ANC marks a 100 years with R100m party
Johannesburg - The ANC is to mark its centenary with an elaborate and expensive celebration in Bloemfontein, the city where it was founded.
The ANC, which was formed in 1912 to channel the opposition of blacks to white minority rule, has been South Africa's ruling party since the fall of apartheid in 1994.
According to ANC chairperson Baleka Mbeti, the main centenary celebration at the weekend will draw no fewer than 100 000 people and cost no less than R100m.
Forty-six heads of state will be among the 6 000 invited guests from neighbouring Zimbabwe and as far afield as Germany and India to converge on Bloemfontein, she said.
"All South Africans and people of the continent and the world are again invited to grace this auspicious occasion," the party said in a recent statement.
ANC veteran and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela will be absent. The 94-year-old former president is reportedly too frail to travel.
But the event will bring together the party inner circle and those who have been either ousted or shunned in recent years, such as Mandela's successor Thabo Mbeki.
Desmond Tutu, the moral force at the height of the ANC's campaign to bring about an end to black oppression but now increasingly critical of the ruling party, will also be among the guests.
President Jacob Zuma is to deliver a speech.
Some opposition parties have used the occasion to accuse the ANC of revising history to amplify its own role in the anti-apartheid struggle and minimise that of rival movements.
The celebrations will include a ceremony at the Wesleyan Church, the place where the ANC was founded as the South African Native National Congress.
Accolades have been pouring in from other African liberation movements, most of them with strong ties to the ANC that date back to the 1960s and, like it, also now in government.
"We have learned a lot from the ANC as a liberation movement from the times of colonialism in Zimbabwe and apartheid in South Africa," said Dydmus Mutasa, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF party.
"We cherish every moment we have been together. We hope that the relationship is maintained," Mutasa told dpa.
President Michael Sata of Zambia, a country that once gave refuge to a host of liberation movements from across southern Africa, thanked the ANC for its solidarity.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and members of his ruling FRELIMO party will also be among the guests at Bloemfontein.
Throughout its existence, the ANC has experienced highs and lows, as a liberation movement with periods where it was unable to muster resistance to white minority rule and as a government unable to adequately meet the demands of its people.
But ultimately, on April 27 1994, as a liberation movement the ANC achieved its goal after millions of people from all racial groups queued to cast their ballots in the first democratic elections.
With four general elections behind it, the party has never won less than 60% of the vote.
But the criticism of the party, initially coming from the white population fearful of communism and terrorism and from those who feared or refused to accept black rule, is now increasingly coming from those whose rights it fought tooth and nail for under apartheid.
The ANC government's efforts to alleviate poverty and bring about economic reform is regularly questioned.