ANC leadership visit homesteads unhindered

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Wembezi's E-section in Escourt came to a standstill when President Thabo Mbeki wowed IFP supporters during his door-to- door visit in the township yesterday.

Mbeki conducted his walkabout visit in various homesteads where he won the hearts of the traditional ANC opponents.

IFP flags flew high and scores of party supporters surprised everyone by jostling to shake hands with the first citizen.

Mbeki was on the second day of his presidential imbizo in uThukela district in northern KwaZulu-Natal, run by the IFP.

He conducted his campaign despite concerns by members of his party for his safety.

It had been feared that IFP supporters would barricade roads to prevent Mbeki from entering their area.

The conflict-prone area is known to be a "no go-area" to ANC leaders. But IFP supporters clad in party regalia, chanted slogans, following Mbeki and his ministers to a few homesteads.

Heavily armed police banded together to ensure tighter security

Although the IFP supporters expressed their displeasure about the "ANC", they were not aggressive.

Some asked Mbeki to clarify the issue of Jacob Zuma and the pending court appearance.

Mbeki won their hearts as he smiled and shook their hands.

A source within the ANC said provincial ministers had warned Mbeki against setting his foot in the IFP, but he went ahead.

Residents said they only wanted the president and provincial MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs Mike Mabuyakhulu to address their needs, not all ANC leaders.

Elderly people stood on the roadside as Mbeki criss-crossed the impoverished township.

Themba Mhlungu, 57, said he only wanted to shake Mbeki's hand in order to have luck.

"We have never seen the president in our area. We might differ with him politically, but we admire him as our leader," said Mhlungu.