Uphephela (isiZulu for a helicopter), as the Economic Freedom Fighters are affectionately known, landed at the Orlando Stadium, on Sunday, 5 May 2019.
The uphephela scattered red dust in the form EFF supporters from all walks of life over the navy-blue seats of the 40,000-capacity stadium.
Outside the stadium, there were also scores of stalls selling all sorts of EFF merchandise. Red shirts, red berets, red overalls and even red face-paint.
Another uphephela attempted to gate-crash proceedings — an actual helicopter flew over the stadium, pulling a “Vote ANC” banner behind it.
Tshela Thupa (which loosely translates to “give a hiding” in Sesotho), as the rally was named, was the EFF’s final rally before the country heads to the polls on Wednesday, 8 May 2019.
The EFF said the rally was a pre-celebration of their victory in the elections.
That festive mood was captured with the frenzied crowd singing struggle songs, led by national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, while they waited for EFF leader Julius Malema to arrive.
The atmosphere in the stadium became even more electric with the arrival of Malema. One could almost feel the energy generated as the crowd cheered for their commander-in-chief while he did a lap of honour around the stadium.
“Who would have thought, who would have imagined. Look at five years at the Orlando Stadium,” said Malema, pointing out the fact that when the party was founded, detractors gave them a life expectancy of only three years.
Malema, whose grandmother died on Saturday, told the party’s supporters that he “wouldn’t have been anywhere other than here. My grandmother would have wanted me to be here. I am not an orphan. She left me in the caring hands of EFF members.”
Among the sea of red, a speck of blue stood out. Like many supporters at the rally, Charlotte Makinita, of Ward 8 in the West Rand, got to the stadium via a bus packed to the rafters.
Makinita wore a royal blue dress, which from afar made her look like she was affiliated with the Democratic Alliance (DA).
According to Makinita, that’s exactly what she was aiming at. She told Daily Maverick that she had the dress specially designed for her.
“I chose blue because I wanted to show (Mmusi) Maimane that we are not afraid of him. Also, because it’s plain blue at the back, you see me and think I’m DA. But when I turn around you see the EFF emblem in front.”
Other anomalies that stood out from the uniform red that covered the stadium included flags of Namibia and Zimbabwe. National chairperson of the EFF Dali Mpofu acknowledged the presence of the party’s affiliate members from these neighbouring countries.
Then there was the miniature coffin draped in a bright yellow ANC shirt bearing president Cyril Ramaphosa’s face.
From the podium, Malema thanked the party’s on-the-ground soldiers who “ran a disciplined campaign even when you were provoked”.
“They thought we were a Mickey Mouse organisation. Who would have imagined that today the EFF would be turning five,” said Malema, adding that “South Africa has no future without the EFF”.
He warned his supporters against loving the ruling party above their children’s future:
“Do not gamble with the future of your children because of your love for T-shirts,” adding that the ANC’s T-shirts were only good for cleaning.
“Fighters, we want free education, not what the ANC is giving you. What they are giving you is near-free education,” he said.
Malema’s address reiterated his party’s promises to nationalise the land and banks.
Malema urged fighters to help get each other to voting stations on voting day:
“If you have a car, take it to the voting station. If you have a bicycle, take it to the polling station. If you ride a donkey, take it to the station,” said Malema. “Let the red flag fly high”. DM
"Censorship of anything at any time in any place on whatever pretence has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot." ~ Eugene O'Neill