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Africa’s oldest liberation movement, and South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) celebrates its centenary anniversary this weekend.
ANC is expecting some 100 000 people in Bloemfontein, in the Free State province, in a massive celebration that is set to be attended by close to 60 Heads of State. Several high ranking members of the Scandinavian and Indian Congress Party are also expected to attend the celebrations.
On January 8, 1912, at the humble Wesleyan Church in a place called Waaihoek, in Bloemfontein, the ANC was born. A movement that would over several decades come to symbolise the hope and aspirations of millions of black South Africans.
The movement became the torchbearer of hope and light for the oppressed who suffered the harshness of the brutal apartheid system. Sol Plaatje was elected its first secretary, and Pixlie ka Seme its first treasurer.
Initially named the South African Native National Congress, the organisation was renamed the African National Congress in 1923. Following the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, the party was banned by the National Party government and forced into exile.
it is similarly the heritage of the people of Africa
Thirty years later and thousands maimed and killed by apartheid forces, the ANC was unbanned by the apartheid government, which released the SA’s first black president Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. This set the path for the transition of a democratic South Africa and its first non-racial election in 1994.
ANC chairperson, Baleka Mbete, has announced that the celebrations will be open to South Africans from diverse backgrounds.
“To us, as we always say the 100 years of the ANC is the heritage of the people of South Africa and it is similarly the heritage of the people of Africa some of whom were represented at the formation of this historic movement,” she said.
Mbete said the historic significance of the ANC’s centenary celebrations had been acknowledged the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon As part of the year-long celebration starting this weekend, a centenary torch will be lit at midnight on Saturday at the Waaihoek Church.
According to the ANC programme, the torch will then make a journey throughout the country passing through all communities symbolising their common thread of struggle and representing their aspirations for a transformed country. On Sunday a special service and re-consecration of the church will take place.
ANC president and South African leader Jacob Zuma will address the thousands with the traditional January 8th speech that usually sets the policy and political tone for the year ahead. The ANC has indicated that the year-long celebration will be in the form of monthly events that will be spread in all provinces.
But the ANC goes into its centenary this year, arguably a party in turmoil as fierce contestation for party leadership, factionalism and ill-discipline continue to shake structures from branch, to national level.
Meanwhile, the party has been racked by infighting and power struggles ahead of its all important and crucial elective conference in Manguang in December.
Factionalism and fights for access to resources have plagued the party, whilst the firebrand youth league leader, Julius Malema continues to be a torn at Jacob Zuma’s side demanding leadership changes. A new leadership will be elected at the conference and Malema and his grouping are calling for Kgalema Motlanthe to become the next ANC president.
Analysts, however, warn it will not be smooth sailing for those challenging Zuma as he still enjoys grassroots support.
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