ANC Gauteng manifesto launch: Heightened security hears no booing

The launch of the ruling party's Gauteng provincial manifesto. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The launch of the ruling party's Gauteng provincial manifesto. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

On Sunday, the Gauteng ANC redeemed itself after being blamed for booing President Jacob Zuma at the memorial of former president Nelson Mandela. In the provincial launch of the party's manifesto, the booing was replaced by a crescendo of cheering. 

The event was constantly threatened by the elements — water sachets were at a premium as the sun cracked the ground, and umbrellas had to be shared as the rain hammered down. But the stream of 500-odd Putco buses flowing in from across the province kept arriving throughout the morning, ensuring the 30 000 seater Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville was nearing capacity as events kicked off two hours late.

"We planned coming here for weeks now and we are here to celebrate our president and the party," said a sweating David Kibura.
A resident of Mamelodi, he also attended the ANC's national manifesto launch in Nelspruit.

The Atteridgeville launch was a continuation of the party’s roll-out of its manifesto for the next five years, which will be launched across all the provinces in preparation for this year’s national elections. 

Mpho Maake, a resident of Sedibeng, said that service delivery issues in her region had not affected her affiliation with the party that had now ruled for 20 years. "We must show our support for our president."

Booing Zuma
The last time the Gauteng branches of the ANC were on a national stage, at the memorial for Mandela at the FNB Stadium in December, they were accused of booing Zuma. "What happened at the memorial was wrong. It was a few people and they make a bad name for us," said Maake. 

Like everyone else at the launch, she was decked in a yellow ANC shirt bearing the new slogan. The only divergence from the party colours were the greens of the veterans and the reds of the communist party.

But under the seeming carefree mood was a strict system of control. Each bus had a co-ordinator, which the party has said is normal practise. Inside the stadium each section was divided into branches. As each one arrived they were ushered to their seating by marshals in fluorescent ANC bibs. 

A two-metre high fence around the stadium's running track kept the inside section free of anyone but the press and dignitaries, while also providing a line for Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans to patrol. Dressed in olive-green camouflage, the veterans spent the day with their heads on swivels, following any sound from the crowd.

Their careful control kept the crowd in their seats, or behind the stadium supports when the rain came down hard. When one branch tried singing and marching along the edge of the fence, a mini swarm of veterans quickly moved to send them back to their seats.

'Nothing less than 70%'
Prior to the launch, ANC provincial secretary David Makhura told a press briefing on Thursday that, "Our [the ANC] members must conduct themselves with utmost restraint and discipline in all public gatherings and organisational activities".

With no booing and crescendos of cheering at every pronouncement of "Viva ANC, Viva" from the main stage, the day was filled with provincial alliance leaders planning for overwhelming success in the coming election.

With a birthday cake, celebrating the party's 102nd birthday, on a table on the stage, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa warmed up with some dancing before reminding the audience what the party had delivered in the last two decades. 

"This manifesto is dedicated to uTata Madiba. We are carrying his legacy through and moving this country forward," he said to a constantly cheering stadium – although numbers whittled later in the afternoon as the smell of fresh food wafted through the air.  

Ramaphosa was joined by provincial chair Paul Mashatile, who was part of the "change" faction that tried to oust Zuma before the Mangaung elective conference in 2012. Sitting next to each other, the two brought the loudest cheer from the crowd when they jived to Solly Moholo.     

His speech touched on the upcoming elections and it set the promise by the provincial branch of the ANC: "We have a command, nothing less than 70%." 

Sipho Kings

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