Mbete tries to win over Bekkersdal residents

Bekkersdal resident Joseph says the ANC's promises were only being made now because it was election time. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Bekkersdal resident Joseph says the ANC's promises were only being made now because it was election time. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape is prioritising issues only for privileged white people, ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete told Bekkersdal residents on Saturday.

“That sentence that the Western Cape is the best-run province is not true,” she said at a rally in the township west of Johannesburg. 

“The DA had an opportunity to deal with problems of people. What are the priorities for them are the issues of privileged white people.” 

She said black people living in squatter camps and townships in the province were being ignored, and that “black communities are not a priority to the DA”. 

Mbete drew parallels between ANC members and those in attendance, saying: “We grew up in townships. These things [issues] are not far from our own experiences.” 

She said governing was a huge responsibility, but reassured the crowd that their issues were being dealt with.
“Now we are more hands-on. We will engage. We have already started to address those issues.” 

Jovial start
The ANC’s rally at the Bekkersdal sports ground began with the singing of the national anthem at around 1pm. 

Marshals dressed in ANC gear stood about a metre apart in front of a large crowd before the podium that had been set up for the rally. 

The atmosphere was jovial, with ANC supporters singing and dancing ahead of the speeches. 

Only some of the supporters could fit under the marquee and dozens stood near it in the heat, some with umbrellas. 

Reasonable people
Mbete said on the sidelines of the rally that the people of Bekkersdal were reasonable people. “The people of Bekkersdal are like the people everywhere else in South Africa. They are reasonable. They are not stupid or unreasonable.” She said they just needed reassurances from government. 

Some in the crowd were not convinced by the ANC visit. 

Vincent Mzuzwana said the ANC was lying. “No, I don’t believe them. They are lying.” 

Another resident, identifying himself only as Joseph, said the promises were only being made now because it was election time. He said he had lost faith in the government. 

ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, dressed in black, waved to the large crowd from the podium and they cheered in response. 

ANC Gauteng secretary David Makhura said Madikizela-Mandela was unable to address the crowd because she was still in mourning following the death of former president Nelson Mandela. 

He welcomed 53 Economic Freedom Fighters members from Bekkersdal who rejoined the ANC at the end of March.  

Men and women of the people
Makhura told residents that political parties should be able to campaign for the election wherever they want because South Africa is a democratic country and there should not be any no-go areas. 

He said that ANC leaders were not arrogant as “they come from among the people. They [ANC leaders] are ordinary men and women.” 

In March, the DA and the Bekkersdal Concerned Residents Association laid criminal charges against the ANC. 

At the time, association leader Thabang Wesi said residents saw ANC “bodyguards” with weapons in the township shooting at unarmed people, mainly school pupils. 

This was after an ANC delegation visiting the area was pelted with stones during a door-to-door election campaign. 

Residents have reportedly warned the ruling party, saying it would not be allowed to campaign in Bekkersdal unless Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane apologised in person for her dirty votes remarks. – Sapa

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