African National Congress treasurer general Paul Mashatile. Photo: ANA

Mount Ayliff - A disgruntled crowd disrupted the speech of African National Congress treasurer general Paul Mashatile during the ANC Eastern Cape 2019 elections manifesto launch at KwaBhaca in the Alfred Nzo region on Saturday.

Mashatile was speaking when people, wearing ANC regalia, began singing struggle songs and entered the tent where the leadership was seated.

At first it appeared as if they were party members who arrived late for the event, but as they entered the venue their placards became visible and efforts to silence them followed. They sang ANC songs and raised placards about poor service delivery, mainly about the pace of service delivery, including poor sanitation, electricity, and water provision.

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, a member of the ANC Eastern Cape executive, blocked journalists from covering the protesting crowd, telling them to stick to the event they came to cover. "Why would you give coverage to people that are out of order," Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

Eastern Cape ANC provincial chairman Oscar Mabuyane called them to order and they obeyed. Mabuyane condemned their conduct, saying it was ill-discipline that had no place in ANC gatherings. 

"That was silliness, this was the rally of the ANC, we didn't [discuss] issues that were raised in the placards. We are an organisation that accepts petitions even on government, but you don't use party gatherings to express your silliness."

Mabuyane said the ANC was aware of issues that affected the party in the Alfred Nzo region and that was part of the reason why the provincial manifesto was being launched there. 

He said the actions of his colleague Ndabeni-Abrahams were wrong. "That would be wrong for anyone to tamper with demonstrations. We want placards to be out there in the public because that's what we know," he said. 

Mashatile said it was "the norm" that ANC members would demonstrate when the top leadership were in their area. "It is a norm that people would want to express themselves whenever they see that the leader is there and they want him to see their grievances. 

"We have noted that, these are some of the things people talk about when we do door-to-door [campaigning], that is why we are speaking about building dams and houses; the issues raised are already in the manifesto," Mashatile said. 

 African News Agency (ANA)