Durban - An opportunity to demonstrate tolerance and political maturity was lost on Sunday when the DA’s leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Sizwe Mchunu, was booed off the stage at a taxpayer-funded provincial government event marking Freedom Day at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
In Rustenburg in North West, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was evacuated from an election rally at Freedom Park when members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) turned violent.
Mbalula was taken away in a bullet-proof vehicle when strikers threw stones at cars.
President Jacob Zuma told a crowd at the Union Buildings in Pretoria that “the precious right to vote” had been gained through relentless struggle and sacrifice.
“On May 7, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard-won freedom and democracy.”
South Africa had improved over 20 years, and now had a buoyant economy, deepening democracy and was combating crime and corruption, Zuma said.
In Durban, a 50 000-strong crowd filled the soccer stadium for the Freedom Day celebration organised by the city and the office of the premier.
Speaking after being booed, Mchunu said the DA and other opposition parties had been invited to deliver a three-minute speech, but that the DA had been the only one to take up the offer.
“When it came time for me to speak, the partisan crowd started booing and singing ANC songs, to the point where I could not carry on,” he said.
Mchunu said the programme directors, Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo and Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube, calmed the crowd but, when he started speaking again, the same thing happened.
This time, no one intervened and he walked out.
“You could clearly mistake it for an ANC event,” Mchunu said.
“There was a mass of yellow and ANC memorabilia everywhere - even the DJs were playing ANC songs.
“This appeared to be merely an ANC event disguised under the government emblem.
“Twenty years into democracy and the ANC is still intolerant of any other party.
“This is a serious indictment of Nelson Mandela’s vision for South Africa and our constitutional freedom of speech.”
Premier Senzo Mchunu’s spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said the premier condemned the booing, which had been by a “small group” who were dealt with by security.
Sibiya said Dhlomo and Dube had controlled the situation and asked Mchunu to proceed, “but unfortunately he walked away and left the event”.
“We reject his comment that this was an ANC event as those who attended were not asked to produce membership cards of their political parties,” said Sibiya.
With regard to the singing of ANC songs, Sibiya said: “The struggle songs will always be part of our history and will remain with us for ever.”
Political analyst Protas Madlala said: “We need to applaud the ANC for inviting other parties and commend the DA on their courage for showing up.
“I think the intention on both sides was very good and I don’t think the DA was set up, but unfortunately the people in the crowd have not reached political maturity yet.”
This was aggravated by the approach of the elections, with supporters being intolerant of other parties.
“It should have been a wonderful occasion, with both parties sharing a podium,” said Madlala.
“It would have sent a good message out to the country, especially on a day like today.”
DA leader Helen Zille tweeted: “What tragic irony! The ANC chose Freedom Day to prevent DA KZN leader Sizwe Mchunu from speaking at a Freedom Day rally in Durban. Disgrace!”