IF there was any doubt that the ANC was not divided, that myth was dispelled at the start of the four-day ANC policy conference at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg yesterday.
When President Jacob Zuma walked into the packed hall, the reception was not as thunderous as it usually is at the party’s major events.
Delegates from all provinces were seated by the time Zuma walked in, but only a certain portion of the hall stood up to join the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape in song.
During the morning, the Eastern Cape delegates broke into song and waved flags as they dominated the front of the hall, singing and raising two fingers to signify their support of Zuma’s second term.
A similar gesture was made by Thabo Mbeki’s third-term supporters during the Polokwane elective conference build-up.
The Eastern Cape, led in song by Pemmy Majodina, was joined by Zuma’s province of KwaZulu-Natal and by the Northern Cape and North West in singing pro-Zuma songs. On the other side of the hall, where the Western Cape, Free State and Limpopo delegations sat, only a few members joined in.
The North West members sang "we’ll take Zuma to Mangaung”.
Almost all the Limpopo delegates were firmly glued to their seats in silence as they read free newspapers.
More than 4000 people filled the hall, including 3500 ANC delegates comprising branch representatives and members of the youth, women and veterans’ leagues, the alliance and the national executive committee. Business people and 300 journalists from around the world also attended.
As Zuma delivered his speech, there was random applause from different sides of the hall. However, when he sang his trademark song, Mshini wam, the hall roared and joined in, although a few members stood but did not join in the singing.
Although the event was otherwise orderly, chaos erupted when Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale stood up to make a correction on the programme. When he raised a point about derogatory songs, KwaZulu-Natal delegates booed him.
A member from Limpopo raised a point of order and Sexwale withdrew his motion.
Outside, the location was a hive of activity with people selling ANC merchandise and books – even from a Porsche parked outside the hall.
Streets surrounding the Gallagher Estate area were blocked off by police vans which made it difficult for residents living in the area to drive in and out of their neighbourhood.
Several business people whose properties are situated in the area phoned radio stations to complain about the inconvenience.
Vehicles could not use certain routes if the occupants did not have the designated conference tags.
The conference continues today, with the media barred from all sessions.