ANC, experts respond to 'Step Up Your Hustle' campaign

The ANC poster in question reads: 'Step up for your hustle, register now to vote'. (Luke Hutchinson)

The ANC poster in question reads: 'Step up for your hustle, register now to vote'. (Luke Hutchinson)

The meaning of the word "hustle" is under the spotlight again after the ANC put up posters in Mpumalanga encouraging the youth to register for the upcoming elections. The Mail & Guardian's Verashni Pillay questioned the use of the word in her column titled "Is the ANC really telling us to 'step up for our hustle'?" on Wednesday.

The ANC posters in question, reads: "Step up for your hustle, register now to vote".

Democratic Alliance Mpumalanga leader Anthony Benadie also questioned the ruling party's message.

"Instead of being funky and fun as they might have wanted it to sound, [the poster is] encouraging young people to get things either forcefully or illegally," he claimed.

"I have been consulting a number of dictionaries about the meaning of the word. It's clear the ANC has lost it," said Benadie.

Political analyst Prince Mashele said the message was vague because the word "hustle" had a broad meaning.

"The dictionary says to 'hustle' is to engage in prostitution, or to swindle, or to obtain by forceful action, or to hurry, or to jostle, et cetera.
I don't know which meaning the ANC has chosen. My sense is that the party means 'to obtain by forceful action'," said Mashele.

'Step up your way of getting money'
Mashele added that young people in townships often talked of hustling when referring to working hard to survive.

"Maybe this is the message the ANC is trying to convey. Politically, semantics don't generally affect parties that much, unless used by opponents to punch holes.

"Frankly, this is a storm in a teacup, with little implications in the bigger political scheme, of the Guptas, of Nkandla, and [their] many scandals," said Mashele.

Independent political commentator in the province Zweli Mncube said the ANC might have meant well, but chose a controversial word.

"The language is fine if used in the correct context. However, having such a word from a political party might mean something else, while it says the other.

"We first have to know what the ANC meant about this word, but it sounds like the ANC is saying 'Step up your way of getting money'," Mncube said.

ANC's response
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu defended the organisation's phrasing, saying the word's meaning was not taken from an Oxford dictionary but from the streets, where young people were familiar with the word.

"There are many words used in the campaign to encourage youth to register and vote. These posters are all around the country. However, the words 'Step up for your hustle' are not targeted at older people but [at] the youth.

"Some young people like using it when they say, 'I'm hustling', meaning struggling for a living'," said Mthembu.

When asked if he knew the dictionary meaning of the word, Mthembu said the ANC would never encourage anyone to use illicit means to accumulate wealth.

"We didn't mean that, and seriously, the youth knows what we mean about that word. If you are not young you won't understand the word; it's a slang word used by the youth… even artists say 'I'm hustling'," said Mthembu. – Sapa

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