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A quick walk up the stairs at Luthuli House would have saved ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe the long drive from Jo­han­nes­burg to Pre­to­ria and a vis­i­bly tir­ing short walk from a nearby lo­cal park to the Union Build­ings.

But the burly ANC head hon­cho chose to bring traf­fic to a stand­still on a busy Fri­day morn­ing in the heart of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

Fol­lowed by a claimed 85 000-strong con­tin­gent of ANC mem­bers and sup­port­ers, a cav­al­cade of black, green and gold ANC ve­hi­cles fit­ted with boom­ing sound sys­tems and tele­vi­sion cam­eras, Man­tashe staged a march to de­liver a two-page mem­o­ran­dum against racism to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

Some can­didly de­clared that the pri­mary mo­tive was to de­fend Zuma – who was at his weak­est po­lit­i­cally as a re­sult of lead­er­ship blun­ders that in­cluded the R246 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money spent to upgrade his pri­vate res­i­dence in Nkandla and the ap­par­ently sense­less chop­ping and chang­ing of fi­nance min­is­ters.

They came in num­bers – some in their wheel­chairs, oth­ers car­ry­ing ba­bies on their backs and still oth­ers don­ning “Hands off Zuma” T-shirts. The clergy who led the march were re­splen­dent in colour­ful robes. Black, green and gold-branded sound vans led the way.

Or­di­nar­ily, Man­tashe could have walked up four flights of stairs from his sixth-floor of­fice in Luthuli House to Zuma’s of­fice on the 10th floor to de­liver the 700-word mem­o­ran­dum. And Zuma, in his ca­pac­ity as ANC pres­i­dent, could even have con­trib­uted to the doc­u­ment he was about to gra­ciously re­ceive.

How­ever, for a gov­ern­ing party fre­quently un­der the ham­mer of los­ing “mass ap­peal” be­cause of the grow­ing dis­tance be­tween its lead­ers and or­di­nary peo­ple, it was nec­es­sary for Man­tashe and Zuma to prove a point, per­haps.

The words ‘racists’ and ‘racism’ have ap­peared at least 120 times in the ANC’s me­dia state­ments and speeches by its top lead­ers over the past 90 days, which meant Fri­day’s march to the Union Build­ings was in line with the party’s pa­tiently and care­fully con­structed cam­paign.

Over the same pe­riod, the pub­lic space had sim­i­larly been flooded on the other end of the political spec­trum with anti-cor­rup­tion mes­sages, con­dem­na­tion of Zuma’s long-stand­ing Nkandla mat­ter, his ill-ad­vised Cab­i­net reshuf­fles in De­cem­ber, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court’s re­cent hu­mil­i­a­tion of Zuma and rum­blings among ANC MPs about the pres­i­dent’s about-turn in that court.

But it was racism and racists that irked the ANC most.

“We, the peo­ple of South Africa, black and white, rep­re­sent­ing civil so­ci­ety, faith-based groups, non­govern­men­tal and com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions, the cre­ative in­dus­tries, the busi­ness fra­ter­nity and or­gan­ised labour, have gath­ered to­day


UNITED WE STAND ANC sup­port­ers gather in their num­bers in Pre­to­ria to heed the gov­ern­ing party’s call for a march against racism, which has been slammed by some as a pre-elec­tion ploy

HEED OUR CALL ANC sup­port­ers ap­plaud as sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe ad­dresses them

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