ANC builds up birthday celebrations with political rhetoric

An embattled President Jacob Zuma will on Saturday use the ANC’s anniversary to seek to reclaim the moral high ground over his adversaries at a Cape Town rally meant to set the political agenda for the year ahead.

ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe hinted this week that the party – hosted on Democratic Alliance (DA) turf – will see the ANC assert custodianship of the Freedom Charter.

The 1955 manifesto, which starts with the words “We the people shall govern”, had been wrongly appropriated by other political players who lacked the ANC’s credentials and experience, Mantashe told the media.

“It is back to basics. This is the year of the Freedom Charter. It is the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, that is the emphasis because every Jack and Jill claims to be the custodian of the Freedom Charter these days.

“Now we will be giving the country context … progress made, challenges faced, what should be done practically because it is easy to shout slogans when you have no respect for them.”

“The ANC leads, everywhere,” Mantashe added, before taking aim at “hooligans” who tried to usurp the ruling party.

This was a veiled reference to the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have threatened to disrupt Zuma’s state-of-the-nation address on February 12 after bringing Parliament to the brink of pandemonium last year with demands that the president repay state funds misspent on his Nkandla homestead.

Song and dance rally
Zuma is expected to dissimulate the cloud of scandal over his private home – as he did last year ahead of the May national elections.

Instead, the president – who has signed a bill banning public servants from doing business with the state – is likely to speak of his government’s commitment to combat corruption in general, dwell extensively on successes achieved in two decades of democratic rule while cautioning that challenges lie ahead.

But given the setting – a song and dance rally in the 52 000-capacity Cape Town Stadium – observers do not expect the president to provide any detail on how the government plans to meet challenges such as the crisis at the country’s parastatals, notably Eskom’s capacity constraints.

Central to his speech at the 103-year anniversary will almost certainly be an assertion of the ANC’s struggle legacy and its mandate to rule.

Zuma has been trying to drive home this message all week in walkabouts in the one province not governed by the ANC, at one point telling supporters the Western Cape is “ruled by the wrong people”.

Next year’s local government elections will see the ANC seek to put internal strife in its Western Cape ranks behind it and win back support lost to the DA in the past decade.

And so the preparations for the rally have been marked by bitter politicking likely to increase over the course of the year, with the ANC accusing its rival of using regulations pertaining to the venue and transport to bedevil its birthday celebrations.

Mantashe accused the DA of using “apartheid era influx control” measures but said the ANC had prevailed in the wrangling. It would fill the stadium and paint the city yellow, he promised, in a reference to ANC T-shirts, dresses and jackets that were on sale at street stalls on Friday.

“We will fill the stadium. The ANC is known for filling stadiums,” he said.

The party has arranged free transport for 60 000 supporters and security barriers were erected around main roads leading to the stadium on Friday.

Celebrations are due to start around 7am and the concert line-up is being kept secret but party officials have promised will include first-rate traditional, soul and hip-hop musicians.

It is due to end around 4pm. – Sapa

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