Africa is ‘learning from ANC’

2012-01-09 00:00

THERE was little regard for time of night — or morning — as the ANC held the mother of all birthday gala dinners in Bloemfontein on Saturday night and listened to advice from some of Africa’s leaders.

The dinner, which started in the late afternoon on Saturday and went on till 3 am yesterday morning, was attended by a long list of former and current heads of state or their representatives.

Among the dignitaries was former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, who was warmly received with chants of “KK” and who broke into song in parts of his speech. He received a standing ovation.

Introduced by Master of Ceremonies Cyril Ramaphosa as “the man we should all call father”, the elder statesman had some parental advice about the land question.

He specifically cautioned against “demonising” Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and said the land problem was not the Zanu-PF leader’s fault, but the fact that the Lancaster House agreement had been violated by the British.

Mugabe, who is in the Far East, sent his deputy Joyce Mujuru to the event in his stead.

And if President Jacob Zuma needed any reminding, Kaunda told the South African leader: “Comrade Zuma, you have more serious problems than any of us. You are faced with the land question. I want to remind the South African youth that two wrongs can never make a right.”

While Julius Malema was not present at the dinner, Zambian president Michael Sata made a brief reference to the suspended youth leader’s alleged baboon slur against the ANC’s top brass on Friday, which the league later claimed had been misinterpreted by the press.

Sata said the ANC government should continue to be an example for the rest of Africa by not having presidents who reigned forever.

It was only South Africa and Zambia where presidents were removed without force, but through the will of the people, he said.

“You should not bother even when they call you baboons because Africa is learning a lot from you,” Sata said.

Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba appeared to take over from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a push for a United States of Africa.

He pleaded for the formation of a single African government. “It has to happen slowly, slowly, but it must happen.”

Other leaders present included Armando Guebuza of Mozambique who said the ANC was part of Africa and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who left by midnight, and delegated a representative to deliver a speech on his behalf.

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni was also present, as was former Ghanaian leader Jerry Rawlings.

Seated next to Zuma was Rwandan president Paul Kagame, whose relations with Pretoria have previously been strained over alleged Kigali-backed assassinations in South Africa.

Coming out from the cold since his defeat in Polokwane in December 2007, was former President Thabo Mbeki. He received a rapturous welcome and was seated next to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the man who succeeded him as South African president after his recall in 2008.

Mbeki’s role at the celebrations was limited to carrying and then handing over the centenary torch to Zuma.

By the time Zuma concluded proceedings, more than half of the 1 500 guests had left, but most ANC leaders and ministers and their support staff remained behind.

Zuma apologised for the bad planning. “Arrangement and timing missed us a little bit,” he said. He had to leave the dinner at midnight to light the centenary torch in a ceremony at the Waaihoek church, and returned about an hour and a half later.

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