In 1994, two Numsa members from Bayside Aluminium in Richards Bay , Mthethwa and Buthelezi, were amongst a number of ANC members who died trying to put up ANC posters in Ulundi. Fellow Numsa member, Bheki Mzimela escaped death by running 72kms to Melmoth, the nearest town.
Ten years later, high ranking ANC KZN leaders, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, Bheki Cele, Bheki Ntuli and Senzo Mchunu, are determined that history does not repeat itself in Ulundi, the heart of IFP-land.
Flanked by a convoy of ANC supporters in Mazdas, Mercedes and top of the range 4 x 4s, they discuss with the police commander over the route that the convoy will take. While the leaders discuss with the police, the young lions waste no time putting up posters and Mbeki is soon smiling alongside the main road to the Ulundi Plaza .
Escorted by police, the cars start moving. Stunned herdboys gape at Mbeki, previously only seen on television. At the plaza, the realisation that ANC members are strolling in Ulundi, draws mumblings and discontent.
The E-class carrying Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Ngqakula, leads the convoy to the middle class area of Ulundi. Some residents have locked their houses, but they peep through their windows. Some are brimming with happiness, others are fuming with anger – “they burned down my house in Pietermaritzburg and now they are here,” an old woman complains.
When ANC supporters dance in the streets, IFP supporters in vehicles converge on us. The police soon form a human wall between the two groups.
Ngqakula addresses the gathering. They do not like him, but they listen. The ANC convoy then drives past the RDP houses of Ulundi. We can feel the happiness of the people. They tell us the IFP-controlled municipality is treating them badly because of their suspected allegiance to the ANC.
As we are driving out, the sadness in faces of staunch IFP supporters is evident – the ANC has entered Ulundi.
March 27 2004 will be embedded in the minds of the people of Ulundi as the day that they tested ‘real democracy’ where all parties campaigned freely in other parties territories.