As racism and oppression against Black Africans gained momentum in the newly established Union of South African, Pixley ka Isaka Seme a visionary leader in 1911 appeal to all non- European ethnic groups in South Africa to unite together. Pixley ka Isaka Seme rallying words - "Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organisation" led to the formation of the African based liberation organization named South African Native National Congress (SANNC) at Waaihoek Wesleyanchuch on 8 January 1912. The first elected president of the newly formed organization was John Dube and with company of many intellectuals including Sol Plaatje, an author and a poet the fight against racism and oppression took a more focused dimension.
South African Native National Congress (SANNC) was later renamed African National Congress (ANC) in 1923. With promulgation of Apartheid system of government, African lands and Rights as citizens were taken away. The struggle for gaining of full rights of South African citizenship was not an easy struggle and there were many lows and highs encountered by ANC. But one of the greatest achievements of ANC was internationalization of the struggle that made the civilized world to come together and to reject apartheid government of South Africa. It was not an innocent and bloodless struggle for many lives were lost, properties destroyed and the innocence of a nation was lost forever.
Chiefs, churchmen and a lawyer met at the Waaihoek methodist church in Bloemfontein, and the founding South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the ANC, is born. John Langalibalele Dube, centre, is the first president. Pic: creative commons- Wikepedia
Among the lowest points in the struggle was 1960 Sharpeville massacre of young people and this buttressed to the world how ruthless and cold the system was. Karen Allen of BBC news recalled the massacre with this chilling description: "Thousands of protesters had gathered in Sharpeville, just south of Johannesburg, to protest at the use of the infamous passbooks, or "dompas", that every black South African was expected to carry and produce on demand. It governed a person's movement, was a tool of harassment and was one of the most hated symbols of the apartheid state. Sixty-nine men, women and children were gunned down on that day, killed when police officers opened fire on the crowd. The police station - where they had gathered - is now a memorial to the dead."
The highpoint of ANC struggle was the unbanning of ANC and the release of political prisoners including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many others from the famous Robben Island prison. The climax of the ANC struggle was the releasing of Mandela and his subsequent election as the first Black president of non-racial South Africa in May of 1994 after spending 27 years in prison. The ANC as a political party and liberation organization deserved the greatest praise and acknowledgement for the defeat of apartheid South African government and its management of victory. To the credit and maturity of ANC victory became the univeral freedom for both the oppressed and oppressor, white and black, poor and rich.
ANC celebrates 100yrs
There were also unsung heroes, men and women of goodwill all over the world that never sleep nor stop fighting until the evil apartheid was declared death and irreversible. It was truly a collective effort of the good people of the world that refused to be quiet that eventually brought about the collapse and eradication of apartheid.
There has been successful transfer of power since President Mandela has been at herald affairs in South Africa. And each of the successive presidents has done a fairly decent job in trying to right the wrongs of the nation without upsetting the system. Although some will not evaluate it in more positive light given the quantity of poverty in the country, others may even accuse them of being timid and have lost their focus and direction. But all things being equal, it can be a delicate dance being that the majority poor Black masses are hurting but at same time the minority whites were engulfed with fear and anxiety.
The president that came immediately after Nelson Mandela was another intellectual and financial guru named Thabo Mbeki; he was good with the economy. Mbeki appointed both black and white technocrats to his government including the finance minister Manuel Trevor, that helped him to balance the budget and rein in spending. Mbeki appointed Tito Mboweni as the governor of the Central Bank of South Africa, who kept the rand currency healthy and strong, while at same time held down inflation. Mboweni tenured at the South African Reserve Bank was a success story for his monetary policy application reassured investors and business community.
The current President Zuma has shown a great leadership especially in the economy and management of emerging social crisis of restlessness among the youths. Due to his radical days during ANC struggle, many people were worried especially business community that he has socialistic inclinations. But to the surprise of many he is relatively conservative in spending and economic management. He held down inflation with the spearhead of good fiscal policies and the appointment of Gill Marcus, a conservative financial banker as governor of the Reserve Bank and this has solidified Zuma's new found fiscally conservative principle . Under the leadership of Zuma, South Africa has become the latest member of the BRICS - a powerful trading organization of emerging super nations. South Africa is also a member nation of G-20, the only African member of the esteemed group.
