Olivia Makete: The face of Jacob Zuma's ANC
Living in abject poverty, she went to Luthuli House to ask for water and electricity but instead got beaten up
Robert Makete‚ 59‚ sat outside his shack on Tuesday‚ trying to explain to journalists how the planned handing over of memorandum about water resulted in he and his wife‚ Olivia Makete‚ 52‚ being kicked in front of Luthuli house – in full view of police.
To hear this story‚ one has to go to Orange Farm. The journey to the Makete’s home is in itself quite tricky – and it’s a journey that demonstrates exactly why the couple were at Luthuli House on Monday in the first place.Journalists began gathering at a fruit seller’s yard in Orange Farm Extension 10‚ an informal settlement next to the Golden Highway.
Makete was stunned to see so many people looking for his wife. But perhaps he shouldn’t have been; after all‚ his wife was the victim of a caught-on-camera beating at the hands of a senior ANC members just a day earlier.
“Where is she?” one of the journalists asked.
“She is doing laundry‚” Makete replied‚ as reporters‚ accompanied by community members‚ walked between the shacks.
But one of the community shouted: “How can you send a woman who is in pain to go and do laundry? You are an unreasonable man.”
“I did not send her‚” Makete replied‚ calmly.Finally‚ Olivia was spotted about 50 metres away. Makete began to rush. It was now midday and the scotching sun was taking its toll on everyone.
Olivia already had a washing basin on top of her head. They were done with what everybody had thought was laundry.Photographers jumped to capture the woman who had made headlines across the country. She did not seem disturbed by the attention.
Makete jumped into the tall grass along the stream to help her pull a trolley onto the road.
Everybody wanted to help‚ but Olivia did not want any assistance.
Times Select asked if she was still hurting from the beating she endured the previous day.
“Yes‚” she said quickly‚ pointing at her ribs.But just as fast‚ she began to walk calmly down the road as cameras tried to capture her every step.
Community members and journalists could not believe that this was the woman who was slapped as she fell from a van onto the ground outside the ANC’s headquarters a day earlier – and who was then kicked repeated by an angry ANC member. She would later reveal that she struggled to walk when she woke up early that morning‚ such was her pain.
One of the journalists gave her a lift in his car just to make the trip to her shack a little more comfortable.
By the time everyone got back to the Maketes’ home‚ neighbours had called each other to witness how this couple was the centre of attention.
Makete was asked‚ again‚ about why he had sent his wife to do laundry. This time‚ Olivia stepped in to defend her husband.
“I was not doing laundry. I went to help my neighbour wash the carpet.”The issue was settled.
Journalists asked for the couple to get something to sit on in order for proper interviews to be done. But there were no chairs in this shack.
He explained how he and his wife joined residents to march about water‚ electricity and roads.
“We were there to march about services‚ and the next thing we are being beaten up‚” Makete said.
While his wife seemed not interested in the fanfare of journalists‚ Makete wanted it to be known that the man who kicked his wife had to be pay something.
He demanded money.
“How much?” Times Select asked.
“R20,000‚” he replied.
This stunned some community members‚ as they felt seeing the alleged perpetrator in jail would have been a better price.But Makete and his wife are unemployed. They depend on their children’s social grants to survive. They have other two children who do not live with them. They live in poverty; most of the shacks in their neighbourhood are small‚ just like theirs. There are no proper roads‚ no electricity‚ no water and no sanitation.
This is the reason they went to Luthuli House‚ to tell their story to the country’s political power. And they came back bruised and beaten.
Makete retrieved a bucket for himself and a crate of beer for his wife. They sat there glancing at each other from time to time during the interview.