/ 17 December 2007

The writing’s on the T-shirt

Thousands of delegates to the ANC’s 52nd national conference converged on Polokwane International Airport on Saturday to register in a cavernous hangar for the event.

The ANC has banned the wearing of factional T-shirts and other clothing at the conference venue, the University of Limpopo, but the regi­stration hangar was a free-for-all for groups supporting either Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma. Fans of the latter wore T-shirts reading “100% JZ” and “Fit to rule” — a stab at Ronald Suresh Roberts’s study of Mbeki, Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki.

“We came here around 2pm all the way from Port Elizabeth,” said Siphe Khambi, wearing a “100% Zuma”

T-shirt. Khambi and her friend Marsha Marais, both 22 and members of the ANC Youth League in Port Elizabeth, said they were “pushing for the position of presidency to be Zuma’s”.

Nomawethu Tole, also from Port Elizabeth, said she would not wear her T-shirt in support of Zuma “until the results come out. And if Zuma doesn’t win, then South Africa will turn into Zimbabwe.”

Mothibi Matsosoe, a voting dele­gate from the Matikoane region of the Free State, said that he came to the conference to listen to issues that are far more important than the succession. “I came to the conference for the policy of the ANC more than the leadership, because at the end of the day the ANC wins. This is more about the party than it is about the individual,” he said.

Magaseng Phahlana, a voting dele­gate from Skhukhune region in Limpopo, said that he would carry out the branch mandate, which is “to vote for Msholozi [Zuma]”.

“I have reached political maturity and I will not be lobbied into voting for someone who I have no intentions of voting for,” he said, adding that his vote would be secret even though he is a Zuma fan.

Lulama Taleni, from the Amathole region of the Eastern Cape, said that he didn’t want to act in any manner that was unsuitable for the ANC conference. “This event must get the maximum respect that it deserves. This means that I and all the dele­gates from Amathole region will not behave in any manner that promotes factionalism and that divides the party because the matter of the winner of leadership is interesting, but it is not critical,” he said.

Proudly wearing his “100% Zuma” T-shirt while singing and chanting, Dubula Baloi from Rustenburg said that he loved the ANC and he “loves JZ even more and we want to make him president because we have the power to”.

Non-T-shirt-wearing Zuma fan Nontembeko Jiyani from the OR Tambo region of the Eastern Cape said that she saw many people at registration that were not even supposed to be attending the conference. “Some of the comrades who were not voting members at the provincial general conference in the Eastern Cape are here today and they are wearing tags that are for voting delegates. How that happens, I don’t know.” Jiyani said Zuma “is an angel and we are going to vote for him even though we were not paid for it”.