East London stadiums packed for #ANC106 rally

More than 30 000 people filled the Absa and Jan Smuts stadiums in East London where the ANC’s 106 birthday celebrations are taking place.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa received a rapturous welcome on Saturday morning as he stepped on stage with the party’s new top leadership and national executive committee.

ANC supporters arrived as early as Friday night in anticipation of the rally. The combined capacity of the Absa, Jan Smuts athletics stadiums and the Absa rugby B-field is 370 00 according to emergency medial services. By 10.00am, all three stadiums were packed.

The rally is also being attended by special guests including the president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and representatives of the Khoi Khoi and San people.

The paramount chief of the Khoi Khoi people said they travelled from the Northern Cape for an announcement by the ANC about its request for status as first nations people.

This follows an on-foot journey undertaken by four khoi khoi representatives from The Western Cape to the union buildings in Pretoria to ask for recognition from the ANC and its new leader Ramaphosa.

“We want recognition from the ANC as Khoi Khoi people. We want land from the government. We believe through all that we’ve lost a the Khoi Khoi people, that the ANC has a responsibility towards us,” chief Gert Cornelius Steenkamp told the M&G.

“We believe president Ramaphosa and the new NEC are capable of meeting their responsibility,” he added.

The January 8 statement, as the birthday celebrations have become known, is expected to be dominated by the ANC’s push to unite its party structures and new leadership, and its intentions for the economy.

The ANC has already indicated that it will celebrate the life of former president Nelson Mandela during 2018, as the late statesman would have turned 100 years old this year.

This includes expropriating land without compensation, free education, nationalisation of the reserve bank and the party’s fight against corruption. Ramaphosa centered his campaign for election ANC president on an anti-corruption message, which he repeated to ANC supporters as he toured the Eastern Cape in the lead up to Saturday’s rally.

The party is also expected to set out its campaign for the national elections next year. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has called on the ANC structures to secure a two thirds victory in the 2019 elections, but opposition parties are anticipating a possible takeover through coalition government in Gauteng.

The January 8 statement also takes place as the ANC considers increasing calls from within the party to have president Jacob Zuma recalled as head of state.

The interfaith prayers were dominated by the request for unity and an end of corruption.

“O’ Lord we have been arrogant and not listened to the people and now we ask for your forgiveness,” the pastor said.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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