ANC needs to reflect
ON SUNDAY, the African National Congress, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, celebrates its 105th birthday. The party, which has governed South Africa since the dawn of democracy in 1994, also celebrates the centenary of its longest serving president and an icon of our struggle against apartheid, Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately known as OR to his comrades and peers.
Despite the many challenges it faces, including factionalism and corruption in its rank and file, there is a lot for the ANC to celebrate. And on Sunday, we hope that its members and leadership will set aside their differences and mark the occasion with song and unity while reflecting on the journey the party has taken over the years. It has been a bumpy road, indeed, but it should also be a learning curve.
It is befitting that the ANC chose to celebrate this occasion in one of the world’s most iconic townships, Soweto, the birthplace of the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprisings that changed the face of this country forever.
Soweto holds a special place in the hearts of many South Africans. It is also home to many of the country’s icons, and the only township in the world to produce two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – from the same street in Orlando West.
However, the celebrations will be in a province where the ANC has lost power to the opposition in two key metros in the economic hub of the country and the continent. If anything, this should mark the beginning of the party returning to its roots to reconnect with millions of Africans to whom it held so much promise when it won the elections in 1994.
Back then, all of Africa looked up to the ANC – and to the new South Africa – to lead the way as our continent deepened democracy and our people enjoyed the fruits of freedom for which many compatriots sacrificed their lives. But today, even by its own admission, the ANC of John Langalibalele Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Albert Luthuli, Tambo and Nelson Mandela, among other distinguished leaders, has lost its way. It is a shadow of its former self.
But it would be unfair to reduce 105 years of struggle to the party’s current crises. Instead, the party should use its birthday celebrations, which come in the year when it also has its policy and elective conferences, to rebuild and renew itself.
It must deal decisively with factionalism, corruption and other evils that have eaten away at its values. They must do it for Tambo, Mandela and those who came before them. They must do it for ordinary South Africans and for Africans in general. They must listen to the people and smoke out the elements in their midst who are using the party for self-enrichment.
In 2017, the party must walk the talk on economic transformation, and we hope that President Jacob Zuma’s January 8 statement will set the tone for the State of the Nation Address next month.
Happy birthday, ANC!