Mbeki: ‘Councillors don’t work for themselves’

Even if there is a problem at midnight, people should be able to go to their councillors’ houses and wake them up to sort it out, President Thabo Mbeki told supporters at an African National Congress election rally in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, on Monday.

”Councillors work for the people, not for themselves,” he told a crowd of a few thousand supporters who gathered at a field for Mbeki to address them.

The rally came at the end of a day that Mbeki used to urge voters in this ANC stronghold to vote in the March 1 local government election.

Wearing an ANC T-shirt and cap, the president went from door to door, shaking hands, speaking with residents and smiling at babies.

A highlight of his day was when a baby girl was named after him as she was born while he was campaigning. Less than two hours before the president visited the house of Anna Monama, her daughter gave birth to a baby girl.

”We are going to name her Mambeki,” Monama told Mbeki.

The family had to break with a tradition called lehlaka (the reed), by which men are not allowed near the newborn baby for at least five days.

Mbeki was very excited about the birth and congratulated the family, vowing to check up on the little girl.

The president’s day started slow with only a few dozen supporters welcoming him, but as the day and the charm offensive progressed, more and more people came out to speak to him.

His first stop was at the home of Jane Ndebele where she told him that a proper home was her election wish.

Ndebele, who lives in a shack, threw her arms around Mbeki, welcoming him into her one-room house. Her husband died last year and she told him that it was difficult to keep up with municipal payments.

Although he was welcomed warmly at most of the places he stopped, there was a small protest on his route against some of the ANC-nominated candidates.

”To hell with voting,” read one of the placards of a small but vocal group protesting against the ANC’s choice of candidates in some wards. This was, however, overshadowed by the Malulekas’ welcome.

When they heard that the president was coming to their house, they screamed Mbeki’s name and jumped up and down.

They did not know what to say, but a smiling Mbeki introduced himself and got them talking.

”I think you’ve cured me of my stroke,” Beauty Maluleka told the president.

At yet another house, Mbeki was received by Caiphus Masilela, who did a song and dance routine with the president.

Houses, jobs and municipal services were the issues most Soshanguve residents wanted the president to look at. Promising to do just that, he handed them pamphlets with the ANC’s plan for local government.

On Tuesday, Mbeki will continue his election campaign in the Eastern Cape. — Sapa

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