Zuma stops by taxi rank on campaign trail

President Jacob Zuma. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Times are so tough that she didn’t want to volunteer a free apple to President Jacob Zuma, but fruit and vegetable seller Vivian Diko said she was planning to vote – and she will vote ANC.

“The president asked how is business, and I said it is slow,” Diko said in Xhosa about her meeting with Zuma during his walkabout at a mall adjacent to the Uitenhage taxi rank on Thursday morning.

She was busy opening her stall and putting two boxes of fresh apples – the first with red and the second with Golden Delicious apples – on the rickety wooden table that she sells her wares from. It was 11am and very hot, and the sweat was trickling down her face as she spoke.

Diko lives in Joe Slovo, a settlement between Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth, and she was one of several people who Zuma interacted with as he moved around the mall, mobbed by bodyguards, ANC volunteers and curious commuters.

Taxi driver Welcome Matanzima, 53, was equally impressed. Following Zuma’s address to a group of between 100 and 200 commuters at the taxi rank, Matanzima said: “I like what he is saying, I have registered and I will vote ANC,” he said.
“My father is ANC, my mother is ANC, so that is why I like the ANC.”

Other people at the taxi rank were less enthusiastic. Airtime seller Ntombodumo Boucher said she would not go out to vote. “There is no truth,” she said.

She said Zuma visited Uitenhage too infrequently. “He is here now because he wants us to vote for him. A lot of people have no houses, there are no pavements [where we live], it is not right,” she said.

Zimbabwean Juliet Mdikwa chipped in to complain about xenophobia. There have been sporadic and deadly attacks on foreign shop owners in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which spans Port Elizabeth, Despatch and Uitenhage.

She felt foreigners were being singled out for crime. “They are robbing us, they took my phone and money and they beat my brother [and took his phone],” she said, adding that locals called her a “kwara-kwara” (kwerekwere – a local slang word for ‘foreigner’).

“It is not right, we are the same blood,” she said, adding that politicians did not pay enough attention to the plight of foreigners. A man in a SA Municipal Workers Union uniform overheard the conversation, and interrupted to say locals were also getting robbed.

Many people in the metro are complaining that crime levels, especially after dark, are extremely high for people who have to travel by foot or by taxi.

Taxi tout Mbuyisele Kopo is 33 and still looking for a sustainable job that would pay enough to cover the basics – which cost more than the R50 a day he is earning at present.

He, too, is disillusioned and doesn’t think he would go to vote. “The people who want us to vote, they come with empty promises but they don’t do [things],” he said.

“Here in the Eastern Cape we are struggling to get jobs, that is why I am a taxi tout,” he said.

He did not trust that there’s any party who would deliver on its promises, he said. Although Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema often spoke the truth, he was too rude and would not make a good president, Matanzima said.

He also didn’t like Zuma. “That money that he built his house there [Nkandla], he should give it to us to get houses and jobs here in the Eastern Cape,” he said, adding that there was a feeling locally that only the people in KwaZulu-Natal had better lives.

Zuma addressed commuters from a small ANC-branded campaign truck parked in a spot used as a makeshift urinal.

Siyanda Mbanjwa, secretary of the Uitenhage District Taxi Association, said this was because municipal toilets were often blocked. “The ablution facility was recently fixed, but then after two to three weeks it is blocked again, and it takes very long to get them to come and free it again,” he said. “As business people we are bringing revenue in to them, and our commuters deserve better,” he said.

Mbanjwa said it was his first time meeting the president, and although Zuma did not ask after their challenges, Mbanjwa said he was “encouraged and hopeful” that the problems here would be addressed.

Zuma promised Uitenhage commuters that the insults being flung at him and the ANC would not detract the government from improving their lives, even though this might take time.

“The ANC belongs to the people, even if you hate it or if you like it, it belongs to the people,” he said, to cheers and applause from the crowd – which was standing in the sun on a hot day, while an umbrella was held over Zuma’s head.

At the end of the meeting he sang his trademark defiance song, Mshini Wam, after members of the audience asked for it.

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