Attendance up, ANC show of force down
Cheers from a throng of supporters and talk-ups by party heads fail to drown week of violent protests against candidates’ list processes
After much uncertainty during the week about whether he would speak at the ANC’s election manifesto launch, held yesterday in Gauteng, President Jacob Zuma addressed a reasonably well-attended rally, with little drama. The launch took place at Johannesburg’s FNB stadium a month after the ANC announced at its provincial general council that it aimed to fill up the 94 000-capacity stadium. At about 4:30pm, when the programme ended, provincial ANC deputy chairperson David Makhura announced that 85 350 people had attended the rally.
By 1pm the formal programme was not yet under way as the crowd trickled in.
Makhura told media that people were being delayed in reaching the stadium because of a traffic jam.
What should have been a show of force ahead of this year’s August 3 local elections, demanding that the ruling party work overtime to convincingly retain three hotly contested metros – Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg – ended up being somewhat awkward for the president as people got up and left during his address.
All eyes were on the ANC after opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters managed to fill Orlando stadium to capacity, with 45 000 supporters, in April.
Although the ANC’s rally was well attended, the party did not succeed in its drive to fill FNB stadium to capacity, following the embarrassingly low turnout of supporters at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in April.
Gauteng has become the proverbial thorn in the ANC’s side, known for opposing the party on crucial matters such as the Nkandla Constitutional Court judgment.
But the president and the province appeared to smoke a peace pipe at last month’s provincial general council, where ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile announced that the narrative around Gauteng being anti-Zuma was incorrect.
And yesterday, when Mashatile finally took to the FNB stage a little after 3pm, he appealed to the crowd by drawing on the memory of the late former president, Nelson Mandela.
“As the ANC, and indeed the people of South Africa‚ we are called to be the children of Nelson Mandela ... to be primary defenders of his legacy … to be his foot soldiers. We will never betray his legacy and the teachings of his generation. His legacy remains forever in our hearts and in our minds‚” he said.
Gauteng, along with many other parts of the country, was this week rocked by protest action over candidates’ list processes.
People from Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Sedibeng, to name a few municipalities, took their fight to Luthuli House this week, urging the leadership to listen to their grievances.
Despite this, Mashatile confidently announced: “We have no doubt that the men and women we have nominated to be councillors are the best. We are here to make a solemn pledge that we will work harder to bring accountable local government.”
He also boasted that his province had been given the green light from ratings agency Moody’s, and that a number of programmes to create employment were under way. But the crowd began trickling out of the stadium even as he spoke.
“I know you can do it. From today there is no going back. We are out door to door, factory to factory, to bring the ANC back to power,” he continued, seemingly unphased.
The launch comes at the end of a week marred by killings and violence. The ANC in the Western Cape was forced to postpone its election manifesto launch allegedly as a result of the protest action.
Zuma called for members of the ANC to be disciplined this election season and not respond to provocation from the opposition.
He also said the ruling party’s list process was the most transparent of all political parties, and that he was glad they could make their submissions by deadline on Thursday.
Makhura and deputy provincial secretary Gwen Ramakgopa repeatedly announced to the crowd that busses would not leave them behind.
It has been suggested that the fear of being left behind is what caused people to leave during Zuma’s address.
Do you think that the ANC has succeeded in attracting more Gauteng voters?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword ANC and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50