Thousands of ANC members and supporters will listen to the president in the Moses Mabhida stadium on Saturday while the millions, across South Africa, who will not be able to make it to the launch will watch it being televised or listen via radio broadcast in mini-rallies or in their homes.
Thanks to modern technology, the launch of the manifesto will be streamed online which will make it possible for compatriots abroad as well as members and supporters across the globe to also watch and listen in. Even better still, some at home or abroad will be able to watch the address on their mobile phones.
Yet the accessibility of hearing the January 8th Statement, the launch of the manifesto this year, was not always this easy. In 1972, when the first broadcast was made, the apartheid regime was at its heyday while many of our comrades, those fighting for a free, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa were either in prison, banned, underground, in the military camps or in exile. Subsequent readings of the Statement, by the former president of the ANC, Comrade Oliver Tambo, was prefaced with comrades gathering around in secret, trying hard to get the exact frequency of Radio Freedom and listening strenuously as the voice of Comrade OR rang out through the airwaves.
Those were difficult days and the means to access the January 8th Statement was just as difficult. Today, while listening and watching the event will be done in a free South Africa, we remain ever conscious of the tasks that we still have at hand, twenty-five years into our democracy. While we must acknowledge the tremendous amount of good that the ANC-led national government has achieved since 1994, as members of the ANC we also recognise that our struggle is not yet complete.
Since 1972, the ANC has used the January 8th Statement as an occasion whose purpose was threefold. First, the date commemorated the founding of the ANC in 1912. Secondly, the Statement, issued not by the president alone but by the collective national leadership of the ANC, served as a call to action while thirdly, it detailed the ANC’s programme of action for the year.
The leadership of the ANC, for this year, thought it appropriate to replace the reading of the January 8th Statement with the launch of the elections manifesto. Again, marching orders will be given, by the president on behalf of the collective national leadership, for ANC cadres to pursue an elections campaign united and connecting with the people.
In 1972, marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the ANC, the Statement encapsulated the pursuance of the 1969 Morogoro programme and had the theme: The Building of a Nation. There would be no statement read again until 1979 – the Year of the Spear – but the inaugural theme of that first statement of 47 years ago continues to speak to the challenges faced by our people today.
The ideal of a non-racist, non-sexist, free and prosperous South Africa where all enjoy the wealth of the country continues to reverberate through our country as it did in 1972. Today we remain haunted by the dark cloud of racism as we see communities continuously polarised through race and class. Many in our country continue to feel the scourge of racism meted out against them, whether subliminal or overtly, while some feel isolated and unwelcome in the country of their birth.
Systematically the majority of our people remain on the fringes of an economy that is racialised and monopolistic. While isolated incidences of racism have made headlines, it would seem that of late communities themselves have protested and organised along racial hate. There is a no better example than the recent debate on land, and the question of expropriation of land without compensation, to have highlighted, for us as a country, just how polarised we remain racially.
At the same time, we have seen the horrendous onslaught against women and children through gender-based violence and the continuous abuse of women by men, especially those closest to them. Not a week goes by when we are not confronted with the gross violations against our grannies, mothers, sisters/cousins, daughters and female friends at the hands of men who think they can act against women as they want. This violence against women is only symptomatic of the gross gender inequality that continues to exist within our society.
Racial polarisation, violence against women and children and the systematic exclusion of the majority of people from the wealth of a country is not exclusive only to South Africa. These are traits and tendencies the world over but we must never tire to fight these in our country. We must recognise that South Africa has a unique history of systematic exclusion and it is because our history of colonialism and apartheid that we are where we are today. But the struggle continues. As in 1972, building a nation must remain at the forefront of our efforts.
It is precisely because the ANC recognises that the struggle for a better life for all our people continues that this year’s January 8th Statement comes in the form of the ANC’s elections manifesto for the national and provincial elections to be held later in the year. Based on the resolutions at Nasrec as well as the wide consultations pursued through the manifesto consultative process, the ANC will once again present to the people of South Africa its manifesto of building a nation. As the Declaration of the 54th National Conference reaffirmed, we emerge more united and determined to lead the struggle for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
The Declaration went on to declare that ANC cadres must develop programmes aimed at, among others, stamping out social ills, including gender-based violence, alcoholism and drug abuse and in building social cohesion.
The ANC believes that unlike any other party in South Africa only it has the capacity, thinking and history to lead our people to a non-racist, non-sexist, free and prosperous South Africa. Unlike other political parties, the ANC will not jump on the populist, racist, xenophobic, sexist and bigotry bandwagon in order to secure a few cheap political points. Its approach to governance and building a capable state is systematic and thoroughly thought through.
The reality, of course, is that the majority of South Africans continue to trust only the ANC. They, like so many ANC members and volunteers, will be listening closely to what the collective national leadership of the ANC has to present in the manifesto as a response to these challenges faced by our country. They will listen attentively, as many listened during the days of Comrade OR, to discern and understand their trust in the ANC. They will watch consciously how ANC members and supporters behave and display their own commitment to South Africa as envisioned by the Freedom Charter.
During the dark years of apartheid, the ANC remained the hope of our people. Despite the challenges, during these democratic days of freedom, our people will continue to place their hope in the ANC. Through our manifesto, we will once again ask for a social contract with our people and the South African people will once again give the ANC an overwhelming mandate because their trust is in the ANC.
President Ramaphosa, like President Tambo, will call for action based on unity. Unity is what will ensure that the people of our country remain confident in the ANC. Each and every ANC member must promote this call to unity especially through media such as social media so readily available to everyone these days. Yet even more so, the call to unity is for all South Africans, no matter what the political persuasion, to tackle the challenges faced by our country together and, if needs be, compromise so that all our children may enjoy a better country and a better future. DM