President Jacob Zuma was greeted with loud cheers and enthusiasm by a not-quite-full Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as he did a lap around the stadium upon entry to greet the crowd. 

There were an estimated 30 000 people in the stadium when he entered, far short of the 110 000 that party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa earlier in the week said would attend.

People were slow to trickle into stadium in Port Elizabeth ahead of the ANC’s manifesto launch, but the crowds were enthusiastic. The start of the proceedings was delayed by over an hour as the 46 000-seater stadium stubbornly refused to fill up.

Those that got to the stadium earlier enthusiastically sang along with the artists on stage. Right opposite the stage, on the far end of the stadium, the ANC’s Ekurhuleni region put up a huge banner with the late Nelson Mandela’s face on it. 

Only a small group of people sat with the banner, possibly because that part of the stadium is in the sun and temperatures in Port Elizabeth have been high in the past few days. 

Ekurhuleni, in Gauteng, is one of the regions where support for President Jacob Zuma is strong. 

ANC and alliance leaders as well as religious leaders, set to open proceedings, started making their way to the stage around 11.30, ahead of what was expected to be a noon start. Zuma followed about 10 minutes later. 

Party supporters sported new T-shirts – with an artistic, iconic representation of President Jacob Zuma’s face on the front, rather than the photograph that has been used on T-shirts since the 2009 elections. 

On the back the T-shirts read: “The People, Govern. Vote ANC.” 

The T-shirts formed a sea of yellow, interspersed by the green uniforms of ANC Women’s League members and green ANC kangas wrapped around the shoulders of some people. 

Some ANC supporters even slept in front of the stadium all night to ensure they get a prime spot, while the rest came in what the ANC said would be 3 000 buses and 4 000 taxis from across the province as well as from neighbouring provinces. 

Those that didn’t sleep in front of the stadium, frequented restaurants and night clubs in the city, and the usual ANC hangout, Cubana, was packed to capacity until the early hours of the morning. 

Many of the more important cadres were said to have gone to the Boardwalk on the beachfront where Joyous Celebration had its 20th anniversary festivities. 

Security at the gates was not as tight as in previous years, with bags only searched cursorily, and the usual X-ray scanners that are used to scan bags at mass events where members of the presidency speak, missing.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told the
Mail & Guardian earlier that the reason why the stadium wasn’t filled to capacity was because buses left late from different areas of the Eastern Cape. He said more people were expected later. A member of the ANC provincial executive committee in the Eastern Cape blamed Luthuli House (the ANC head office) for failing to pay transport on time. He said payment for transport was only approved on Saturday morning.