The January 8 2016 statement heralds a new era of radical socioeconomic transformation, writes Gwede Mantashe
The ANC’s first-ever January 8 statement in 1972 was delivered by the now late ANC president Oliver Tambo. Reflecting on the founding of Africa’s oldest liberation movement, he wrote: “On that day, having reviewed the past, the nation proceeded to work out the strategy of struggle of the future … a new era in the history of our people had been ushered in – the era of political struggle that was expected to rise through successive levels of conflict till freedom was won.”
Since 1972, the occasion of the delivery of the January 8 statement by the ANC has afforded the organisation an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our historic mission: to build a united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
The January 8 statement is an acknowledgment of just how far we have come and marks the strides we have made towards the realisation of the ideals of the Freedom Charter.
But in building the society to which we all aspire, we are ever mindful that the road is still before us.
The attainment of our freedom in 1994 was not a destination; it was the start of a journey. In reflecting on where we are as a nation, we should never lose sight of how we got there.
January 8 speaks to the challenges still affecting South Africa and lays out the road map for dealing with them.
We affirm every year on January 8 that the ANC is the custodian of the National Democratic Revolution.
As the statement notes: “We acknowledge the weighty responsibility we shoulder, having been chosen since democracy to lead our people. It is a responsibility we neither take for granted nor regard lightly.”
This year’s statement, the year of advancing people’s power, draws heavily on the concept of the social compact.
In the execution of our responsibilities as the governing party, we continue to rely on working with all sectors of society to attain our ultimate objective.
Working together as the state, organs of people power and business, we can achieve much more than a superficial approach to societal transformation.
It is critical that the January 8 statement is used for what it is: an organic, living, breathing document that should be read, analysed and applied accordingly.
Although the statement has been drafted by the ANC, we emphasise that it belongs to all South Africans. They should take full ownership of it, for it is a means of arming our people with the necessary tools to apply themselves to building a better South Africa – and, in particular, paving the way for an era of radical socioeconomic transformation.
Although our people can fully count on our support as the governing party, it is a call to action for all to play a greater role in building the country they want.
Exemplary leadership is a hallmark of the future we hope to build and realise. Hence, the January 8 statement stresses the importance of cadres and leaders of the organisation conducting themselves in accordance with the highest standards of revolutionary morality.
We cannot expect of our people that which we do not expect of ourselves. And in exhibiting this high standard of leadership, the policies, traditions and values espoused by this venerable organisation have, and will, continue to be our lodestar.
In protecting the image of our movement, we as the ANC affirm in this year’s statement that we will deal harshly with anyone whose conduct tarnishes the organisation’s reputation.
And in reaffirming our commitment to these values every year on January 8, the ANC continues to adhere to the noble values that underpinned its founding in 1912.
We may have adapted our tactics, programmes and policies, but the goal of a better life for all has yet to be achieved.
The ANC has stayed the course and weathered many storms that have tested our mettle and resolve.
The January 8 statement affirms that the ANC belongs to the people, and we exist to serve them – for we know that we hold this nation in trust for our people and for future generations. Ours is a task in which we dare not fail.
The ANC, together with all progressive South Africans, is proud of our history.
Equally, we are confident of our future.
Mantashe is the ANC’s secretary-general