ANC centenary celebrations tee off
Bloemfontein - The ANC's centenary celebrations teed-off at the Schoeman Park golf club in Bloemfontein on Friday morning.
ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete said the golf tournament was the perfect way to mark the beginning of the weekend's celebrations of the party's 100th birthday.
"This is a good way to show commitment to the celebrations as well as the ANC. This is what your presence [here] is really about."
Mbete then introduced ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni, who made the opening shot.
Mlangeni, a member of the party since 1951, was one of the first people to receive military training outside South Africa. He was later arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Mlangeni was the right choice to open both the tournament and the centenary celebrations.
"He is the veteran of the ANC and he is also a good golfer," he said.
Mbete dispelled claims that the tournament was a sign of growing elitism in the ruling party.
"The ANC is a grassroots organisation and will always remain so. If you look around at the activities all over Bloemfontein, you will see that everything is being planned for the grassroot peoples... all our members are out there setting up the stadium and talking to the grassroots," she told Sapa.
Mthembu said there was no way the tournament could be seen as elitist.
"It might have been elite before, during apartheid when it was a whites-only sport that we weren't allowed to play. Now the ANC is embracing all sporting codes.
"Golf is a good sport. We should have golf courses everywhere just like we have soccer fields."
At the club hundreds of members and VIPs tried to find out when their turn would come to show off their skills on the course. At the club's entrance a message on a blackboard read: "The Schoeman Golf Club welcomes the ANC and VIPs. Have a 'birdie' good day."
Those scheduled to play included government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, convicted fraudster and former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni, former SA Broadcasting Corporation chief executive Dali Mpofu and United Democratic Movement leader and MP Bantu Holomisa.
Outside the clubhouse, framed centenary coins bearing pictures of former ANC leaders were on sale. A copy of the Freedom Charter, accompanied by the caption "Hundred years of selfless struggle" was also on display.
More than 100 000 people were expected to attend the centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein, where the South African Native National Congress was founded on January 8, 1912. It was renamed the African National Congress in 1923.
The army as well as over 3 000 police officers had been deployed to ensure security, particularly because of the heads of state who had confirmed their attendance.