Photography by Rofhiwa Maneta
It’s eight in the morning. The sun is arched over FNB stadium in Nasrec and thousands of ANC supporters are arriving by the bus-load for the “Siyanqoba” rally. It’s hot, crowded and everyone’s trying to cram their way through the different entrances. As I make my way into the stadium an old woman in an ANC shirt is whistling a tune. “Uy*nya uMalema,” she sings – which translates to “Malema is full of sh*t” in Zulu. Little did I know that these would be the overarching themes of the day: heat, overcrowdedness and trash talk about opposition leaders.
Largely viewed as the last chance for the ruling party to consolidate it’s support base ahead of election day, the conference didn’t offer much by way of policy. Just more of the “good story” narrative. Here a few key points I picked up from the rally:
Zuma delivers speech to half empty stadium
This was genuinely hilarious. With the rally billed to start at nine, President Zuma sauntered in close to one o’ clock and made his address just over an hour later. By this time the sun was right over the stadium and the heat was unrelenting, so half the stadium decided they weren’t willing to sit sit through his speech. The gist of the matter is: Zuma spoke; people left. Oblivious (or wilfully ignoring the rapidly emptying stadium), the President murmured and stumbled his way to completion. I suppose this is consistent with the ANC’s “take-it-or-we’ll-shove-it-down-your-throat” approach. As evidenced with the matter of the e-tolls, Nkandla and the proposed Secrecy Bill, if the ANC have made their mind up about something, they’ll do it whether you like it or not. Fair play to them for being consistent.
Those who did stay weren’t treated to much by way of spectacle or policy. Zuma delivered his speech in his classic start-and-pause delivery and, true to the ruling party’s electioneering campaign, focused on the ANC’s “good story”. He spoke of how the ANC had delivered more social grants, housing and better education to the country without narrating the many real and present problems they’ve failed to fix (think textbooks in Limpopo).
“As part of…poverty alleviation… the ANC gives child grants to support… eleven million…children…in South Africa,” the President stuttered. Good times. He further went to state that the ANC “will intensify the fight against corruption in the public and private sector” and dismiss any public officials found guilty of corruption. Irony, it seems, has a new home.
ANC allies take a swipe at the opposition parties
No one can say they didn’t see this coming. It’s an unspoken rule in South African politics that before you deliver your point, you have to take a swipe at your opposition. And boy did the ANC oblige! The ANC’s Youth League, in the person of their National Convener Mzwandile Masina, crept out of the pit of irrelevance to label Julius Malema a thief. “Some who were in our ranks stole our ideas of economic freedom and started a new party,” he began. “The problem with our generation is that they steal everything,” he declared in conclusion. Here, I can only imagine he was unintentionally being ambiguous because if he wasn’t, the ANC have mastered the art of irony. There was more trash talk to come when Masina attacked the Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane by calling him “a little Obama [who was] able to marry a white woman in Gauteng without prejudice because of the ANC”.
Blade Nzimande also chipped in, calling the DA “a party of white privilege and a labour broker of political parties that hires black faces”. Hang in there Mmusi. It’s all coming to an end soon enough.
Nkandla isn’t a big deal
Contrary to public opinion, ANC supporters really couldn’t be bothered about the President’s R246 million homestead. Well, that’s the consensus I got on Saturday. When asked whether Jacob Zuma’s homestead (allegedly built with taxpayer’s money) would have any bearing on their vote, all of them were steadfast in their loyalty. Their answers ranged from “everyone makes mistakes” to “let’s wait for the SIU report”. One guy literally told me to “leave the man’s business alone – Nkandla is Zuma’s business and nobody else’s”. There we have it! Just mind your own business! And while, admittedly, this doesn’t represent the view of all of the ANC’s supporters, it’s startling that there are clusters of ANC supporters willing to stretch their loyalty to the party that far. Cry the beloved country.
Follow me on Twitter: @RofhiwaManeta
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