JOHANNESBURG – The ANC in Gauteng is rejecting any suggestion that some of its members deliberately walked out of FNB Stadium as President Jacob Zuma addressed them on Saturday.
The provincial structure also says that filling the stadium was never a priority but that it was the only venue big enough to accommodate supporters attending the party’s provincial manifesto launch.
As for those who left during the speeches, “we know that generally, even at funerals, towards the end people — because maybe of a comfort breaker, hunger, anxiety about buses — may actually leave before time,” said ANC Gauteng deputy secretary Gwen Ramokgopa.
At its peak, at about 3pm, the ANC Gauteng manifesto launch rally was, in fact, well attended. Not quite, ‘hash-tag #FillUpFNBFull, as the party had hyped it up to be but full enough for the provincial leadership to make bold claims.
“As Gauteng President Zuma, we welcome you! Comrades I want to announce the latest numbers, 85,350. We’ve now included the suites,” said ANC Gauteng deputy chairperson David Makhura.
But during provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile’s speech and subsequently Zuma’s, the stadium started emptying.
So much so that by the end of the president’s speech only patches of the crowd remained to join him in song.
Hardly the flexing of muscles that the provincial ANC had promised the president last month.
“The stadium must be full by 10‘o clock. We don’t want to hear stories ‘hey the coordinators of the buses, hhe eh’ we don’t want that,” said Mashatile.
But the provincial structure says it is satisfied with the attendance of the launch.
Zuma ploughed on with his speech to the end, urging members to do all in their power to win Gauteng, which he described as the home of the ANC.
“Comrades, we have now entered the mayihlome phase of our campaign. All members of the ANC are thus called upon to exercise the highest levels of discipline and work hard for the decisive victory of our movement,” said Zuma.
Gauteng is one of three ANC provinces launching the manifesto this weekend.