Party: Braais, music for Zuma vigil

2008-08-03 00:00

By early yesterday evening Pietermaritzburg hardly seemed prepared for the Jacob Zuma cavalcade that was rolling into town. By 8 pm the police had just started barricading roads, there were no portable toilets in sight and a lone grader was working double-time covering up the wet ground in Freedom Square, while a truck waited nearby with rubble to cover up the damp patches.

All of this did not dampen the spirits of Zuma supporters who arrived early. Locals from the surrounding suburbs started trickling into Freedom Square from about 6 pm onwards, and by 7 pm braai fires were lit and in the background music blared from the large makeshift stage that has been set up for the occasion.

Many of the locals said they wanted to be there when fellow ANC members arrived by buses from other provinces.

Nathi Mthethwa, chairman of the ANC’s National Executive Working Committee, said it is difficult to say how many people will be arriving as the ANC has not been involved in organising transport.

He said people are making their own way to Pietermaritzburg and that he has heard that buses have left from Limpopo Province, Free State, Northern Province and Mpumalanga.

Sihle Zikalala, deputy secretary of the ANC, said they expected the buses to start arriving from 10 pm onwards. He said they were told that the people in Mpumalanga province had held a prayer meeting and a march in support of Zuma.

Some of the first people to arrive at Freedom Square were vendors of ANC paraphernalia. Norman Mbhungana arrived from Johannesburg at 5 am yesterday morning and set up his stall. He plans to sell all night and all of today. He said sales were good at the last vigil and he expects to do better this time.

A vendor selling ANC badges at R5 each was doing a roaring trade while the Mkhonto weSizwe Veterans Association were selling memorabilia to raise funds. Most popular were MK berets selling at R200 each.

Sibongile Ngcobo from Imbali kept open her fruit stall that she usually runs in Freedom Square. She expected fellow traders to arrive at midnight to begin plying their goods. Making an early start was Mkhule Mhlongo, from Durban who is selling boerewors and braaied chicken pieces. “People toyi-toyiing and singing through the night get hungry,” he said.

The weather bureau predicted that temperatures in the city were to plummet to below 12 degrees last night, but Zuma supporters said they were prepared and were determined to stick around to show their support for their leader, the chant all around was, “we want the charges dropped,” and “Zuma, SA’s next president.”

By yesterday evening it was difficult to tell whether this would indeed be one of the largest gatherings of Zuma supporters outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

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