Speaking at the opening of the first conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963, the legendary Ghanaian statesman Kwame Nkrumah reminded representatives of the African postcolonial movements that attaining freedom was only the first step towards liberation.
“The struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.”
In the year that Africa’s oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) marks 105 years since its founding in Mangaung – his words ring true today as they did back then.
As the development of the country has not followed a straight, linear trajectory but has experienced peaks as well as troughs, so too has the ANC
The task before us as we enter another year as the leader of society is to reclaim lost ground following a number of challenges and setbacks – and in this regard, party unity will be paramount.
It is for this reason the ANC has chosen Unity in Action as one of the key themes of the party’s 105th birthday celebrations. The reality is that a weak, divided ANC is bad for the country, and a strong, united ANC bodes well for the future of South Africa.
Ever since the delivery of the very first January 8th statement was delivered by ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo in 1972, the ANC has used the occasion to highlight progress in the quest for political, social and economic emancipation of our people. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to outline the ANC’s priorities for the year ahead.
This year’s celebrations are taking place following the 2016 municipal elections wherein the ANC won the majority of the vote nationally but experienced a number of electoral setbacks in certain key areas.
As an organization attuned to the concerns of the country’s citizens, we are acutely aware that dissatisfaction with the progress in the fight against crime, corruption and the creation of jobs undoubtedly played a role in the electoral outcome. We also did ourselves no favours when internal party battles played out in the public space on the eve of the polls. This dented citizens’ confidence in the ANC and it is imperative that we reclaim lost ground as a matter of urgency.
We are alive to the challenges we face, and do not make light of them. However, these need to be contextualized within a socio-political context where the governing party still faces an enormous uphill battle of undoing the legacy of centuries of dispossession and discrimination that relegated the majority of our people to the periphery of the country’s development.
As we mark the founding of the ANC, we have made a call for the rejuvenation of our movement and a return to the core values upon which the party was founded. It is only through returning to these founding values that we will be able to realize the aspirations of our people towards a South Africa that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous.
As Nkrumah noted however, ‘no sporadic act nor pious resolution can solve our present problems’, and we need to be ever vigilant that the pitfalls we are facing as a movement do not sink us, or cause us to fall prey to the malaise of political complacency.
To advance our programme of societal transformation we have to listen to the voices of the people, and act to resolve their concerns.
Only a united party can achieve this.
In this year ahead, the ANC commits itself to rebuilding the trust of the electorate, and re-asserting our place as the leader of all progressive forces who yearn for radical socio-economic change.
Saluting delegates to the Fourth Congress of Frelimo in Maputo in 1985, then ANC President OR Tambo said:
“You have had your difficulties, but also your triumphs in tackling the twin scourges of our continent, namely underdevelopment and neocolonialism.”
“You have embarked upon building a single nation, with a strong common patriotism and a vigorous cultural personality, out of a population formerly divided by racism, regionalism and tribalism. You have built up your Party and created new organs of People’s Power..”
The ANC too has had its difficulties, but let us not underestimate or neglect our triumphs.
The ANC, the party of Tambo, of Mandela, of Mbeki, of Sisulu, and of Zuma has also succeeded in building a single nation out of a divided population.
As we mark 105 years since the ANC’s founding, it is necessary to reflect on our challenges, yes, but at the same time let us never lose sight of just how far we have come. DM
Duarte is ANC Deputy Secretary-General.