ANC supporters flood Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein - Thousands of ANC supporters have filled the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein within an hour for the party’s centenary celebrations on Sunday.
Hundreds of people lined the streets around the stadium early on Sunday, with parks around the stadium and elsewhere in the city full of ANC supporters singing, dancing and eating while waiting for the gates to open.
Inside, the stadium’s 48 000 seats were quickly filled with people wearing mainly party colours, yellow and red t-shits, while many were sitting under colourful umbrellas.
A huge stage filled almost the entire pitch, while hundreds of marshals and security officials in neon green vests directed people to their seats.
Many party members and visitors have travelled from afar to attend the main event of the ANC’s centenary weekend, where a speech will be delivered by party president Jacob Zuma.
History of the ANC
Mehmood Hansa, 44, said he drove all the way from Vereeniging in Gauteng. He and two children, Adnaan, 11, Joseph, 13, and 23-year-old nephew Sulaiman wore black ANC t-shirts with a picture of his late father Dawood "Daddy" Hansa.
"He was the first Indian councillor in the whole of Free State. He served in Parys," he proudly said.
"He was part of the struggle against oppression and everyone called him Daddy when he became councillor. We shared him with everyone." His father passed away in July last year aged 73.
Hansa said he brought his children and nephew to the stadium because he wanted them to know about the history of a political party which his father loved.
"We owe it to my father and many heroes of the struggle who fought to liberate us. Many lives were lost."
Hansa said this was also a once in a life time opportunity to be at a gathering like this one.
Some elderly women were seen sitting and others sleeping in the shade away from the main stands.
Johanna Mambuma, 65, and Tina Mohlaka, 66, said the sun was too hot to bear at the main stands overlooking the stage in which various South African artists like kwaito king Arthur Mafokate and Chomme, among others, were expected to perform.
"It's hot in there and we are tired. We are not that young anymore, we have all kinds of sickness," said Mambuma.
She said they were happy to be part of celebrations and had been dancing since their arrival.
"This is our ANC! Now and forever." The women said they arrived at 04:00 on Sunday and were forced to sleep in their buses and on pavements.
They were finally let into the stadium at 08:00. Zaphalala George Kenke, from Sharpeville, Gauteng, the site of the 1960 massacre, said he arrived in Bloemfontein late on Saturday night, but was still ready to party on Sunday.
Filled with happiness
“We came on a bus, but it wasn’t boring because we were all singing. We were all filled with happiness for this occasion.”
Kenke said he was a staunch supporter of the party, but was sad that it was not as “spectacular” as it used to be.
“The organisation is being killed by individuals inside it. It is these people who are not informed of ANC policies, and are using it for their own personal issues.”
Kenke said the party had no more love in it.
“The only thing that gives me hope is the massive turnout here in the stadium,” he said.
Mpho Hlanyane, from Kroonstad, said she arrived at 05:00 on Sunday morning with members of the ANC Women’s League.
“This event will go fantastically, we have no doubt that it will be massive, and everyone in the world will see how important the ANC is,” she said.
International guests and heads of state and governments were expected to arrive from 14:00, while Zuma was to deliver the ANC’s January 8 centenary speech at about 16:00.
The programme includes a fireworks “grand finale” at about 21:00.