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Johannesburg - The DA’s march in Zola, Soweto, was marred by on-the-side squabbles between its supporters and those of the ANC.
About 3 500 DA members marched on the township’s Bendile Street on Saturday as a show of political force ahead of the upcoming elections.
A number of ANC die-hards stood in groups in parts of the street, observing and some singing in defence of their party.
At least two clashes broke out between the two groups.
The DA marchers were seen throwing their plastic mineral water bottles at their ANC opponents. ANC supporters then threatened to retaliate with violence, but a sizeable police contingent stood guard.
The first confrontation was the ugliest. After a short verbal quarrel, plastic bottles flew at an ANC group of about six people outside the Maseko home in Zola.
Girly Maseko, in her 40s, was left drenched in water after the police intervened and the DA members continued marching. “They’ve hit me because they can see I support the ANC,” Maseko said.
Pinkie Maseko said: “The DA has messed up. Zille must apologise. We’ll tell our branch chairperson to complain against the DA.”
A marching DA supporter told ANC members: “Sizonishayela i-corruption (We’ll hit you for corruption).” “We’re being hit, we’re being hit. Did you see what they did? They are throwing (plastic) bottles at us,” an irate ANC member Raymond Shenge said when asked what triggered the commotion.
Draped in an ANC garment, a woman shouted: “Do they see us going to the suburbs? We don’t go there. This is our Zola.”
The clash died down as police intervened and the DA marchers continued to the sports grounds adjoining Pace Commercial Secondary School.
This is where DA leader Helen Zille and the party’s Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane took turns lambasting the ANC and the SABC for banning their party’s “Ayisafani” TV advert.
It emerged on Friday that the public broadcaster had removed the DA’s advert from the airwaves, saying that it incited violence.
Ayisafani translates to “It is not the same” in Nguni languages. The ad campaign implies the ANC has changed from what it used to be.
Both Zille and Maimane accused the SABC of colluding with the ANC to ban the advert because it was critical of President Jacob Zuma.
“The ANC is scared,” Zille told the crowd.
She said the banning was a “serious issue”, not just because it violated the DA’s freedom of speech, “but because of the rights of South Africans that we fought for”.
“This is about our right to free speech,” said Zille.
Speaking to the media, Maimane conceded that he hadn’t seen the clashes between his party’s and ANC supporters.
“If there are members of our party who are misbehaving in that manner, I’ll be the first one to deal with them,” said Maimane.
But the ANC “are the biggest culprits” of political intolerance, he said.
“In fact I was in Winterveldt (outside Pretoria), where ANC members came and stoned us,” Maimane said.
“We were in Sharpeville (south of Johannesburg), they then attacked our bus.”