Ramaphosa's tunes play on in Buffalo City

2018-01-14 06:03
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa meets residents of Qunu in the Eastern Cape ahead of the party’s 106th birthday rally at Buffalo City Stadium in East London yesterday. Picture: Leon Sadiki

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa meets residents of Qunu in the Eastern Cape ahead of the party’s 106th birthday rally at Buffalo City Stadium in East London yesterday. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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A 23-car convoy snakes its way around Orange Grove in East London. Its speakers are blaring encouragement to residents to come and hear new ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa speak at Buffalo Stadium on Saturday. 

It’s hot. Shirtless children are playing in the streets. Women come to their doors, curious about all the commotion.

A stone’s throw from East London Airport, a green board marked Airport Townships leads you to the area. A pile of aluminium and wooden planks make up an informal settlement. One of the first on the drive in is called Dubai.

The convoy of luxury vehicles blaring struggle songs is not welcomed by all.

“Nisakhela nini izindlu? [When are you building us houses?]” a visibly irritated woman in a white dress shouts.

“Umbani, umbani [Electricity, electricity],” another resident yells after the slow-moving spectacle.

“Niyangxola [you are making a noise],” another one remarks.

Children chase after the cars to get hold of pamphlets being distributed from the windows. Many lift their fists and shout, “Viva ANC, viva!”

“Yhu iCDI kwedini,” exclaims a young boy who can’t be older than 11. He literally cannot believe his eyes and jumps up and down with excitement at seeing the black Mercedes-Benz CLA220 CDI.

“Imoto engaka,” another child remarks. Taking matters into their own hands, another group of children decides which cars they will drive one day.

“Mina ndifuna le, wena ufuna eyiphi? [I want that one. Which one do you want?]”

More residents abandon their tasks to join the festivities on the streets. They take pictures, praise Ramaphosa and salute the organisation they love. There are even choreographed dance moves to some of the songs praising Ramaphosa. Hearing his name, a young resident is disappointed that she doesn’t get to see the man of the moment. “Uphi uRamaphosa na bethunana? [Where is Ramaphosa?]” she asks.

However, it becomes evident that he is not everyone’s favourite. A brief war of words breaks out between the person leading the convoy in an ANC-branded bakkie that carries speakers and a woman in one of the other cars.

Getting out of her car when the group stops momentarily, she walks to the lead car with a CD in her hand. She demands that the bakkie’s driver play songs praising “Nxamalala [Jacob Zuma]”. She tells the driver: “Nizosixabanisa nabahlali [You are going to make people chase us away.]”

She doesn’t win the argument and the Ramaphosa tunes play on.

At Duncan Village, about 4km from East London’s CBD, the entourage’s detour seems like an afterthought. The children happily run in the narrow streets without a care in the world – or any regard for cars. You can barely swing a cat due to traffic congestion in the densely populated settlement, which is a problem given that there are a lot of children.

A throng of residents rushes towards the cars and a pixilated and too-dark picture of Ramaphosa smiles back at you from yellow T-shirts. Many get the T-shirts before promptly going back to their business. Those who stay behind receive a delegation, which includes Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Deputy Communications Minister Tandi Mahambehlala.

One of the people Mokonyane met during recent door-to-door campaign visits was a 95-year-old woman. The gogo was said to be living in appalling conditions in a shack with a sick, bed-ridden child. At the time, Mokonyane called on Sisulu to intervene. She had apparently arranged for a temporary shelter to be built.

Speaking in isiXhosa, Mokonyane says: “We came back to show that, when we work together and do door-to-door, it is easy for us to fix people’s problems.”

Sisulu then takes to the microphone on the back of the ANC bakkie to explain that the prefabricated structure was temporarily built for “umama”, and that they plan to build her a real home.

Unimpressed by the grand gesture, one resident loudly asks for the old woman’s name. Sisulu either doesn’t hear or pretends not to.

Zoleka Sigasana (58), who receives a disability grant, says she is a devout ANC member and was overwhelmed with joy when Ramaphosa emerged victorious at Nasrec last month. However, she says she is still disappointed with the ANC’s failure to bring any real change to Duncan Village.

Sigasana says she will vote for the ANC until she dies, but that it urgently needs to pull up its socks.

On Friday, some lucky Duncan Village residents got face time with Ramaphosa when he arrived to do his part in door-to-door campaigning for the ANC.

Seeing her chance to speak to power, one resident pleaded with Ramaphosa to help her with her child.

Nini Zenzile told the party president about her allegedly criminal son. She said he was part of a gang terrorising Duncan Village residents.

“We have been looking to the top, wondering when these people are going to help free us from these criminal elements,” Zenzile said, referring to Ramaphosa and the ANC top brass.

Screaming at the top of her voice to make her anguish known, Zenzile said she had opened a case against her son, but that the police had failed to make any arrests.

In a bold – if not wholly misdirected move – Ramaphosa responded: “We will see what we can do today.”

In no time at all, the streets turn into an action film as Ramaphosa asks police to go on the hunt for the young man.

Armed officers take to the streets and knock on doors in search of the troubled man.


Can Ramaphosa win over those areas that previously supported Jacob Zuma, and can he reverse the damage Zuma did?

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Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramphosa  |  east london  |  politics

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