Man named Vote will cast ballot for change in South Africa

By James Oatway and Thando Hlophe

LILLYDALE, South Africa (Reuters) – When Mariana Ubisi went into labour in her one-room home in rural South Africa, millions of Black citizens were queuing to vote in the election that would bring Nelson Mandela to power.

It was April 27, 1994. Swept up in the excitement, Ubisi and her husband named their newborn son Vote.

“I imagine it was because we were hearing the chants saying ‘vote, vote, vote’ on the radio,” said Ubisi, a traditional healer in Lillydale, a poor village in Mpumalanga province.

As Mozambican refugees who fled war in their country in the 1960s, Mariana and her husband Ernesto did not have the right to vote in South Africa, but they did have a stake in the end of white minority rule.

Ernesto recalled being mistreated by white supervisors when he worked in coal mines during apartheid.

“I have never regretted naming my son Vote,” he said.

Thirty years after its first multiracial elections, the mood in South Africa is decidedly less optimistic ahead of a poll on May 29.

The “rainbow nation” envisioned by Mandela is afflicted by poverty, inequality, corruption and crime, and his party, the African National Congress, is likely to lose its majority for the first time since he led it to victory in 1994.

The Ubisi family does not have running water at home and the streets of Lillydale are unpaved, although it is less than 3 km (1.9 miles) away from luxury game reserves where tourists pay thousands of dollars per night.

Jobs are scarce, and many young people get sucked into crime.

“The majority of youth don’t vote. They are disappointed,” said Vote, who considers himself lucky to have a part-time job as a waiter at a safari lodge and dreams of becoming a field guide.

“(Politicians) tell you they will do x, y, z, but actually they don’t do anything.”

He still plans to cast his ballot in May, although he declined to say which party he would vote for.

“You vote for the party that can bring some contribution to the community. That’s what I’m looking for,” said Vote, who unlike his parents is a South African citizen. “We need the change.”

(Additional reporting and writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Toby Chopra)





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