Date with a rich history
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…”
ANC SUPPORTERS at the launch of the party’s 2019 election manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday.