger and Malnutrition Government Engagement (Photo taken by: Zipho Xego)

In addition to basic services, land reform and economic empowerment are key concerns for the people of Cwebe Village. Land holds immense cultural, social, and economic significance in rural communities, serving as a source of livelihood and identity. However, the legacy of apartheid-era land dispossession continues to cast a shadow over many rural areas, including Cwebe. As such, the villagers are looking for candidates who are committed to equitable land redistribution and economic empowerment initiatives that uplift rural communities and foster sustainable development. The dynamics are even worse in the community as it was the ruling party that promised them that they would benefit from the reserve management and the hotel but till today, the community still wishes to see that day. Promises of the hotel renting from the community and the community members being prioritized in the management of the reserve. Central to the electoral discourse in Cwebe Village is the question of leadership and accountability. The residents recognize the importance of electing representatives who are not only competent and visionary but also accountable to the people but even with that, residents say that you may never really know these days and we shall see when the results come up after the elections but as it stands at the moment, it looks like its all systems go.

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