In sweltering heat at the Vodacom stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday, President Jacob Zuma acknowledged factionalism and “political demons” within the ANC during the party’s centenary celebrations.
He told the rally that the most urgent task was to speed up the building of a national democratic society.
As the 1.27-million member party battles criticism around poor service delivery, cronyism and infighting, Zuma called for all South Africans to “enjoy an improved quality of life, especially the working class and poor”.
Addressing 60 000 ANC supporters to commemorate the party’s 100 years anniversary, Zuma — who is facing his toughest year in politics — outlined a number of urgent and practical interventions.
“We need to ensure that our programme of transforming our country is accelerated and taken to new steps,” he said.
He conceded the problems facing the ruling party, saying it needed to take “urgent and practical steps to restore the core values, stamp out factionalism and promote political discipline”.
Plan of action
He said the party was determined to enhance its “moral standing and image among the masses of our people”.
The ANC’s plan of action was to combine political education with effective organisational measures and mechanisms to promote integrity, political discipline and ethical conduct to “defeat the demon of factionalism in the ranks of the ANC, alliance and board mass democratic movement”.
“Unless the ANC makes rapid progress in transformation of our economy and society to benefit the majority, it will be unable to withstand the prevailing logic of colonialism of a special type.”
He mapped the way forward for the ANC as critics questioned whether the party’s core could survive jostling for positions ahead of the elective conference in Mangaung in December.
“During its second existence, the ANC will undoubtedly require new organisational capacities and strategic capabilities to give political, moral and intellectual leadership and serve our nation in all the five pillars of social transformation: the organisation, the state, the economy, the international arena work and the ideological terrain.”
Centenary Flame to travel
He also highlighted that education and skills development should be at the centre of the ANC’s transformation and developmental agenda.
The rally turned out to be peaceful as Zuma took to the podium to read the party’s all-important January 8 statement, despite earlier concerns that the members of the ANC Youth League were planning to disrupt celebrations.
Tensions were high earlier when crowds chanted and cheered when suspended youth league leader Julius Malema’s picture appeared on screens at the centre of the stage. There were also some worrying moments when Zuma entered the stadium, with sections of the stadium bursting into chants of “Juju, Juju!” But Zuma’s supporters manage to drown out the pro-Malema faction.
Before Zuma began his speech, he received the Centenary Flame from ANC veterans; former president Thabo Mbeki, who the party ousted as president three years ago; and former Rivonia trial member Ahmed Kathrada.
Zuma lit the flame on Saturday at the Wesleyan Church in Waaihoek where the party was founded in 1912. It will travel to the nine provinces throughout the year as the celebrations shift countrywide.
Follow the Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of the ANC’s 100th anniversary.