ANC at 106: Asking for South Africa’s love back

The newly-elected ANC president explained that just as he had done as a young man, the ANC must return to the people and ask for their love. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The newly-elected ANC president explained that just as he had done as a young man, the ANC must return to the people and ask for their love. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa admitted on the occasion of the party’s 106th birthday, that the governing party has lost its standing as the leader of society, and told the new leadership that winning South Africa’s “love back” was key to regaining this status and emerging victorious in the 2019 elections.

“As leaders and members we must uphold the highest values and principles of our movement to make sure our movement regains its position in the hearts and minds of our people. The people must love us once again, let’s say mayibuye, we want your love back,” Ramaphosa said to loud applause in a hall packed to capacity.

The newly-elected ANC president explained that just as he had done as a young man, the ANC must return to the people and ask for their love.

“When I was a young man there was a woman I wanted back, and I wanted her love back. I said: ‘My love, I messed up, I will treat you better, I want your love back.’ we need to regain the love of the ANC so that we can regain our position as a leader of society,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa defeated former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma by a slim majority at the party’s national elective conference in Johannesburg in December last year.

On Monday, he addressed ANC supporters and the new national executive committee (NEC) at an ANC birthday rally held in the East London city hall on Monday. Ramaphosa stressed that unity was the key to implementing the new policies and winning support among the country’s citizens.

“We have emerged more united and stronger than when we went to conference. We see it as we travel the length and breathe of the country: The ANC is renewed, the ANC is back with a bang,” Ramaphosa said.

“We have emerged with a unified leadership that is represented in the national officials. Yes we suffered a setback because we did not have as many women as we wanted in the leadership, but we must accept the leadership that the delegates of the branches have decided on and this is your leadership,” he added.

He was referring to the election of only one woman, Jessie Duarte, to the party’s top six structure.

But even as Ramaphosa attempted to project an image of unity within the ANC, serious divisions remained within its KwaZulu-Natal structures. The top six officials started their birthday celebration activities by laying wreaths at the gravesite of the ANC’s former presidents.

Ramaphosa acknowledged the warring factions in KZN linked to former chairpersons Sihle Zikalala and Senzo Mchunu and said they would have to be reconciled.

“These skirmishes, these fights, they must have been buried at Nasrec. They must have ended at [the December conference] at Nasrec, now we work on one thing; on the things of ANC, not the things of individuals… We must behave ourselves like the founders of this organisation would have expected” he said.

The party’s focus now turns to the national elections, Ramaphosa explained, and the official January 8 statement to be delivered at the Absa stadium in East London on Saturday, will launch its election campaign.

The January 8 statement dates back to 1972, when then ANC president Oliver Tambo used the occasion to encourage the recruitment of freedom fighters to take part in the anti apartheid struggle.

This year, the new ANC president said, the statement should send a clear message to opposition parties:

“2019 is coming. It’s literally 16 months. The January 8 statement must be a launching statement for 2019. This ANC must become the ANC you want, with the leadership and policies. This ANC that you were reviving must be strong, powerful, effective and impactful enough in order to win the 2019 elections, and we will be giving a clear warning to all these Mickey Mouse parties that the ANC has arrived.”

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule delivered a similar message, calling for a ceasefire in 2018.

“This is the year to toe the line. Comrades must know. This is not the year to deal with comrades, this is the year of unity, the year of us getting two thirds majority,” Magashule said.

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