Santa arrives early in PE

People hung out the sides of fast moving taxis, children and old women danced on the sidewalks and crowds of people toyi-toyied after the cream-coloured car which carried Mbeki through the streets.

Govan Archibald Mvunyelina Mbeki, the former chairman of the African National Congress, this week entered Port Elizabeth's New Brighton township for the first time in 23 years. His arrival was described by one enthusiastic onlooker as an early visit from Father Christmas: "He came from the cold and brought so much warmth. His presence has brightened the lives of so many suffering people. They have hope again. It is like an early Christmas present."

Mbeki's car moved off and taxis, scooters and private vehicles joined the motorcade. Television crews perched on the bonnets of cars, filming the procession and photographers hung out of the windows. The stream of cars grew into a river as oncoming traffic, pushed to the side of the road, turned around and joined in the procession. The noise of hooting cars could not drown the singing and shouts from the streets: "Mbeki is back, after 23 years on Robben Island, Viva Mbeki, he is home."

Mbeki sat with clenched fist smiling at the jubilant reception. Fruitsellers abandoned their wares to follow the cars and shack dwellers left their homes to line the streets and call their greetings. An excited woman jumped into the air, lost her balance and fell on the sidewalk. She laughed and, undeterred, chased after the cars. Traffic jams ensued as young people crowded streets and surrounded the car.

A man was knocked down by a car. But he picked himself up and limped off, waving his clenched fist, his injuries forgotten. A passing Casspir went on its way, ignoring the procession. Fishermen and boaters on the Swartkops River raised their fists when they heard the name Mbeki. When the car stopped, residents crowded around it and sang "Baba uMbeki, Yinkokeli" (Our father, Mbeki, is our leader).

An old scooter weaved precariously in and out of the cars when the driver stood up, clenched his fist and shouted slogans. Three youths tobogganed on the top of a taxi roofrack and people spilled in and out of the cars which rode bumper to bumper. "If this is the reception for Mbeki, can you imagine what it will be like on the day of liberation," said a woman dressed in the colours of the ANC. – Edyth Bulbring & Mbulelo Linda

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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