South African Election: Poor greet ANC with whoops and dancing

YESTERDAY I went campaigning with Justice and Champagne. The combination went down well. Champagne is a bright young man with a ready smile. Justice is older and more serious. As they drove around the huge farms of the Orange Free State to distribute African National Congress posters and leaflets among the farm-workers the reception varied between enthusiasm and ecstasy.

Our first stop was a line of small garage-like huts made of concrete blocks and corrugated iron, set in a sea of maize which stretched from horizon to horizon. In the dusty back yard where a few scrawny chickens scratched around an open wood fire Michael Phadi, a shabbily dressed young farm worker, wanted to know what time the ANC would send transport so he could go into town to vote. He complained that the farmer had asked all 17 workers to hand in their identity cards and they were worried they would not be able to vote without them.

Mr Phadi gets paid 150 rand ( pounds 30) per month and a pounds 100 bonus at the end of each year. A greater worry than pay was that anyone who was no longer able to work could be evicted with his family at a moment's notice by the farm owner. Justice assured him this was something the ANC would stop.

Champagne distributed stickers saying 'I'm voting ANC' and explained to a young woman how to find the face of Nelson Mandela on a sample ballot paper.

As we drove on Champagne explained that the farm workers are among the most oppressed blacks in South Africa, poorly paid and with few rights. 'They do all the work and the farmer gets all the profit,' he said and explained that the farm workers' union was not strong yet. The ANC would try to secure better pay and a pension and give workers more rights of housing tenure.

So far, he said, not even the farmers with the worst reputations had refused to allow the ANC to canvass their workers and some of the more progressive ones had offered to bring them to vote in the farm lorry.

The next stop was a similar collection of huts, thick with woodsmoke and babies. Our arrival was greeted with whoops and ululations. The house was soon crammed and a dance began. Justice had to go back to the car for more posters. One old woman said to me: 'This is my dream of all my life - to vote,' and kissed my hand. Then she turned to Champagne and asked if I was from the AWB, the white, extreme right-wing party. Champagne's reassurances were drowned by laughter but just to make sure the woman stuck a large ANC sticker on my shirt. With absolute correctness Champagne offered to remove it after we left.

Our third stop was the Madeira bottle store and garage. Justice politely asked the Portuguese owner if he could campaign among the crowd watching television in the back bar. That was not a problem but it was a waste of time. The Zimbabwe versus South Africa football game was being broadcast live and the election clearly took second place. Hands accepted leaflets and stickers but eyes did not leave the screen.

The car would not start when we tried to leave. The immobiliser would not work. A small crowd gathered and advice was offered. Eventually a drunken man staggered out of the bar and explained that there was a system operating around the shop which immobilised immobilisers. His words were greeted with derision by all but we pushed the car up to the main road. Sure enough it started. 'He was an illiterate and drunk. How did he know that?' said Champagne. 'Another of Africa's little mysteries.'

The last stop was a police station where we approached a nervous- looking white policeman who explained he could not allow anyone in to canvass without permission of the station commander.

'That's all right. We quite understand your position. Please tell him we will call again tomorrow,' said Justice. Champagne smiled and we walked back to the car in silence. They knew they need not hurry and fight any more. Champagne and Justice know their hour has come.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

KS1 Float Teacher

£90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor