President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G
The ANC’s traditional January 8th statement took a slightly different turn this year focusing heavily on the achievements of the ANC led-government over the past 30 years, as the country moves closer to what has been touted as water-shed 2024 general elections.
Thousands of people dressed in green, black and gold party merchandise, most notably the youth, flocked to the Mbombela stadium in Mpumalanga to celebrate the party’s 112th birthday and get the line of march from party president Cyril Ramaphosa and his entourage.
It took about three hours for the celebrations to kick off, with initial fears that the party would be unable to fill the stadium to capacity disappearing as the day proceeded.
The day began on a sombre note with the death of five supporters who lost their lives when a bus carrying rally goers from Limpopo overturned, leaving about 47 others injured.
Ramaphosa kicked off his 30-page speech by acknowledging the multiple crises the country grapples with and promised to address them with the assistance of alliance partners.
These included the reconstruction of the economy, delivery of quality basic services and infrastructure, renewal of the ANC and society, fighting crime and corruption and the rejuvenation of the nation.
In great detail, the president moved to outline the gains of freedom and achievements of the country’s young democracy, including:
- The adoption of a transformative Constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and human rights to all South Africans;
- Expansion of basic services and infrastructure to millions of people who now have access to housing, roads, education, health, water, energy and income support through a social security net;
- Launching the first phase of economic transformation by introducing laws and policies on worker rights, employment equity and broad-based black empowerment, investment in infrastructure, public employment programmes and achieving higher levels of economic growth;
- The establishment of democratic state institutions in accordance with the Constitution, such as the auditor general, the Commission for Gender Equality and the public protector and others to protect our democracy and freedoms; and
- Taking our place among the community of nations, advancing the African agenda, multilateralism, solidarity and a peaceful and just world order.
“The democratic South Africa of today is very different from the lived experiences of apartheid South Africa 30 years ago,” Ramaphosa said.
In an unexpected move, he took a swipe at opposition parties that are hellbent on reducing the ANC’s support to less than 50%.
These parties, including the recently formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party by former president Jacob Zuma, were “forces that are working hard to undermine the gains of freedom made over the last three decades,” Ramaphosa said.
“Another anti-transformation tactic is to ensure that the ANC is locked up in internal struggles that will weaken and destroy it from within. They actively encourage rebel break-away groupings to erode the support base of the ANC.”
Polls released by the Social Research Foundation, The Brenthurst Foundation and Ipsos in October 2023 put ANC support across South Africa at 43% to 45%.
Ramaphosa was, however, not fazed by polls nor suggestions that his party’s support would dip below 50%.
“Plotting and planning against the ANC” would not get opposition parties anywhere, he said, urging supporters and members to aim for an outright win.
“When they look at us, they say the ANC is finished; when they look at us, they say we are going to get less than 50%; some are even saying we are going to get 30%. This is being said by people who don’t know the ANC.
“Try coming for us. You will find us ready for you. We want to go to the election so that we can separate those who are able to govern this country and those who are not,” he said.
Political analyst Levy Ndou said the statement by the president was “spot on” because it dealt with celebrating the party’s achievements, political parties that will be challenging the ANC in the election and kick-starting the party’s campaign.
“That statement dealt with other political formations that are now starting to exist. It also cautioned South Africans about the experiences of South Africa about coalition and how the ANC badly wants to retain power in South Africa,” he said.
“The statement was also meant to kickstart the election campaign of the ANC and is why in the statement specific responsibilities are given to members of the party on what they were supposed to do starting on that day.”
He said despite several scientific reports that have shown that the ANC would not acquire the 50 plus one percent required to govern as the majority, he believed the party would win the general elections.
“Every political party that is formed would create worry, jealousy and all sorts of things from those who are in power, especially when their formation is contesting your space. The ANC dropped by 4% in the last election and they were at 57%. I don’t see a huge drop from the ANC; I see the ANC winning the general elections but other parties are still making inroads.”
Although the party was able to fill the stadium to capacity, Ndou said this should not be taken as a sign of growth or support, because it was almost natural that the ANC filled stadiums on its annual birthday celebration.
“There are members of the ANC who have actually accustomed themselves and vowed that they will attend all the January 8 statements because they want to understand the line of march from the party. Some people see it as a good opportunity to go out, it’s a political outing, where people say because the ANC is around, I need to go to the stadium and be part of history,” he said.