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