THE pavement outside the main entrance to the University of the Free State where the ANC’s 53rd national conference is being held was like a colourful ANC bazaar.
Here, conference delegates, visitors and passers-by were confronted with everything gold, black and green, in various shapes and forms. While there was political contestation inside the venue, market forces were at play outside.
It was clear the elective conference was good for business. The event created business opportunities for many people, including those who travelled from various provinces to flog their exquisite regalia to delegates.
Vendors told The Star that business was booming, with some making up to R40 000 a day.
Each day when the delegates arrived for conference sessions, they wore funky dresses, shirts and suits they had bought from the stalls.
The items on sale at the stalls included woven hats, shoes, dresses, kaftans, traditional Zulu skirts known as isidwaba, jackets, golf shirts and business suits.
There were also household items such as clocks and picture frames bearing the faces of freedom fighters and ANC presidents.
The price of the regalia ranged from R150 to R2 000. In most stalls, there were always curious delegates. The regalia was not only in plain ANC colours, but had a touch of style.
Some of the most stylish and attractive designs included dresses and afro-shirts with beautiful embroidery.
Nokubonga Hadebe’s stall was popular as it was visited by members of Parliament and mayors who were after her business suits, which sold for R1 000.
Hadebe travelled from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal to sell her wares.
She doesn’t regret the long trip.
“It was worth it. I make about R40 000 a day. When this conference ends I will be smiling all the way to the bank. My items are very popular and they are different,” Hadebe said.
She said it had taken her two months to prepare stock she was going to sell.
Although she designs most of her regalia, she sends some to the printers for pictures, ANC colours and the party’s logo.
“I make my own designs. Every time there is a conference of the ANC, I sit and think how I’m going to impress my customers. I have changed different styles because the delegates are very stylish, they want stunning regalia for different occasions,” said Hadebe.
Zodwa Aryetey, among the vendors, was raving.
“I am so happy with the sales I have made. The delegates snapped up some of my stock in the first two days,” she said.
Aryetey, from Durban, who is a teacher by profession, started designing her own regalia when she attended SA Democratic Teachers Union meetings and conferences.
“When the other delegates saw my funky designs, they started asking me where I was buying my clothes from. I told them I designed them myself during my leisure time. That’s how I started getting orders, and they became bigger and bigger during each conference,” Aryetey recalled.
Today she runs a factory that supplies regalia for all alliance partners. She employs 10 people.
She admitted a lot of hard work was involved, but said she was happy with the money she was making.