Zuma addressed a crowd of about 3 000 people at Vygieskraal Stadium in Athlone, a coloured area in the Cape Flats in Cape Town. Historically, Athlone was the home of the ANC in Cape Town.
The area produced some of the ANC’s top leaders including late stalwarts such as Dullah Omar, Dulcie September, the MK’s Ashley Kriel and former ANC secretary general, Cheryl Carolus. It also hosted a number of ANC rallies and meetings in the 1990s and early 2000s at the famous Athlone Stadium, less than a kilometre away from today’s venue.
As recently as 10 years ago, the ANC would attract up to 40 000 people to the Athlone Stadium, but on Saturday it attracted about 3 000 people, half of them children, from the nearby Vygieskraal Stadium. Zuma, who controversially told a crowd in Gugulethu two weeks ago that he wold not be paying for any of the upgrades at his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, because he did not ask for them, was singing a different tune on Saturday.
President Jacob Zuma at at Vygieskraal Stadium in Athlone.
He spoke to the issues that affect the coloured people of the Western Cape, who make up the majority of the voters in the province. On several occasions in his 23-minute address, Zuma invoked the name of the late statesman, Nelson Mandela, who remains popular with South Africans of all races and backgrounds. "There can be no better place to be in on my birthday than the Cape Flats, a very vibrant area indeed to see the support for the ANC makes me happy it is a wonderful birthday present for me.
"Madiba who loved the ANC until the end of his days must be smiling today in his resting place," Zuma begun his address. The president was celebrating his 72nd birthday on Saturday. "The ANC is your home, you don’t need to be afraid. Some are using swart gevaar tactics and are distorting government policies and programmes as they are desperate for your support," said Zuma.
Winning coloured votes
In a report to the ANC’s national general council in Durban, 2010, the ANC admitted that the coloured community felt marginalised from the party especially following the dismissal of former Premier Ebrahim Rasool. The ANC has been trying to win the coloured voters over. Coloured people make up 48% of the Western Cape population.
"You must listen to the truth, Coloureds just like Africans must also get jobs. The ANC is very much aware of that and is committed to ensuring that all those who were disadvantaged during the apartheid era get jobs and all opportunities that were denied to them. Affirmative action is designed to protect and promote Coloureds as well, and not just Africans, we will make sure more coloured are promoted especially in this province.
"I am happy that you have brought your problems to our leadership in the province. You have alerted us to all the problems that the provincial government here in the Western Cape is not prepared to solve," said Zuma.
ANC supporter at at Vygieskraal Stadium in Athlone, where Zuma celebrated his 72nd birthday.
Last week, in an unprecedented move, the provincial ANC opposed some of the regulations proposed by ANC national labour minister Mildred Oliphant, specifically a clause that will require companies with more than 150 employees to apply national economically active population demographics for top employment levels – such as top management and professionally qualified posts, which a number of political parties, businesses and other organisations have objected to.
The Western Cape ANC said with only national demographics being applied to the top three echelons of management, it may result in members of the coloured population in the province being prejudiced given the unique demographic profile of this province. The Mail & Guardian understands that the clause will be amended before the May 7 general elections.
Zuma also spoke to the issue of minstrels, who have over the past few years had disagreements with the DA-led City of Cape Town.
"This provincial government failed to support the minstrels, Klopse and Malay choirs and is refusing to agree to their historical right to march. The history of the minstrels speaks directly to the history of the people of the Western Cape," said Zuma. The Tweede Nuwe Jaar [a march on January 2] was the only day of the year that slaves were allowed to be free for a day.
"The majority of the participants of the minstrel festival are coloureds. We must recognise and respect their culture, their heritage and their history because it is our culture, our heritage and history as South Africans,” said Zuma to loud cheers from the crowd. “We are concerned that in the recent past, when you wanted to organise the Tweede Nuwe Jaar, some challenges were experienced in this province. It is for this reason that the Minstrels Association has asked the national government to intervened to declare the minstrel route as a heritage route," he said.
Celebrating Zuma's 72nd birthday at Vygieskraal Stadium in Athlone. (All photographs by David Harrison, M&G)
Zuma said the minstrels were one of the biggest development platforms in the Western Cape and they were now spreading to the Boland area.
He also called on the coloured communities to "continue to take education seriously. We want you to ensure that your children benefit from the many skills development programmes of the government. "You fought hard to keep 27 schools open and as a community, now you must make use of government support such as no-fee schools."
Zuma also spoke to the issue of drug and gangsterism, which is rife on the Cape Flats, promising that given a chance his party would deal decisively with the issue. Zuma’s address was followed with a rendition of Happy Birthday, but the crowd went wild when the group of singers on stage, with Zuma, performed a Tina Turner hit Simply the Best.