Residents, business people all geared up for ANC’s centenary celebrations as VIPs roll into the Free State capital.
BUSINESSES and residents of Bloemfontein said yesterday they were fully prepared for the influx of people for the ANC centenary celebrations at the weekend.
The Mangaung metropolitan municipality has been putting the finishing touches to the streets in preparation for the celebrations.
Workers were emptying dustbins, collecting refuse, cutting lawns, and trimming vegetation.
The gold, green and black colours of the ANC could be seen on almost every lamp-post around town, some drumming up support for the celebrations, and others carrying messages of thanks to Namibia and Zimbabwe for supporting the party during the apartheid years.
Local street sweeper Paskalina Tlali said the municipality expected her to work harder to keep ahead of a potential build-up of rubbish over the weekend.
“There will be a lot of people, and a lot of litter to clean up. The municipality wants the streets to be clean all the time,” she said.
Spur manager Shaun Kelly said his restaurant was fully prepared to cater for hungry attendees.
“We have stocked up on extras, and even went out of our way to get expensive whisky, like Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
“We are looking forward to seeing some famous people in the restaurant.”
Kelly said he was not sure whether celebrations were necessary. “One-hundred years is a big deal, and the ANC has come a long way. But a friend of mine is helping to construct the stage in the stadium, and I’ve seen pictures of it.
“It’s all a big waste, and it is almost like they (the ANC) are showing off. It is a lot of expenditure for nothing.
“Come to the townships, I will show you where they need to spend their money,” he said.
A security guard at the Waterfront mall said he felt disappointed because he would not be able to attend the celebrations.
“I have to be here, I am not going because of the job,” Molatudie Mokoai said.
“This celebration is special. I am a member of the ANC and I am 100 percent proud of them. All I need to do is find a T-shirt.”
Maleseto Mokoena, a fruit vendor outside the Performance Arts Centre of the Free State, said her supply of fruit would be exhausted before the celebrations began.
“It is the same as the World Cup. A lot of people will be here, and my business will be busy and all my stocks will finish,” she said.
“This (centenary) is important, and everyone must celebrate because the ANC is big in the world.”
Louwna Erasmus, editor of the local newspaper the Bloemfontein Courant, said the city was the perfect place to celebrate the history of politics in the country. “The ANC started here, and so did the National Party. So Bloemfontein is an important part of the history of South Africa.”
The National Party that ruled during the apartheid era was formed by Afrikaner nationalists in Bloemfontein in 1914.
More than 100 000 people were expected to attend the centenary celebrations in the same province, where the South African Native National Congress was founded on January 8, 1912. It was renamed the African National Congress in 1923.
The army and more than 3 000 police officers have been deployed to ensure security, particularly because of the heads of state who have accepted invitations.
They include Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. It was still unclear if Nelson Mandela would attend the celebrations.
Meanwhile, police overseeing the ANC centenary celebrations needed to separate their political affiliations from their sworn duty as officers, acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said yesterday.
“This event is the first of its kind. We warn you, you might have voted, and might be a card-carrying member of a party, but you are still police,” he told more than 3 000 officers at the Bennies Park police recreation centre in Bloemfontein.
“If I find anyone playing politics, we will deal with you severely.”
Mkhwanazi said he was happy with the security procedures in place for the centenary.
“We are comfortable and ready to police the events. You officers must focus and keep all members, VIPs, citizens and attendees safe.”
He said a no-fly zone had been declared above Bloemfontein.
“We are policing the airspace. No aircraft will be flying here to come and crash into the stadium.
“We are also going to look underground for all those who use the tunnels like a mouse. Those with ill intentions will not be able to come here.”
Mkhwanazi warned the officers to be on their best behaviour.
“We need to maintain a perfect image of the police officer. There will be no down time for the event.
“You are all on duty until the end, so there is no time to drink. We will not tolerate drunk officers.”
He said the police presence in Bloemfontein would be greater than at the climate change COP17 conference in Durban last year.
“In COP17 we had six heads of state. Now, we have 56 VIPs, including… heads of state, or former heads of state,” he said.
“We are prepared to protect, and there will be no compromises.”
More than 100 000 people were expected to attend festivities in the province. The ANC said all were welcome at the celebrations and no accreditation was needed.
The army had been deployed to ensure security, particularly because of the heads of state who would be there.