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

CityPress - - News - S’THEMBILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

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

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