Word on the streetby Jezebel / 24.04.2009
What do the disenfranchised, disinterested and disturbed think of Zuma as president? Not much, it turns out, and not in the way you think.
With the elections behind us, politricks lies heavy on many minds. While some souls are in a stew over who to vote for, others cope by not caring. But democracy is for everyone, even the unemployed, disenfranchised, homeless, addicted and mental. So Mahala dispatched our journo Jess Henson to take to the streets and capture the voice of the dispossessed and canvass their opinions on the inevitable Zuma presidency.
Michael Williams is a self-titled street sleeper. His skin shines from too much sun and too much wine and he cries on cue. I shared a step with him in the warm morning sun. Would he give his opinion on Zuma for prez?
“Zuma?” he interrupted my long winded questioning. “What is Zuma?”
Touché, I thought.
In Gardens a lady was washing a car in her pyjamas.
“What do you want?” she growled.
Her man was sitting nearby, very busy with his role as her watchful security guard in broad daylight. But it was obvious that she wore the pants. He cocked his head to one side with a tricky mix of coquetry and politeness.
“Come here,” he commanded her, but it sounded like an invitation.
Our lady was having none of it. “I can hear you from here,” was her retort to both of us. Wax on, wax off, I thought, and persisted. Like those Sunday morning requests for food at your front door. She, in turn, was delightfully trite.
“Oh no, not for me. I know maybe God forgave him, but not for me.”
Did she mean being in the article or just JZ? That wasn’t clear but by the way her man bowed his head in deference to her declarations, it was clear that the conversation was over.
Off to Roeland street.
“He’s conning the country.” Says Stretch, from Red Hill. After he had charged me R10 for a tube of superglue. A single father, he stands almost two meters tall and walks with his wares in a plastic packet. Alarmingly less concerned about what people will think of him sharing his opinions than the previous people, he confided in a loud voice that “since the ANC took over, nothing’s come right the land. Jobs. Houses. Nothing.”
Obs is an amazing enclave of lives planted so closely together they seem to fuse and form each other. The aroma of body waste and beer abounds, so I followed my nose and found a happy group of homeless people.
A loving couple with a single seeing eye between them agreed. Veronica was neatly dressed and sort-of sober. She was snuggling into Hilton’s quiet, solid frame. “He must go to jail.” Hilton nodded and muttered “He’s a criminal.”
Then a much more manic but far less sloshed Moses spake. Ag. Spoke.
“Mandela was punished for 28 years for what? For our rights. Zuma is nothing to us. Those that are in power now, I don’t want to depress it, but they are not doing enough.” I wrote his name as he said it, and he prodded my page purposefully. “I’m not a Smit,” he spat, “I’m not those boere shit. S-M-I-T-H… Smit.’ I laughed and changed the subject from Zuma to Zille so that we could part on calmer terms. Of course I didn’t escape without Reegan asking me to sleep with him. When it comes to the forces that drive us, power, it seems, is not the only societal galvaniser!