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Party[ing] Politics: East-Side Youth Pre-Gaming the Election

Dusk falls in Katlehong. A line of cars extends down the Nota street pavement, connecting the provisional barricades to the Hurricanes entrance. It’s an East Rand block party, wedged between residents’ yard fences. The sun-warmed air is infused with house music and smoke: simmering Rizla, hookah-pipe tobacco, and meat on the grill. A young man leans over, laughing, and says: “Welcome to Hell”. Hurricane Sundays, he tells me, will keep you from church. Behind us, young people cluster around beer-stacked cooler boxes, intermittently setting their sneakers to dance.

Today, Hurricanes plays host to the ‘March To Victory’ party, a pre-election day celebration in support of the ANC’s mayoral candidate for Ekurhuleni:  Mzwandile Masina, dubbed ‘The People’s Mayor’. Ekurhuleni’s current mayor, Mondi Gungubele offered public support for Masina’s candidacy, following violent protests in neighbouring Tshwane over the nomination of new candidate, Thoko Didiza.

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As night edges closer, a constant stream of partygoers pours through Hurricane’s palisade fencing. The venue is interspersed with ‘party’ regalia: yellow, green and black dotted amidst army jackets, headscarves, sneakers and Timberlands. Styled ‘campaign cool’, partygoers are clad in cutting-edge street-wear and military-chic, with clusters of ANC insignia. A group gathers for a photograph alongside a makeshift tuck-shop:  their heads tucked into their elbows, a line of arms outstretched in the signature ‘dab’. An ANC flag flies above those queuing for the bar. It’s the blowout before the ballot box.

By seven, the venue is throbbing with some of the country’s biggest tunes. On the line-up for this evening’s ‘Victory March’ are DJs Sbu and Shimza, as well as hip-hop sensation Riky Rick, who took to the stage in a Madiba-emblazoned ANC shirt. The night also includes a surprise performance from 19-year old emcee, Nasty C, the young voice of hip-hop anthems Hell Naw and Juice Back.

It’s the soundtrack of our dancefloors, but this time, descending from the decks is the regular chant, Viva ANC, Viva! It’s entertainment electioneering, steered by the local ANC youth league and aimed at Ekurhuleni youth. When the campaign struggle song, Asinavalo [We are not scared] drops with ‘Nqonqo’, the audience erupts, receiving the song like any club banger. Fists raised, the crowd chants the lyrics:  Sisebenza Kanzima [We work hard]. The apparent implication in this case is: “we work hard, so why not enjoy it? This is our victory dance”. Elections rendered as celebration above contest. It’s the politics of partying, and of the Party, in audacious collision.

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