January 7, 2012

ANC celebrates its 100th birthday

A group of South Africans, some travelling from as far as what is today known as Limpopo, gathered in a small Methodist church in Bloemfontein (today's Mangaung), Free State, on January 8 1912 to resist colonialism, the reign of terror and violence against natives, land dispossession and to chart a future for their children's children. According to historians, delegates began formal proceedings with one of the ANC's soulful hymns, Lizalis' idinga lakho Thixo Wenyaneso (God of truth fulfil your promise), composed by the suave Reverend Tiyo Soga. The gathering was later finished with Enoch Sontonga's soul-stirring hymn Nkosi Sikel' iAfrica, which has become South Africa's national anthem. At the end of the gathering, the South African Native National Congress was formed, and renamed the African National Congress in 1923.

100 years later, at least tens of thousands South Africans from around the world descended on Mangaung to join the ANC in retracing those footsteps. From all over the country, they had come to the ANC's birthplace, Bloemfontein. They joined foreign heads of state and dignitaries at the Free State Stadium, and on Janury the 8th the atmosphere was no less boisterous but the stands flowered with ANC black, green and gold. The party flag and logo, with the legends "Unity in diversity" and "100 years of selfless struggle", were painted on the pitch. Either side of a central stage stood giant tent stands bearing monochrome photos of each of the ANC's 12 presidents.

There President Jacob Zuma addressed a rally to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress. He began his speech by paying tribute to Mandela and Mbeki and spoke of the anniversary as a national event, "a joyous celebration for all the people of South Africa". Recalling the difficult decision to pursue armed struggle, Zuma said: "Our freedom was definitely not free. It was achieved through the blood, sweat and tears of many selfless leaders and cadres of the movement." Looking forward, Zuma said: "As we mark the ANC centenary, this is the right moment to pause and ponder the future of South Africa and of the ANC over the next 100 years. We must ask and answer the difficult questions about the future of our country. We must bring new energy and new ideas into the kind of society we want to build over the next few decades …We call on all our South Africans to join in a national dialogue on the future of the country."

Before the centenary celebrations took place, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini noted in his comments on the 100th anniversary of the ruling ANC, of which the union federation is an ally, that more than 80% of the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) was accounted for by the large banks and the few companies in the traditional sectors. "All these companies are white, private, and capitalist-owned and they are increasingly being foreign-owned," Dlamini stressed. "Sasol is about 30% foreign-owned and Arcelor-Mittal is 65% foreign owned. Massmart is 60% foreign-owned, Shoprite is 35%, Truworths is 50%, Foschini is 40%, JD Group is 40%, Lewis is 30%, Pick n Pay has less than 10%, Spar under 20% and Mr Price and Woolworths 20%. "Absa is 56% foreign-owned whilst Standard Bank is at least 40% foreign owned," Dlamini noted.

The fact that major conglomerates such as Anglo American had shifted their headquarters and had listed abroad was "an indication of the increasing foreign and imperialist ownership of the means of production in South Africa". Dlamini said that economic power was still "very much concentrated" and had increasingly become externalised. "The drive towards foreign ownership, combined with private ownership of the Reserve Bank, deepens the transformation of the South African economy away from working class control. The centenary celebrations must mean a reversal of this painful reality of our economy." Dlamini added that the present economic reality translated into a situation "in which African people remain at the lower end of the ladder". It was for this reason that since 1994 Cosatu had remained "consistent in emphasising that the liberation movement must use its position of political incumbency to create a sustainable economic power base for the majority of the blacks and Africans in particular". (Sadocc/sapa/Mail&Guardian)

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