President Jacob Zuma had a warm reception in Port Elizabeth, the Friendly City, and even did a rendition of his old battle song, Mshini Wami when he jetted in on Friday to inspect progress on Operation Phakisa’s oceans economy project.
In a huge marquee pitched in the Port Elizabeth harbour, Zuma addressed a gathering of more than a thousand people. It teetered between a government function and an ANC rally, and was attended by various ministers and local politicians, officials, civil society representatives, academics, businesspeople and even some school students, as well as a large number of people in ANC t-shirts.
Even though the audience became somewhat fidgety as he made his 45-minute long speech, they chanted Zuma’s name and sang songs in his praise as he arrived.
As Zuma was about to leave the stage after the speeches were done, the Transnet choir started singing his trademark song. He was forced to join in, and danced with the front row.
In recent years it has become rare to hear Zuma sing Mshini Wami, especially at functions organised and paid for by government.
He also sang it following the ANC’s National General Council in October last year. It was one of his trademark songs in the years running up to his election as ANC president in 2007, during which he was fighting rape as well as corruption charges.
The Constitutional Court found last week that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution with regards to public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on his Nkandla estate, prompting calls for his resignation.
Zuma on Friday was complimentary about Port Elizabeth, saying “this beautiful friendly city holds great potential in its ability to contribute to the growth of the South African economy”.
He said Operation Phakisa, which was launched in July 2014, aimed to boost economic growth, and has created 4500 jobs so far.
It is a collective effort between government, business, labour, academic and civil society, and also aims to encourage government departments to work together, he said.
The project is envisaged in the National Development Plan and co-ordinated by the department of planning and monitoring.
Zuma said the project had unlocked R17-billion worth of investments, and created over 4500 jobs in the various sectors. He also said it helped with the development of ports, for example in Port Elizabeth, where refurbished slipways could now accommodate 12 instead of just two vessels. Zuma said government did its best to remove “legislative uncertainty, lengthy bureaucratic authorisation procedures, delays in funding flows, infrastructure challenges and skills gaps” to speed up the project.
“This means all spheres of government must be involved and must participate in removing obstacles to investment in the country,” he said.
“In the new Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment Promotion which I chair, we will be working harder to promote this new attitude within government, that we must actively promote our country and must actively remove obstacles to investments by both domestic and international investors. Operation Phakisa is demonstrating that when we do this, we see good results.”
Among the politicians attending the event were Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle, Environment Minister Edna Molewa, Planning Minister Jeff Radebe, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor Danny Jordaan. Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was also spotted in the crowd, as well as ANC MP Cedric Frolick, who is from the metro.
Even though Zuma did not mention the ANC or the elections in his speech, Jordaan and Eastern Cape rural development MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane blatantly crossed the electioneering line.
Jordaan, who received whistles and cheers from the crowd, said people in Port Elizabeth should vote for transformation, not just change. ‘Change’ is one of the key words used in some of DA’s main campaign slogans.
Qoboshiyane said one of the biggest gatherings on the continent was set to happen in Port Elizabeth next Saturday, with more than 100 000 guests expected.
He told the crowd all were welcome to attend.
This was an indirect reference to the ANC’s local government elections manifesto launch, which is scheduled to take place in Port Elizabeth.
Ministers will be descending on the Eastern Cape this week to address communities on government and party business, while ANC officials have sent out notices of their programmes as well.
Meanwhile, using some guerilla marketing, the DA did door-to-door visits and mini-rallies around the metro on Friday, dubbing their campaign “Operation Pakisha” (“pack your bags”).