Mangaung is a gathering of politicians, supporters and business people alike, every one of them carrying a different story, inspiration and agenda for being in the Free State province.
A number of stalls and tables have been temporarily put up, creating a make-shift market outside the University of the Free State.
Walking past the stalls I see ANC branded bedding on offer, earrings and shoes along with an assortment of other goods. I strike up conversations with a number of traders, but it’s a conversation with a loud young man from Daveyton that’s stayed in my thoughts.
His captivating story includes the death of his parents, a lack of income and having no prospects of employment in the near future. Sizo Charles Makhubu says, “I kept thinking of ways towards a better life and I would see people starting up businesses and would wonder what I had to do become like them.”
He points out an elderly lady whom he refers to as ‘Mam Pule’ as the person who answered his calls and presented an opportunity to escape a bleak future of miserable poverty.
Mam Pule is actually Margaret Marule, one of Makhubu’s neighbours who witnessed all of the young man’s loses and identified with his feelings of hurt, desperation and a daunting future. She had lost her husband a few years prior and had been forced to find a way to make a living for herself and remaining family members, so when she saw his situation she suggested he tried the trade business for a while. Makhubu’s never looked back.
Together they attend all the ANC gatherings, constantly look for new and interesting designs in a bid to stay on top of the merchandise game.
But even this venture has its struggles. Makhubu’s often frustrated by their inability to move merchandise as fast as other merchants and being forced to reduce his prices in order to get rid of stock. He says he appreciates his chosen path because he’s a member of the ANC and generally loves the vibrancy and festive atmosphere associated with any of party’s gatherings.
When I ask him if Zuma T-Shirts are making him more money that shirts bearing Kgalema Montlante’s face, he laughs, saying “I don’t pin delegates against each other I just support the movement”.
Makhubu hopes his commitment to the brand will one day lead to an even better opportunity for him Mam Pule.