Supporters in spirit of united SA
Party leaders vying for office bicker and fight, but what senior reporter Estelle Ellis found at The Herald/Canrad election dialogue were supporters with a sense of community and humanity which cuts across political barrier lines
The four men arrive on the back of a bakkie. Standing outside, they share two white rolls and a small bottle of Coke.Their hands are callused and bruised, evidence of people who are accustomed to hard labour. Their shoes are worn.Upon entering the Feather Market Hall in Port Elizabeth for The Herald/Canrad election debate, they don’t know where to sit.That is, until an EFF representative with the party’s banner under his arm ushers them to their side.There they sit with their arms crossed , eager to listen.The DA supporters arrive with branded bottles of water.The EFF man with the banner has bigger problems. Officials have stopped his counterpart from putting up a banner near the stage. Both head up the stairs to place their banners over the gallery railings.DA representative Nqaba Bhanga arrives. He appears unsettled – he needs a place to plug in his phone. Charger and phone in hand, he sets off but returns without any luck.A woman with the DA contingent, wearing a green T-shirt, is given a blue DA jacket to put on.Moki Cekisani of the PAC slowly walks toward the stage with a sign around his neck which reads: “The land first. All shall follow.”The four men rise to shake his hand.“We fight for people who have nothing. There is no other hope,” Lukhanyo Mrara from the EFF says in his opening statement. The men nod.Around them, Samsung cellphones and iPhones go up as the EFF supporters record videos of their representative.Over at the DA’s section, a discussion breaks out over apples that one supporter has produced from a bag.A few women over at the ANC block are trying to get their attention.The apples are passed along without hesitation. Some chips are passed back over to the DA’s side.
This camaraderie continues as a woman in a DA T-shirt asks another DA supporter for something. The noise in the hall is too loud. She gestures with her hand.Word is sent down the row, moves over to supporters of the other political parties and a lighter is passed along from the side where ANC supporters are seated.The woman disappears with lighter and cigarettes and a friendly nod.On stage, the politicians are still promising jobs, criticising the state of healthcare, talking about corruption and prison.A UDM supporter arrives with a toddler clad in a party Tshirt. Someone from the ANC corner gives the baby chips. He is delighted.Someone teaches the child how to do a high-five. Soon he walks around the hall, giving EFF supporters a high-five.Next, he walks down the DA line dishing out those tiny high-fives. Everybody indulges him, delighted by his cuteness.After all the talking from the politicians, it is time for supporters to have their say. Queues form at the mics.The four men sit back, listening intently. They nod when promises are made for jobs, land and 24-hour clinics.A reference to former president Jacob Zuma gets a laugh.As the debate drags on and tempers soar, the four are unmoved. When it is over, they get up and leave.All four of them take their heavy wool beanies from their pockets and set off in the direction of the taxi rank.