Upon my arrival in the area, I was greeted with a chorus of “Zuma wa re tlwaela”, coming from fighters who had just alighted a bus. They took to the street and continued singing as they made their way into the stadium. Entering the stadium, one saw mock coffins wrapped in ANC colours marked “Rest in Hell” and others bearing the face of the ANC president and marked “Hamba Kahle Butternut!” And then there were also actual butternuts bearing Zuma’s name to be seen.
“We want change, 20 years is enough! It is clear that the ANC has failed to deliver and that is why I support EFF”, says 30-year old Thabo Modise when asked why he was there. He went on to explain how despite having finished school, till this day he has never been able to secure a job, his anger and frustration were very obvious.
Another group of supporters enters the stadium singing “Siyangena parliament, siyangena”. Full of energy, fighters continue to pour into the stadium. The crowds are entertained by a variety of performers, before a portrait of Malema goes around the stadium to resounding cheers from the crowd.
Just over four hours after the rally had started, Malema arrived and was greeted with resounding cheers from every side of the stadium. Along with Gauteng Premier Candidate, Advocate Dali Mpofu and other members of their Central Command team, they paraded the stadium greeting supporters.
Malema’s presence marked the beginning of the official part of the programme, which was opened with “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi explained that this rather than the national anthem was being sung because “this is a festival for the oppressed”.
Following a welcome from the Gauteng Provincial Command Team, Adv. Dali Mpofu who was referred to as the Advocate of the people took over the stage. “The EFF is more than a political party, it is a movement… …the movement for change is here, the revolution is unstoppable”. He went on to describe how during their campaigning in the country, they had heard from people complaining about housing roads and basic services- noting that he found himself most touched by people’s pleas that the EFF should not betray its voters and fight for positions.
His response to this was to say that “EFF will live until our liberation and carry the struggle until the return of the land.” “Fighters answered the call of the people”, he went on, sharing that the “EFF is the only organisation where people on the candidate lists rejected having their names there and had to be convinced to take up the call. This is not a Mickey Mouse organisation, EFF is an idea whose time has come. Don’t let anyone lie to you and tell you that they liberated you, the people of SA liberated themselves”. This was met with roars from fighters.
The Socialist Party of Azania and the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) were amongst the organisations that came out to show their support. The latter was praised for not “going to bed with capitalists” and exposed their ambitious desire to be the country’s “largest federation by this time next year”. NACTU mourned that affiliate AMCU was on its 101st day of strike, pointing out that their support for the EFF is based on the party’s concern for workers.
But it was Malema who would set the already energetic crowd on fire. No-one moved as he addressed the crowd and with no notes he took them on a journey from outrage to hope- with a fine sprinkling of humour. His skill was demonstrated by the way he had his audience captivated, both young and old.
In an engaging and simplistic manner, he took the audience through the party’s policies, from land expropriation to artistic freedom. He also reassured fellow fighters that the EFF would not enter a coalition with neither the ANC nor the DA.
There is no doubt that the Tshela Thupa rally was an impressive show of force and numbers for a party so young. And despite the oblivion it was determined Malema would go to after being expelled from the ANC, it is clear that he could very well be on his way to parliament.