ANC’s multi-million, 365-day birthday bash

By Sipho Hlongwane 9 November 2011

As we get closer to 2012, when the ANC centenary celebrations will take off in huge way, more and more details about what is planned are starting to emerge. On Tuesday, ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete and spokesman Jackson Mthembu filled in some of the details. It’s going to be a lo-o-ong year for political reporters. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

Say what you like about the ANC, but it doesn’t do things by half. Especially when it comes to self-congratulation. It holds big rallies for the annual “January 8” statement. Its election campaigns – save perhaps for the last one – are always the stuff of legends. And when the party announced it would be making a big thing of its 100th birthday, it was always going to be razzmatastic.

The big weekend party will take place in Mangaung on the weekend of 6 – 8 January 2012, starting with a golf day hosted at two golf courses, and “an interfaith night vigil to invoke the spirits of all our founding fathers and mothers of our movement” later that night. The vigil will be attended by religious leaders, traditional leaders and healers, as well as ANC leaders and alliance partners.

Mbete said the party had managed to secure the original building in Waaihoek where the party’s founding conference had taken place. It would be building a kraal near the place and slaughtering cattle to welcome the spirits of the founding members of the ANC.

On the next day there will be “cultural activities” at the Mangaung Rocklands outdoor sports complex. That night the president of the ANC will have his usual pre-January 8 statement gala dinner.

“The main celebration will be held on 8 January 2012 at the Mangaung Rugby stadium. Overflow venues at the Cricket Oval, Lochlogan grounds (Macufe venue) and Athletic stadium will be fitted with screens. We expect more than 120,000 people to fill all the venues for the main centenary celebration activities from the afternoon to the evening. As usual the highlight will be President Jacob Zuma’s delivery of the NEC Centenary statement,” Mbete said. “An ANC musical special stage production will end the day’s programme.”

Then there was the number that sucked the air out of the room. When asked how much all of this partying will cost, Mbete said, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the treasurer general Mathews Phosa for a more detailed answer. But it will definitely not be less than R100 million.”

The figure, Mthembu hastened to add, is a ball-park figure. The money would probably mainly come from friendly donations, and many had already indicated a willingness to help.

“We don’t live in the same world as some in the commentariat, who live in an abnormal world,” Mthembu said, pre-empting that inevitable BusinessDay column about ANC funding. “We have friends. We have people who donate.”

But that’s only the start. Every month, the ANC president will conduct a centenary lecture in each every province, focused on the life and work of each ANC president and his core leadership team’s work. A statement sent out by the ANC details every centenary lecture, and where it will be held.

“January will be celebrated in Free State and will focus on the legacy of the first president of the ANC, uBaba uLangalibalele John Dube (Mafukuzela) who presided over the ANC from 1912-1917. Dube and the collective that served with him will be celebrated and remembered under the theme ‘100 years of Selfless Struggles’,” the statement says.

“February 2012 will celebrate the life of Sefako Mapogo Makgatho and the collective that led the ANC with him from 1917 – 1924. The life and times of Makgatho will be celebrated under the theme ‘From Colonialism to Democratic Dispensation’.  The celebration will be in Western Cape.

“March 2012 will celebrate the life of Zacharias R Mahabane who led the ANC from 1924 – 1927, and was re-elected again in 1936 – 1940. The theme to remember Mahabane and his collective will be ‘All shall have equal rights’.  Celebrations will take place in Mpumalanga,” the statement says.

And so it will go on. Spare a thought for the political reporters who will attend every one. The centenary celebrations will only end on 8 January 2013.

Mbete said there would be a role for former ANC president Thabo Mbeki to play at the weekend bash. When pressed on whether a certain youth leader would be allowed to speak in his capacity as ANC Youth League president, Mthembu skated smartly by the question. June would be dedicated to acknowledging the involvement of the youth in the struggle, and August would be for women.

So that’s a no, then?

Mbete said that the other surviving former president of the ANC, Madiba, would be expected to attend, but whether he would “is another story”.

And whilst we’re on the topic of young people, remember a certain Youth Festival held in December 2010, which in the final telling cost R100,000,245.42? That particular festival barely lasted a week. On pretty much the same budget, the ANC plans to hold an elaborate centenary celebration, lasting a year.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: the ANC is spending its own money. The National Youth Developmental Agency, as a statutory body, spent yours.

Go ahead, let your despair at the squander of the NYDA out, and smash your head against your desk. You know you want to. DM



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