Thabo Mbeki Pic:EPA
With resolute and confidence, ANC has matured into a ruling party from their victory and has shown a great ability to lead a multi-racial South Africa. Nelson Mandela, the conscience of the struggle deserved a great respect and honor on the way he directed the affairs of the nation as the first Black president of South Africa. Mandela displayed of no remorse and bitterness to his fellow South African whites was a mark of maturity and statesmanship rarely seen in the annals of history. He taught the world that peace-making is a virtue and the once enemies can co-exist together and peacefully sought out their differences and work together to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. It has not been easy but the legacy he put forward has become a foundation for building a great, non-racial and prosperous South Africa.
With freedom and victory comes great responsibility. ANC cannot afford to sit on its laurels for as the ruling party it has a daunting task of rewriting the wrongs of yesterday. This is an enormous task because of how sensitive and delicate racial relationship in South Africa has become. The liberated Black majority has been overwhelmed with poverty and depravity rooted in the defunct apartheid structure, while whites were riddle with guilt and anxiety on the apparent loss of their ruling class status. ANC as the governing party together with the government leadership needs a strategic outlook and plan to successfully tackle and solve the problem.
Jesse Jackson of the US (C back) stands behind South Africa President Jacob Zuma
Democracy is an expensive form of government and it is not sustainable in a sea of poverty. South Africa under the leadership of ANC has demonstrated that it has the potential to become one of the richest nations under the sun. And the nation of South Africa can lead Africa to a better tomorrow. This is not the time to allow internal bickering to get hold of ANC. The greatest advantage ANC enjoyed is that it has men and women of goodwill that believes that Africa can rise again and become a productive continent that can determine its destiny without begging for a handout. ANC is strategically position to change not only South Africa but the entire continent for good. That must be the desire and vision of ANC, therefore ANC should provide the moral compass to a great nation and a great people.
ANC does not have the time to be timid, visionless and to wallow in corruption because if it chooses to go slow, the people of South Africa will not accept it. Only time will tell whether the blood and sweat deposited in the bank of liberation is redeemable. Happy 100 years anniversary!!!
Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. http://afripol.org
Against all odds, the party of Nelson Mandela has transformed a nation where just 20 years ago black South Africans could not vote, and beaches and restaurants were reserved for whites only. The venerated party once banned for decades under apartheid has won every national election since racist white rule ended in 1994, and President Jacob Zuma vows the party "will rule until Jesus comes."
Yet as the African National Congress marks its 100th anniversary this weekend with fanfare and dozens of visiting presidents, critics say the ANC has failed to unchain an impoverished majority still shackled by a white-dominated economy. Unemployment hovers around 36 percent and soars to 70 percent among young people. Half the country's population lives on just 8 percent of the national income, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
South African political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi praises the ANC for developmental achievements "unprecedented anywhere in the world" in its 17 years of governing the country. But he noted that many at the ANC festivities will have their joy marred by "a tinge of disappointment and even sadness" about weaknesses and failures. The ANC's reputation is being tarnished by a never-ending deluge of corruption scandals, some involving politicians who sacrificed during the fight against apartheid and now feel entitled to luxury cars and financial payback. It's created disillusionment, especially for those who volunteered to serve as freedom fighters at a time when many of the ANC's leaders were imprisoned for their activism.Serame Mogale, who was only 14 when he became a guerrilla fighter for the ANC, recalled that the slogan in one Angolan training camp was "the pace of the slowest."
"We would run six hours nonstop with female comrades in front, from whom the whole company or platoon will take the pace," he recalls. "But today, the weakest is overtaken and left behind to tire and die." Africa's oldest liberation movement is kicking off the festivities with a golf tournament -- an event critics say shows how the grassroots-based movement has morphed into an elitist-run political party. More than 100,000 people are expected for the ANC centenary festivities, including 46 heads of state and a dozen former presidents, the party says. Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu is coming, though it's unclear whether Mandela will make an appearance.
