The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new ANC leader has attracted a whole new range of high-flying business people, politicians and ordinary people.
These include multi-millionaire Robert Gumede, who last attended similar events of the ruling party back in 2012.
The ANC is celebrating its 106th birthday at the Buffalo City Stadium today, where a crowd of more than 60 000 supporters is expected to fill three stadiums.
Addressing ANC supporters in Duncan Village yesterday, Ramaphosa said that under his watch the party was sure to return to its former glory and resemble its former leaders like Oliver Reginald Tambo, Thabo Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba.
Among the dignitaries who arrived yesterday were Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and South African President Jacob Zuma.
Businesswoman Chichi Maponya arrived even earlier in the week, but had to leave yesterday afternoon “due to an urgent business call”.
Billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe, his sister and Ramaphosa’s wife Bridgette Motsepe-Ramaphosa, as well as Gumede, were also some of the high-fliers who attended last night’s gala dinner and shared the same table with the newly elected ANC president and his top five officials.
The build-up to today’s birthday bash saw Ramaphosa and his team galvanising support by visiting royal houses, including that of Xhosa King Zwelonke Sigcawu, as well as Thembuland acting King Azenathi Dalindyebo, and laying a wreath at the graveside of ANC founding member Dr Walter B Rubusana in Braelyn.
The last leg of the build-up was Ramaphosa’s visit to Duncan Village. He also spent about an hour at the East London golf course, where he hit a few balls.
Addressing ANC supporters in Duncan Village, Ramaphosa said: “This is the return of the ANC of Mandela, Chris Hani, Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Vuyisile Mini. Today we appeal to you to come back home.
“The ANC has been revived after our conference [at Nasrec] which elected leaders who will work for you instead of themselves and their families.
“This new ANC will not tolerate thieves who steal public funds and we say looters are welcome to leave. The door is open.”
Ramaphosa also promised the residents, most of whom live in shack houses, that the ANC would build proper houses for them.
He said they must be patient because their turn was coming. He said the ANC-led government had built 4.3 million houses across South Africa since 1994.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, addressing the media at the Buffalo City Stadium yesterday, said everything was in order for the huge celebratory bash.
“City engineering and emergency services have assured us that the venue is ready for over 50 000 people. We are not saying that is the number of people we are expecting.
“We will see who comes and we will be grateful to fill the stadium and the overflows,” Duarte said.
Police provincial spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci said they were ready to maintain law and order.
“The SAPS can confirm that the SAPS in the Eastern Cape, with all law enforcement agencies, are operationally ready to police the upcoming ANC 106th celebrations on Saturday. Police and other security personnel will maintain a visible presence in and around the proximity of the three venues and have identified strategic positions in an effort to ensure safety and security for all,” Soci said.
The decision of the party to host its 106th birthday celebration in East London had positive spin-offs for the business sector.
It was reported earlier this week that hotels were all fully booked by Thursday, with those in the beauty industry also being fully booked yesterday. Small businesses around the stadium were also excited.
Hot Bread owner next to the stadium, Vijay Ramjee, said they had ordered more stock for this weekend and working hours would also be extended.
“We normally close at 1pm on Saturdays, but we will close at 6pm. I have also asked my staff to work the extra hours and my family has agreed to jump in and help,” he said.
Ramjee said sales were double their normal level and this was a welcome boost economically.