12 days with Zuma: ‘Madness’ as Zuma campaigns in Joburg city centre

2011-05-09 10:31

It’s still dark and freezing cold as we arrive at Park Station in Joburg at 6am this morning. Only a handful of journalists and photographers are crazed enough to be here in time for the kick-off of the Commander in Chief’s meet and greet with commuters as part of his election campaign. Thousands of people are passing us by on their way to work.

At about 6.30am we get the message that the president will only arrive after 7.30am because his programme only finished at 2am the previous night.

Fair enough.

While we’re waiting, Amos Masondo, the soon-to-be-former mayor of Johannesburg arrives with an armful of ANC pamphlets and joins the team of ANC volunteers hustling voters for May 18. He looks pretty lost and lonely. When we were in KwaMashu last week, his Durban counterpart, Obed Mlaba, had the same look about him – like somebody who is suddenly having to get used to no longer being in the limelight and who doesn’t really know what to do with himself.

Around 8am the CiC arrives. There are cops everywhere, and a crew of bodyguards in suits form around Zuma in a kind of flying wedge.

They move through the station and there’s madness. A bus load of ANC activists are running around singing and waving ANC posters, ordinary commuters are surging forward trying to get close to the man, cameras are going off as the scrum of photographers elbow each other out of the way and ordinary punters whip out their phones to shoot pics of Nxamalala.

The security guys open the turnstile towards the platform and hundreds of people push through, using the mayhem in the station around Zuma to get through without paying.

Zuma stops and climbs onto a low platform for an impromptu speech, lashing the DA and urging folks to vote ANC.

I ask this buxom 30-year-old called Patience Vilakazi if she’s going to vote for Zuma. She giggles and says no, she doesn’t vote, but that she wants to see what he looks like in person.

Zuma’s entourage then moves next door to Bree Street taxi rank. Here it’s even more chaotic: people pour out of their taxis for a glimpse of the CiC. It’s all slogans, hooters blasting and music in the background pounding from taxis.

Zuma’s security guys have their hands full keeping the crowd from surging over him.

The CiC’s loving it. He’s pressing the flesh left right and centre, handing out pamphlets, smiling, chatting, climbing in and out of taxis. The punters are in heaven. There are shouts of “Msholozi!” and “Umshini wam’’’ everywhere. Young women are jumping up and down.

Then suddenly – it’s over. Zuma’s entourage plunges through the crowd to his awaiting convoy. People stand around looking dazed as normality returns and life continues.

Elvis has left the building...

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