President Jacob Zuma was booed when he arrived at the African National Congress's 106 birthday celebrations at the Buffalo City Stadium in East London on Saturday morning.
Zuma arrived on the stage to join other senior ANC officials about two hours after the official programme got under way. At the time, the ANC's alliance partners were already giving their messages of support.
Thousands of ANC supporters booed him as he made his way to the stage as images of him appeared on big screens around the stadium.
The booing continued when ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe welcomed him to the event. Other people in the stadium ullulated and clapped when Mantashe acknowledged the presence of newly elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Zuma arrived close on two hours late, but the official programme got under way without him, with interfaith prayers, a welcoming by ANC Eastern Cape chairman Oscar Mabuyane, and messages of support by officials of the ANC's alliance partners - the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), the South African Communist Party and Cosatu. Zuma was accompanied by Kenyatta.
Mabuyane said the ANC should focus on renewing the party as leader of society and place the organisation in the hands of the people. Newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa had given South Africans "a new sense of hope", he said.
"With the renewal and the rebuilding of the ANC, we owe it to the poor people in the country. We must be less focused on ourselves. Let us commit to help heal the ANC," Mabuyane said.
Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini pledged the trade union federation's support for the governing party.
"We will give you the 66 percent that you need. In May this year we will be in Nelson Mandela Bay to declare for all to know that the ANC is taking over."
He called on the ANC to prioritise resolving matters causing divisions in the alliance. Dlamini also urged Ramaphosa to address matters affecting workers.
In his message, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande called on Ramaphosa to respect the country and not to take the people for granted.
"We want to put it on record, as the SACP, we fully accept the outcome of the 54th conference of the ANC," Nzimande said, adding that the SACP remained committed to the alliance and its "reconfiguration".
The SACP also accepted Ramaphosa's calls for unity, but urged "unity in action".
"We want to say, comrades, we remain committed to this alliance. We must admit that the ANC is facing lots of problems and when the ANC coughs we all catch fever," said Nzimande.
African News Agency (ANA)