Lumka Ngxokile was still cleaning the marks left by muddy rainwater from her walls when Dali Mpofu, chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), arrived at the flood-hit Green Farm informal settlement in Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape last Thursday.
She continued her routine of trudging through the shin-high water between her house and the nearby tap, seemingly undeterred by the commotion made by the small group of EFF supporters.
Mpofu was welcomed by the singing crowd, who walked him down the only road to Green Farm. The informal settlement was among the worst-affected areas in the floods that hit the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal last week.
As Mpofu made his way towards the site of the flooding, he hesitated: he would have to take off his shoes to walk through the water that lay between him and the flood-damaged homes of the Green Farm residents.
Leaning on the shoulder of one of the members of his entourage, Mpofu removed his Prada sneakers and waded into the water.
A group of EFF supporters behind him dithered at the shoreline for a moment, seemingly unsure if they should follow Mpofu’s lead. Looking at each other for affirmation, smiles broke out on their faces … and some of them started to remove their shoes too.
Mpofu made his way from house to house, water lapping at the hem of his pulled-up trousers. He stopped to talk quietly to Ngxokile’s mother, Tracy, at the edge of her home. Marks on the walls showed that the water that flooded her home had reached waist-height.
When Mpofu eventually made his way to dry land, another member of the group helped him put on his pricey sneakers — the black gravel on the path out of Green Farm was too jagged for a desk jockey’s bare feet.