ANC’s proud moment

2012-01-09 00:00

A DIVIDED African National Congress ended its three-day centenary celebrations yesterday with a massive show of force in Bloemfontein that saw plenty of razzmatazz and goodwill — before culminating in a pedestrian speech by President Jacob Zuma.

As the 12th president of the ANC at this historic milestone, Zuma could not have asked for a better reception from loyal ANC supporters — in the stadium and outside — who had sat in the sweltering heat since early morning and gave him a hero’s welcome yesterday afternoon.

An attempt by a small group of ANC Youth League supporters to disrupt the event by singing the “shower song” was quickly drowned out when Zuma arrived.

Party leaders, including Pallo Jordan, later played down the fact that many people had left the stadium as the president spoke.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told eTV that in a break with the past, the annual January 8 birthday statement had been made late in the afternoon. Members of the crowd were probably leaving to catch transport to make their way home to other centres in the country. It should therefore not be read as a snub.

There were no speeches from the ANC’s youth and women leagues, as well as from alliance partners and Zuma was the centre of attention for 90 minutes, reading the executive summary of a 56-page January 8 statement on behalf of the party’s leadership.

Mantashe was quick to dismiss suggestions from analysts, such as Justice Malala, that the speech lacked substance and that the president had failed to rise to the occasion.

Zuma spent much of the speech looking back at the ANC’s history and milestones in the country’s liberation struggle, and found time to acknowledge the contribution of those who were not party members, such as Steve Biko, while also singling out the role of white freedom fighters.

Unlike previous speeches on this day, which contained an overview of the party’s plans for the year ahead, Zuma focused on the “long road” the ANC had travelled as a liberation movement, calling his speech “a comprehensive” statement which highlights “the journey of selfless dedication to the struggle”.

With service delivery protests happening near Clarens and the party under fire from within and without, Zuma said the ANC was determined to enhance its moral standing and image “among the masses of our people”.

Acknowledging the ills facing the party in the run-up to the Mangaung elective conference in December, he said the ANC would take “urgent and practical steps to restore the core values, stamp out factionalism and promote political discipline”.

The ANC’s plan of action would combine “political education with effective organisational measures and mechanisms to promote integrity, police discipline and ethical conduct to defeat the demon of factionalism in the ANC, alliance and broad mass democratic movement”, Zuma said. On the way forward, he said the ANC had “identified the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality as needing attention.” He said the ANC and all organs of state will pay “single-minded and undivided attention” to overcome these triple challenges over the next decade.

Zuma urged South Africans to participate in a national debate on the country’s future, saying the focus should be a common commitment to building a caring, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united society. He also acknowledged that unless the ANC made rapid progress in transforming the economy and society to benefit the country’s majority, “it will be unable to withstand the prevailing logic of colonialism of a special type”.

He received the centenary flame from Thabo Mbeki, whom he forced out of office in 2008. Mbeki received loud applause when Zuma acknowledged him as one of the ANC”s former presidents.

When Zuma referred to the ANC Youth League in his speech, some in the crowd began to chant “JuJu, JuJu”, but the suspended youth leader took a backseat during proceedings.

In the centenary booklet that contained Zuma’s speech and messages of support, the ANCYL message was not included. However, suspended ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, said the message was sent and also e-mailed to the media.

Most locals welcomed the celebrations but some residents complained that the ANC, which reportedly spent over R100 million on the celebrations, was being wasteful.

“How dare the ANC spend so much on celebrations while there are so many people still living in shacks in our area? This is so unfair. It’s like they are coming to our town to boast about their wealth. It’s an insult to some families who go to bed without something to eat,’’ said Lerato Motloung, who said she lived in a shack in Botshabelo.

However Thabo “TT’’ Tau from Batho location said the celebrations were not only significant to the ANC “but it is something that needed to be celebrated by the whole world as so many people played an important role towards our liberation.’’

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