South African President Jacob Zuma presents former President Nelson Mandela with a gift - an architect's rendering of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge - Reuters
The political party representing South Africa's impoverished majority already has drawn criticism for spending 10 million rand (nearly $1.5 million) of public money to buy the church where it all began. The Wesleyan church is the focus of this weekend's centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein, a city in the heart of the country. It was here that black activists and intellectuals founded the liberation movement that would help lead the decades-long struggle against racist rule.
Until just 20 years ago, blacks were evicted from their homes and herded into separate suburbs, forced to work under slave-like conditions on mines and farms. Families were separated under legalized race discrimination so that white entrepreneurs could take advantage of poorly paid black laborers. The best parks, beaches and restaurants were reserved for the white minority, with signs in Afrikaans saying "Net Blankes" -- Whites Only. Some shops would only serve blacks through a hole in the wall.
Black nannies cared for white children and prepared elaborate meals for white families, then went to hovels in the backyards of mansions to feed their own children "ration meat" -- bones and fat less nutritious than the meals served to white families' dogs. A turning point came in 1960 when police turned their guns on about 300 people peacefully protesting "pass laws" restricting them to certain areas and requiring them to leave white areas where they worked by nightfall.
At least 69 people were killed and scores wounded in the Sharpeville massacre. The unprovoked slaughter attracted international condemnation that formed the roots of the global anti-apartheid movement. The government declared a state of emergency and banned South Africa's two liberation movements -- the Pan Africanist Congress, which had organized the Sharpeville protest, and the ANC.
ANC leaders declared there was no longer any space to organize nonviolent resistance and formed Umkhonto we Sizwe, Zulu for "Spear of the Nation," an army that would wage a guerrilla war for liberation. "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit, but we shall fight back by all our means within our power for the liberation of our motherland," said the guerrilla army manifesto.
After Mandela's 1990 release from prison, he was elected president of ANC and went on to become South Africa's first black president after the historic 1994 election. While the ANC confronted a common enemy in apartheid, it became a catchall for people of many different ideological persuasions. Once the enemy was defeated, it is not surprising that differences have arisen. "We would like to think it (the ANC) has teething problems, but it's not really only teething problems," said Amina Cachalia, a political activist who joined the ANC in the 1940s. "I think suddenly it's become a different platform for different ideologies and for different people with different agendas, and that's a pity, a great pity."
The party also has struggled to find a leader as charismatic as the beloved anti-apartheid icon. Thabo Mbeki, the president who succeeded Mandela, was unceremoniously booted out of office by an ANC congress that deemed him too cerebral and out of touch with the people. Today the ANC is led by Zuma, a guerrilla fighter who was imprisoned at Robben Island alongside Mandela but whose polygamous lifestyle and extramarital affairs have scandalized South Africans.
Zuma's leadership is being challenged by Julius Malema, the very same fiery youth leader credited with ousting Mbeki and helping bring Zuma to power in 2007. Late last year, an ANC disciplinary committee fired Malema and suspended him from the party for five years.Malema, who is awaiting the result of an appeal and is under police investigation for corruption and tax evasion, has been denied the opportunity to address the centenary celebrants. But he will speak at smaller rallies near Bloemfontein, the party said of the young firebrand who draws support from young adults.
Sifiso Mkwanazi, a 26-year-old self-employed businessman, complains about the government's lack of investment to create jobs and better education opportunities."For the generation of my parents, I think it (the ANC) has done a lot, but with our generation, I don't think they are contributing as much as they should be," he says. Still, he said his vote would go to the ANC unless a viable opposition party devoted to the people's interest springs up. Cachalia, who has been a friend of Mandela for 60 years, says she wonders what he would make of the ANC's evolution. "I sometimes feel very disillusioned these days, but I suppose we live in hope," she says.
Associated Press writers Ed Brown and Krista Larson contributed to this report from Johannesburg.