A group of physically disabled supporters gather to hear EFF leaders address supporters at the Orlando Stadium on May 5, 2019. (Photo: Ntwaagae Seleka, News24)
~ Ntwaagae Seleke
In a sea of chanting and dancing supporters, Realise Selaole cut a lonely figure at the packed EFF Tshela Thupa rally held at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Sunday.
He wasn't upset, disillusioned or bored - Selaole was simply amazed, often stunned into silence by the grand affair.
The 25-year-old man clung to the fence separating the media and the crowd at the popular Soweto arena, embedded among members and supporters of the EFF, waiting to be addressed by their commander-in-chief, Julius Malema, who arrived in the stadium after midday.
He kept twisting his head side-to-side fascinated by what he was seeing at the stadium. On stage, popular kwaito group Alaska and local hip-hop artist Stilo Magolide were bouncing from side to side, pumping up the crowd's energy levels ahead of the official speeches.
Selaole danced for a while before stopping and watching as his fellow fighters danced to the infectious tunes.
The reason for the young man's bewilderment - May 8, will be the first time he sees a ballot paper.
Selaole spent half of his teenage years in a juvenile prison after being convicted and sentenced to 13 years behind bars for rape.
"I have lost my teenage years locked in prison. I haven't voted at all and this time I'm casting my X," he told News24.
He was only released on parole in 2016 and could not vote in that year's municipal polls.
"At the time I could not vote and this time I'm going there. I am a first-time voter, and can't wait for Wednesday. My ID is safe and I don't want to lose it.
"I want to see change in my life and in the country, the EFF is the only vehicle that will deliver the change I'm longing for," he said.
"I'm happy with the EFF promises. They are promising change in this country and I know they will deliver.
"Malema is going to win and I am proud that my party will lead this country. Today I have a matric certificate that I have achieved last year because of the influence by EFF leaders, encouraging us to go to school.
"I want to further my studies and the EFF will assist me to study for free next year," he added.
ANC government 'doesn't care' about disabled people
Less than a hundred metres away from Seloale sat Lerato Molalangoane in his wheelchair, surrounded by other physically disabled supporters who came out to hear from the red berets.
Molalangone, 32, will be voting for the EFF for the first time in his life, claiming he is tired of voting for the ANC because he has seen no change in his life.
"I am tired of voting for ANC. I live in someone else 's home and has been on the house waiting list for too long. The ANC government doesn't care about the disabled.
"I am renting a backroom with my disability grant. The money is a pittance and only caters for rent. I struggle to find food to eat for the month," he told News24.
Molalangoane added that, as a man, he has to make means to ensure there is food on his table.
"When I was born, I was diagnosed with polio and have been in this condition since birth. I am unable to work for myself. I rely on a grant to survive.
"The EFF is the only way to change my life. It has promised to double my grant. I will do a lot with my grant if Malema doubles it. I wish Malema wins and become a president to change our lives. I am thankful to EFF members in Tembisa where I reside. They are assisting me and have ensured that I attend this rally.
"My hope and dream is in their hands and I trust and believe that change is coming. I want a house that will cater for my needs. I need a house with a ramp, where I will be able to manoeuver freely inside," he said.
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