January 8, the day that the African National Congress (ANC) was established, is a red letter date for South Africa's ruling party. It is also the day that the party presents its vision for next year's agenda. This year was a special year as the party was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The ANC pulled out all the stops for the centenary celebration, inviting a hundred thousand people to party with the party, including surviving leaders of the African continent's liberation struggle. An effort was made to show a united front.
Former president Thabo Mbeki, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even suspended African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema attended the event. The major non-show was Nelson Mandela who is too infirm to attend.
The press was far from laudatory and the African National Congress was accused of factionalism, greed and arrogance, for being a vehicle for power and wealth seekers rather than idealists. According to the Sowetan, the ANC has succeeded the National Party, once dominant under apartheid rule, in that it adopted the National Party's policy of looting public resources to deprive the black people.
South Africa's 69-year-old president, Jacob Zuma, gave the keynote address on Sunday, recounting the party's history and paying tribute to all those martyred along the way. His 90 min. speech succeeded, aided by 40° heat and a thunderstorm, in emptying out the local stadium. Earlier the president had been honored by sacrificing an ox with a spear to assure future success.
For those who chose to stay and listen, the speech resembled an address given in a one-party state. For all effective purposes, the ANC does not have any real opposition.
The president promised to take advantage of new technologies and management sciences to reorganize the party by combining these techniques with traditional methods. Lip service was made to internal democracy, but perhaps the most impassioned part of the speech was a pledge to root out factionalism in the party.
Malema, who has called for the nationalization and redistribution of private property, was greeted with lengthy cheers and people shouting his name. This reached a point that one of the event organizers, ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete, threatened to eject Malema's supporters for ruining the party's celebration.