‘The masses have spoken’

2012-12-19 00:00

THE result was never really in doubt — after all, as one Julius Sello Malema commented in happier days, “If you want to suffer political embarrassment, you must challenge President Zuma”.

Still, when the results were announced and Jacob Zuma trounced his presidential rival Kgalema Motlanthe, pandemonium erupted in the Mangaung conference’s main marquee.

A beaming Zuma took to the stage as his supporters cheered him wildly, toyi-toyiing and singing his praises.

The volume rose as the rest of the ANC’s top six were announced and Zuma’s slate wiped the floor with the nominees punted by the Forces of Change campaign.

Zuma’s leadership team — some old faces and some new — joined him one by one on the podium, each of them ushered from the floor by ANC security guards, who battled to contain the ecstatic delegates mobbing them en route.

Then the losers joined them on stage; a moment of unity after a bruising battle that’s stretched from Polo­kwane to Mangaung over five long years.

The elation spilled out of the marquee and into the streets in front of the University of the Free State’s main gate.

Outside the main marquee, Zuma enthusiasts cheered, clapping each other on the back and proudly declaring their support for the man from Nkandla.

While inside the tent the winners and losers were shaking hands in a show of unity, Zuma supporters were gleefully celebrating what they said was the end of the Forces of Change campaign.

Gugu Thisi, from KwaZulu-Natal, needed only one word to express his delight: rolling his hands in the “substitution” hand signal that was the hallmark of the pro-changers, he grinned and said: “Dead”.

Niclas Thibela from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga praised Zuma: “He has entrenched democracy. People are now able to express their opinion — you don’t have to worry about being purged.”

Others hailed Zuma as the reason people were now joining the ANC.

“It’s because he is close to the people and he gives himself time to connect with the masses. When he is in Nkandla, there are queues of up to 5 000 people waiting to see him — and he attends to all of them,” said Maine Mokane from Taung, North West.

Free State Premier Ace Magashule said he was “happy — very happy”.

“The masses have spoken,” Magashule said.

SACP secretary general Blade Nzimade said the party welcomed the new leadership. “Particularly seeing that comrade Zuma is leading this leadership, it represents substantive continuation.”

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane was also delighted, saying, “I’m extremely happy for comrade Jacob Zuma. I hope South Africans will respect the choices made.”

Amid the elation, there was talk of what comes next: hard work, fixing divisions and delivering services were top of many delegates’ agendas.

Grace Maluleke, from the Dr James Moroka branch in Mpumalanga, was thrilled with the election results, but warned: “The time has come for them to deliver now”.

Siyabonga Maphalala, from KwaZulu-Natal’s Harry Gwala branch, said the province’s mandate had been fulfilled — and now he wanted to see “integration, organisational renewal and political stability”.

Women’s League chairperson Angie Motshekga was pleased that the league’s candidate had triumphed.

“Now we have to work towards implementing the policies effectively. The hard work has begun.”

Ayanda Mdluli reports from Nkandla that people there weren’t celebrating yesterday, but were preparing for a big party after Christmas.

Although there were no signs of excitement about Zuma’s victory in the area, what looked like an executive marquee was being erected about 300 metres from Zuma’s R230 million compound.

Some passers-by to whom The Witness spoke along the way expressed some excitement about Zuma’s victory.

Muziwemfihlo Zuma, a man from Nkandla who claims to be a cousin of Jacob Zuma, said there would be an event on December 27 that the president will attend to honour senior citizens in the area.

Commenting on Zuma’s victory, he said the people of Nkandla were very happy and it was good news for people living in rural areas who suffered from underdevelopment.

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