ANC celebrates 60th anniversary of Freedom Charter

2015-06-26 19:15


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Johannesburg - The ANC commemorated 60 years of the Freedom Charter on Friday, less than 24 hours after President Jacob Zuma released the final report on the shooting at Marikana more than two years ago.

The event was held at the same site where the Charter was adopted on June 26 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto.

ANC members and supporters gathered in a white tent at Walter Sisulu Square to celebrate the anniversary with some of the party's top officials and stalwarts.

Zuma received a rousing welcome from the party faithful, most dressed in ANC T-shirts, who waved and cheered as he made his way through the tent.

During his keynote address, Zuma took the opportunity to speak about Marikana ,calling on political parties not to use the tragedy for political posturing.

"This national tragedy brought back the pain and the shock that engulfed not only the families, but the nation at large," he said.

'The tragedy should unite us'

"We urge political parties not to use this national tragedy for political posturing. The tragedy should instead unite us as South Africans behind the resolve of eliminating all forms of violence in our country."

On August 16 2012, 36 mineworkers were shot and killed and 79 others injured during a protracted platinum workers strike for a minimum salary of R12 500 a month.

Zuma addressed the nation on Thursday evening and gave a summary of the findings and recommendations from the commission, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam.

Among other things, the commission exonerated Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the executive from any involvement in the killing of mineworkers and placed most of the blame at the feet of the SA Police Service and its leadership.

Zuma said the last three years had been difficult for the country.

"We should now begin a new chapter of unity and face the difficult road ahead together," he said.

The president was joined by the ANC's top six officials at the commemoration event.

Ramaphosa also received a warm welcome from people at the event when he arrived earlier in the day.

ANC stalwarts Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada joined the top officials on the stage.

The party's national chairperson Baleka Mbete convinced Madikizela-Mandela to address the crowd on behalf of the veterans.

'Today we remember all of our leaders'

When she approached the podium people cheered and clapped. She then started leading everyone in song.

"It's safe to say this day we recommit ourselves to the values of those leaders who sat here on an open veld and declared that we were going to have a freedom charter... today we remember all of our leaders," Madikizela-Mandela said.

"We are here because of them."

She told the crowd that although people were struggling because of economic challenges, the ANC and Zuma would do anything they wanted them to do.

In the past, Madikizela-Mandela has criticised the ANC under Zuma's leadership.

A number of ministers, ANC national executive committee members and alliance partners were also in attendance, as well as the Cuban Five.

Before the formalities of the event started, officials stood around enjoying the festivities and dancing.

'Brave men and women'

ANC Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile welcomed everyone to the day's event and made some brief comments about the Freedom Charter.

"Sixty years ago, 3 000 men and women from all walks of life... descended on this place where we are gathered today," he said.

"These brave men and women who travelled to Kliptown had in their possession pieces of paper with wishes and aspirations... for a better South Africa."

Earlier this month, Mashatile made comments about extra spending on Zuma's Nkandla home. He told the Daily Maverick Gathering that the announcement that extra money would be spent on the president's private home was not an ANC position and that he did not agree with it.

Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula gave a message on behalf of the ANC Youth League at the commemoration on Friday.

He is part of the ANCYL co-ordinating team which is trying to organise a congress so it can elect new leaders. The league's leadership was disbanded by the ANC in 2013.

'It is an attack on our revolution'

Mbalula, who in 2012 before the Mangaung elective conference was said to be part of the faction who did not want Zuma re-elected, took the opportunity to defend the president against those who criticised him about the Marikana report.

"On this occasion of the celebration of 60 years of the Freedom Charter, president, members of the ANC, our revolution is under attack," he said to shouts of yes from the crowd.

"It's not an attack on President Zuma - it is an attack on our revolution."

He said the African National Congress could not sit back and take this attack.

Speaking in Xhosa, Mbalula said those who were criticising Zuma about the contents of the report were wrong, as it was not the president's findings but that of the commission's, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam.

He said, instead of people congratulating Zuma for releasing the report early, detractors only criticised.

SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande echoed Mbalula's sentiments.

"I agree with comrade Mbalula, we dare not lower our guard. We have to be vigilant... and expose all those forces who are trying to cause division within the alliance."

"We want to reaffirm that we shall remain a dependable ally of the ANC," he said.

Read more on:    anc  |  winnie ­madikizela-mandela  |  paul mashatile  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  politics  |  marikana inquiry

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