The African National Congress (ANC) centenary anniversary on 8 January marked another milestone for Africa’s oldest surviving political movement and one of the longest existing parties worldwide.
On 8 January 1912, chiefs, representatives of people`s and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein and formed the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) whose main aim was to campaign for the rights of all Africans. It was renamed the African National Congress in 1923.
Its first president was Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, a scholar once described as "a great, if not the greatest, black man of the missionary epoch in South Africa". Other members of the first executive committee were author and journalist Solomon Plaatje as secretary, lawyer Pixley ka Isaka Seme as treasurer, Thomas Mapikela as speaker and lawyer George Montsioa as recording secretary.
From its humble beginnings at a Waaihoek church in Bloemfontein, the ANC has grown over the past 100 years to become a beacon for African liberation movements.
More than 100,000 people, including scores of international dignitaries, attended the centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein. The celebrations included a traditional ceremony, a golf tournament, concerts and gala dinner.
However, it was not the festivities that made the commemoration of the anniversary stand out but the significance of the event for Africa in general and southern Africa in particular.
The formation of the ANC ignited the flame of organised resistance to white colonial domination and racist legislation in Southern Africa.
It was, in fact, the beginning of political solidarity in southern Africa as evidenced by the presence of several traditional leaders from neighbouring countries during the historic formation of the ANC 100 years ago.
The delegates included esteemed traditional leaders such as Lewanika, the Paramount King of the Lozi people of Zambia; King Letsie II of Lesotho; royal regent Labotsibeni Mdluli of Swaziland; and Seretse Khama I of Botswana.
ANC President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to SADC member states Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe for support rendered to the ANC during its fight against Apartheid that led to the first democratic elections and an ANC government in April 1994.
“Tanzania became our second home. We established settlements and were given land to build the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College. We extend our deepest gratitude to Chama Cha Mapinduzi and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for this solidarity. We welcome the Nyerere family who have joined us for these celebrations,” said Zuma.
Angola, under the leadership of its first post-independence leader Agostinho Neto and subsequently under incumbent President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, served as a secure rear base for the ANC’s armed wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), and its personnel until 1988.
Zuma praised former Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP) for receiving and assisting “our movement even prior to their independence”.
“We thank FRELIMO and the people of Mozambique for solidarity that cost them dearly economically, politically and also when the apartheid army conducted cross border raids, leading to loss of life. This country also lost its President Samora Machel on South African soil,” Zuma said.
He also paid tribute to the assistance the ANC received from other African countries such as Algeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe, as well as the material and logistics support from the Organisation of African Union (OAU), Cuba, the former Soviet Union, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The OAU is the forerunner to the African Union.
“We single out Cuba for her unwavering solidarity politically and militarily. The epic battle in Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, between January and March 1988, forced the apartheid forces to retreat, guaranteeing the sovereignty of Angola, paving the way for the liberation of Namibia and leading eventually to our own freedom. It indeed changed the political landscape of Southern Africa,” said Zuma who is the 12th president of the ANC.
The ANC has had 12 presidents since 1912. These are Dube (1912-1917), Sefako Makgatho (1917-1924), Zacharias Mahabane (1924-1927 and 1937-1940), Josiah Gumede (1927-1930), Pixley ka Isaka Seme (1930-1936), Alfred Xuma (1940-1949), James Moroka (1949-1952), Chief Albert Luthuli (1952-1967), Oliver Reginald Tambo (1967-1991), Nelson Mandela (1991-1997), Thabo Mbeki (1997-2007) and Jacob Zuma from 2007.
The ANC is in an alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Each alliance partner is an independent organisation with its own constitution, membership and programmes.
The alliance is founded on a common commitment to the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution, which aims to create a society in which people are intellectually, socially, economically and politically empowered. sardc.net