The oohs, aahs, and some waning support for the ANC at #SiyanqobaRally

Tami Sithole (34) normally sells cigarettes, snacks and sweets near Parks Station in the Johannesburg CBD. But standing at the entrance to the ANC’s Siyanqoba Rally in Ellis Park, Johannesburg, Sithole is trying to sell a crowd pleaser: kangas decorated in ANC symbols and colours.

“I’m trying to make money, that’s why I’m here. If it wasn’t for money I wouldn’t be here,” Sithole says.

His aim was to bank on the swathes of ANC supporters who streamed into the stadium, but it hasn’t worked out as he had planned. Sithole made R1 100 in sales but had spent far more to buy his stock of decorated cotton fabric which men and women drape around themselves.

He grew up as an ANC supporter and still considers himself one. Around him hundreds of people walk by, celebrating the party, but Sithole has become disillusioned. “I’m an ANC supporter but the way things are recently, it seems like these leaders turn a blind eye to us,” Sithole says.

“It’s frustrating, because you don’t know where to go to. That’s the only party that you like, but if our leaders forget about us, it’s sad, because the blacks will suffer until the end. As you see, I don’t make much. My kids will suffer as I am suffering,” he continues, standing wearily as more people pass him, paying little attention to his stock.

In this setting, where the Ellis Park Stadium is draped in green, yellow, and black, Sithole’s views are an unpopular opinion. President Zuma spent around 30 minutes at the podium where he spoke of the ANC’s progress in the metropolitan municipalities and the speech roused the party’s supporters.

WATCH: Siyanqoba Rally: Jacob Zuma breaks down what ‘people’s power’ means for the ANC

“In 1994, we took over as a democratic government. Just over 50% of households had access to clean piped water then, but now more than 90% have access to clean piped water,” he said.

The president also reflected on the ANC’s door-to-door campaign in the run-up to election day, saying that the party has listened to its followers and has pledged that local economies will become more welcoming to local businesses.

“It was impressive,” says Cynthia Chomani (56) who travelled from her home in Sebokeng in the Vaal Triangle.

Chomani stands just outside the entrance to the stadium. Bellowing voices from inside echo out into the wind where people are energetically milling. Chomani is on her way to flag down transport so she can be on her way home. She has seen the changes in her informal settlement in Sebokeng, and believes that the party should be given a second shot at local government because there’s more work that they can achieve.

“After 1994, there were things that were opened to everyone that we didn’t know about in the past. The ANC government opened the doors for everyone,” Chomani said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, so let’s give them another chance.”

At the podium, Zuma also spoke about the ANC’s need to win at the polls in the City of Cape Town, slating the Democratic Alliance for prioritising the rich over poor Capetonians. Earlier, sports minister Fikile Mbalula had asked the crowd: “Cape Town, are you there?”. He was met with some murmurs, but tried again nevertheless.

Zuma’s promise, however, to lay out a different path that prioritised transformation in the City of Cape Town received some applause. But back in the Western Cape, the party has been heavily criticised after Marius Fransman, the party’s former leader in the province, was accused of rape by Louisa Wynand, who worked for him at the time.

Despite the factions and serious allegations that soured the organisation for many South Africans, Phumzile Nkosi (45) maintains her support for the ANC, saying that the party is greater than one man’s mistakes.

“The ANC is an organisation, not a person. Nobody’s perfect, everybody has mistakes. Wherever you go people make mistakes – even the priests make mistakes,” Nkosi said, sitting in the stands before the official programme began.

While Nkosi and Chomani, and the thousands who stood beside them at the stadium, have forgiven the party for the cloud of allegations that follows it, some are considering whether now is the time to turn a blind eye to the party come election day on 3 August.

“I didn’t say I will vote for the ANC, I said I am ANC. I don’t know who I will vote for if I go to the polls, but what the ANC are doing to us, I might do the same thing to them,” Sithole says.

ANC rally grandstand
While the thousands at the stadium may have forgiven the ANC for the cloud of allegations that follows it, some are considering to turn a blind eye to the party come election day on 3 August. (Sebabatso Mosamo, M&G)

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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