African National Congress at 103

JUST when you thought the party dust from the festive season had settled, the year opened with the African National Congress (ANC) celebrating 103 years of existence.

It is possibly the oldest liberation movement in the world. The ANC was formed on January 8 1912 by John Langalibalele Dube, Pixley kaSeme and Sol Plaatje in Bloemfontein.

The movement was formed to fight for the rights of black Africans in response to the South Africa Act of 1910 and the discriminatory prescripts it put forward following the South African War. John Dube was the founding president in 1912. Since then the party has had 11 presidents.

103 years later, the ANC has been South Africa’s governing party since it assumed power in 1994. Longevity is one of key features for any successful political party. As you know, most don’t have staying power and are formed today and are gone tomorrow.

So for the ANC to have been around for more than a century is certainly worth commemorating. The glittering celebrations began with an exclusive dinner party at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

It is no coincidence that the Western Cape was chosen as the venue for the epic celebrations, it was actually deliberate.

You see, this is the province where the ANC suffered its most staggering defeat in the 2013 elections. This is also the province in which the ANC’s hold remains elusive.

The DA must have been shuddering as the province was literally painted green, black and yellow over the weekend. They say pictures are worth more than a thousand words and snap shots from the Friday night dinner painted a colourful picture indeed.

Anyone who is in doubt of President’s Jacob Zuma’s health and well being could certainly push those concerns aside as the current president danced vigorously.

He showed the likes of Dr Malinga that he is still a contender in the flexibility stakes. The guests who danced the night away were entertained by Oskido and a host of DJs from Merlon to Mahoota.

However, the dinner was not only open to those politically affiliated, but corporates, celebs and socialites.

Corporate tables were reputed to be going for R150 000 and the biggest meal ticket of the day was the R400 000 ticket to sit at the president’s table. The dinner was slated as a fundraiser for the ANC who on numerous occasions have been reported to be in financial dire straits.

As the president canvassed for monetary donations many eyebrows were raised as to whether this was astute taking into account governance and corruption concerns.

There is always the concern that people who fund political parties will do so for their own personal interests as opposed to being just charitable and philanthropically motivated.

Those who could not afford the ticket to the dinner could party with comrades after hours at the Le Roi nightclub in Camps Bay where the champagne flowed and the aroma of smoky Cuban cigars filled the air.

ANC groupies with their thousand dollar Brazilian weaves, Italian shoes and French frocks danced the night away with ANC cadrés and economic empowered black billionaires.

However, the hoi polloi, celebrations were free at the Cape Town Stadium in Greenpoint at a cost of R2,2 million. At a time when many of the World Cup stadiums have become white elephants this was certainly a financial coup for the DA.

Many ardent ANC supporters sat in the scorching sun in their bright yellow T-shirts. The party sure has come a long way from the humble beginnings back in Bloemfontein.

However, one wonders whether 103 years later the ANC has still won the fight against some of the grievances it was formed to address.

Although the black majority now have been politically emancipated with a right to vote, one wonders if there have been anymore gains beyond this.

If one takes an honest look at the South African economy it is still largely untransformed. Economic emancipation is a rhetoric we often hear but are yet to see played out. In the president’s speech there was also talk of job creation, land expropriation and economic transformation.

Well it’s still early days. We shall watch and see how this narrative unfolds. After the 103 candles have been blown out, wishes still need to be granted for ANC followers, some of who have become disgruntled and disillusioned.

However, if the party still hopes to be around and relevant in decades to come, it needs to start addressing pertinent issues that are affecting the majority of blacks beyond the glitter and glamour of party celebrations.

Sukoluhle Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi

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