Date with a rich his­tory

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - DON MAKATILE [email protected]

THERE used to be a time in the life of the ANC when Jan­uary 8 was a sig­na­ture date on its cal­en­dar.

The date sig­ni­fied the day on which it was founded in Man­gaung in 1912.

The Jan­uary 8 State­ment, re­leased on that day each year, was the then banned lib­er­a­tion move­ment’s pro­gramme of ac­tion for the year.

OR Speaks be­came an event not to be missed, when then ANC pres­i­dent Oliver Regi­nald Tambo, the glue that held the forces to­gether in ex­ile, would pro­vide the fo­cus for the year ahead.

On Tues­day, party pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa de­liv­ered the Jan­uary 8 State­ment at the Oh­lange In­sti­tute in Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal: “We are gath­ered here to­day at this his­toric site to cel­e­brate the 107th an­niver­sary of the for­ma­tion of the African Na­tional Congress. We have cho­sen to gather here – at the rest­ing place of the first pres­i­dent of the ANC, the Rev­erend John Lan­gal­ibalele Dube – to sig­nify how firmly our present is em­bed­ded in our past.”

Yes­ter­day, Ramaphosa de­liv­ered the party’s elec­tion man­i­festo at a rally at the Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban. In the past, the two events would be com­bined into one big hoopla so that the birth­day cake could be cut on the ex­act day.

In the ex­ile years, the ANC is­sued its first Jan­uary 8 State­ment in 1972 and tra­di­tion­ally the de­liv­ery took place at a gath­er­ing of the Char­ter­ists on the same day.

Nowa­days, it is not un­com­mon for the Jan­uary 8 State­ment not to be is­sued on the day, but a few days later.

In the Tambo years, those in ex­ile looked for­ward to hear­ing the pres­i­dent speak on the day. His­tory has it that there was a hia­tus in the years be­tween 1972 and 1979, when the ANC did not is­sue the state­ment. Cel­e­brated nov­el­ist Dr Mandla Langa, whose most re­cent work was com­plet­ing the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of Nel­son Man­dela, Dare Not

Linger, says: “The Jan­uary 8 State­ment was the most im­por­tant mo­ment in the evo­lu­tion of the ANC. In the ear­lier years, in ex­ile for in­stance, the state­ment, which would be de­liv­ered by Pres­i­dent OR Tambo, had the grav­i­tas of a holy writ in that it charted the di­rec­tion the strug­gle would take.

“It would be on Jan­uary 8 that we would know the theme of strug­gle. For in­stance, 1979 be­came the Year of the Spear as it was the cen­te­nary of the Bat­tle of Isan­dl­wana; there would be the year of Unity in Ac­tion, the Year of the Women, etc. The state­ment also marked our sol­i­dar­ity with the strug­gling masses of other coun­tries and their move­ments – Swapo of Namibia, Fre­limo, Fretilin, the Polis­ario Front, PLO, the world­wide move­ment against all forms of racism, in­tol­er­ance, slavery – in­clud­ing the sub­ju­ga­tion of women. No part of the world un­der some form of op­pres­sion was over­looked.”

Dr Es­sop Pa­had, who spent many years in ex­ile, says there’s noth­ing odd with the state­ment be­ing de­liv­ered post-Jan­uary 8. It was eas­ier in ex­ile to is­sue the state­ment on the day, he said. “These days you try look for a week­end and take (lo­gis­tics such as book­ing a sta­dium) into ac­count.”

For­mer Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) sol­dier Mthetheleli Mn­cube, who was on death row for many years un­til he was granted a re­prieve, would have liked to see a lot go into this year’s Jan­uary 8 State­ment.

“As we cel­e­brate the birth of the ANC, too many true MK cadres are cel­e­brat­ing in tears as our move­ment finds it­self in trou­bled wa­ters. The ANC has lost its com­pass and the cap­tain of the ship is in a dire predica­ment as his cap­tain­ship is ques­tioned by many as a re­sult of the 54th con­fer­ence.

“The writ­ing is on the wall, the ANC will be a move­ment of the past un­less we be­gin to do the things that this move­ment was formed for.”

To deny that the ANC was fac­ing many chal­lenges, a lot of them in­ter­nal, would be tan­ta­mount to bury­ing one’s head in the sand, Mn­cube said.

“Our peo­ple are still sub­jected to worse liv­ing con­di­tions. Some com­mu­ni­ties… still use the hated bucket sys­tem. There are things that need to be fast-tracked, to ad­dress the well-be­ing of our peo­ple.

“Let us not for­get that we are what we are be­cause of our mem­ber­ship, and sup­port­ers who come out in big num­bers to vote the ANC into power. It is the same mem­ber­ship and sup­port­ers who can take that power away. There­fore, let us not un­der­mine our vot­ers. All we need to be say­ing now to the peo­ple is that we are sorry we never lis­tened to them for the past 23 years.

“Mov­ing for­ward, we are go­ing to lis­ten to you and gov­ern the coun­try through you and fulfil our slo­gan that says ‘our peo­ple shall gov­ern’. On be­half of many silent cit­i­zens and mem­bers of MK, I wish the ANC a happy birth­day, and that it grows much stronger and uni­fies it­self.”

In his ad­dress on Tues­day, Ramaphosa said the plight of the masses still ranked high on the pri­or­ity list of the ANC: “Most sig­nif­i­cant have been the changes in the ev­ery­day lives of or­di­nary South Africans. In 1994, only three in ev­ery 10 South Africans had elec­tric­ity. To­day, eight out of 10 South Africans have elec­tric­ity in their homes. In 1994, only six out of ev­ery 10 South Africans had ac­cess to clean drink­ing water. To­day, that has in­creased to nearly nine out of 10 South Africans. In that time, over 3.2 mil­lion houses have been built for poor fam­i­lies…”

BONGANI MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

ANC SUP­PORT­ERS at the launch of the party’s 2019 elec­tion man­i­festo at the Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium in Dur­ban yes­ter­day.

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