Comrades and Friends,
Fellow South Africans,
We are gathered here today at this historic site to celebrate the 107th anniversary of the formation of the African National Congress.
We have chosen to gather here – at the resting place of the first President of the ANC, Rev John Langalibalele Dube – to signify how firmly our present is embedded in our past.
We are here to affirm the unbreakable thread that binds together the successive generations of gallant freedom fighters who have sought to further the cause of human freedom and progress.
We are here not to mark the mere passage of time, but to honour and celebrate a vision that was formed more than a century ago.
It is this vision – of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society – that defines our movement and which continues to guide our every action.
It is more than 120 years, since President Dube wrote the following words:
“Oh, how I long for that day, when the darkness and gloom have passed, and the sunshine of a new civilization shall rise upon a land teeming with commerce, where upon every hill top shall be seen the school house and the church. Then indeed will Africa be a nation among nations.”
He wrote at a time when this was a land divided – its people dispossessed of their land and stripped of their birthright.
It was a time of conquest and subjugation.
Yet out of this darkness, at the moment of greatest despair, emerged a dream of a better society, of a united nation, of a new beginning.
It was a dream that would find firm expression on Monday, the 8th January 1912, at the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Bloemfontein, where African leaders from across the country gathered to found the South African Native National Congress – which would later be renamed African National Congress..
This occasion today presents us with an opportunity to account to President John Langalibalele Dube and all the other great leaders of his generation on the path we have travelled and the great progress we have made to realise their vision.
Twenty-five years ago, on the 27th of April 1994, Madiba came here to cast his vote in the country’s first democratic election.
Afterwards, he visited the grave of Rev Dube and said:
“Mr President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is free today.”
Now, after a quarter of a century of democracy, we have returned to this place to report how the country has changed immeasurably and how the lives of the South African people have improved.
We can report that South Africa Africa is a nation among nations, a united, non-racial democracy founded on the principle of equal rights for all.
We have a progressive Constitution that not only recognises the injustices of the past, but requires that we take all necessary measures to achieve redress in all essential areas of life.
We have durable democratic institutions, an independent judiciary, a free media and an active citizenry.
Freedom has been unleashed and the darkness and gloom that President John Dube had spoken about have passed .
This freedom has also unleashed the creative energies of our people in sports, arts, music, literature, film and dance.
It has opened new frontiers in the world of science, technology and innovation.
Most significant have been the changes in the everyday lives of ordinary South Africans.
In 1994, only 3 in every 10 South Africans had electricity.
Today, 8 out of 10 South Africans have electricity in their homes.
In 1994, only 6 out of every 10 South Africans had access to clean drinking water.
Today, that has increased to nearly 9 out 10 South Africans.
In that time, over 3.2 million houses have been built for poor families.
What lies behind these statistics is a country that has been transformed, lives that have been changed, opportunities that have been opened.
It has enabled millions of children to study by electric light.
Women have been relieved of the burden of collecting water and firewood, and many poor people now have the material security of a home.
Better living conditions mean that families are healthier.
We have built new clinics and hospitals and expanded access to health care for the poor.
More South Africans are living longer, with average live expectancy increasing to 64 years in 2018 from a low of 53 years in 2005.
More than 4.3 million South Africans living with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment, making it the biggest such programe in the world.
Today, the ANC government provides provides social grants to 17.5 million poor and vulnerable people.
We can report that we have made huge strides in improving the position of women in society, using our Constitution, legislation and policies to tackle discrimination and increase representation within the leadership of our movement, in our public institutions and in the world of commerce.
However, we must hang our heads in shame that even as we make progress in forging a non-sexist society, women in this country are confronted with unprecedented levels of abuse, violence and murder – often by those closest to them.
This is a national crisis that we are determined to end so that all South African women may live in peace, safety and dignity.
The past 25 years have been about opening new horizons, through education, jobs and economic inclusion.
We have massively expanded access to education.
While only around half of all young children attended school in 1994, today we have near universal access for children aged 7-14 years.
This year, over 78% of learners passed matric, up from around 50% before 1994.
There are over two million students in our institutions of higher learning and vocational training colleges, many of these from poor and working class backgrounds.
Not only does this create opportunities that were previously unimaginable for most South Africans, but it establishes a foundation for a future that is more productive, more inventive and more prosperous.
While we hail these achievements, we are keenly aware that much more work is needed to improve the quality of the outcomes of our education.
It is a matter of grave concern that so many children who enter our schooling system do not reach matric, that so many foundation phase learners cannot read or write properly, and that so many students in institutions of higher learning take so long to complete their studies.
It is our ability to correct these problems now that will determine the direction that our country will take for decades to come.
Despite the economic challenges of the last few years, our economy has tripled in size over the last 25 years.
Seven million more people are employed today than were employed in 1994.
Once prohibited from running businesses, prevented from raising above a certain level of employment, black South Africans are now free to own companies, to trade and to enter any profession.
The black middle class has grown significantly thanks to the ANC’s progressive policies on affirmative action, black industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment and gender equality.
In 1914, Rev John Dube wrote:
“We have seen our people driven from the places dear to them as the inheritance of generations, to become wanderers on the face of the earth.”
Over the past 25 years, we have made an important start in returning the land to those from whom it was taken so that our people may no longer be wanderers.
Through our restitution and redistribution programmes, we have returned more than 10 percent of farm land to black South Africans.
We are now embarking on a new phase of accelerated land reform, which will contribute to significantly reducing poverty, especially in rural areas, grow our agricultural economy and increase employment – and give poor black South Africans assets which they had long been deprived.
We know that, despite these remarkable achievements, many South Africans still live in dire poverty and millions are without work.
Millions are without land, without houses and the basic necessities of life.
It is our task, as the sons and daughters of John Langalibalele Dube, to place the needs of these people at the centre of our every effort.
It is true, Mr President, that, due to the tireless struggles of the South African people, the darkness and gloom of colonialism and racial oppression have passed.
We can report that South Africa is a land teeming with commerce and that on its hill tops can be found school, clinic, farms and homes.
We can report, Mr President, that while the day for which you longed has arrived, the struggle for the society you envisioned continues.
This anniversary is also an opportunity to report on the state of the great liberation movement that John Langalibalele Dube and others founded.
There can be no doubt that throughout its existence, the African National Congress has achieved great successes.
Yet, the ANC has also endured periods of great adversity.
It has experienced periods characterised by significant reversals, decline and drift.
Yet, each time it has emerged stronger, more united and more determined to pursue the struggle for freedom.
We find ourselves at another such moment in our history, where we are called upon to restore the movement after a period in which our organisational capacity has been diminished and our revolutionary programme diverted.
We have heard the voices of the South African people, from all walks of life, who have spoken in despair and frustration about the mistakes we have made.
We accept the criticisms and are hard at work to address them.
As we mark the second January 8th celebration since the landmark 54th National Conference, we can declare with confidence that both the ANC and the country have entered an era of renewal.
Much has been achieved over the last year, but there is still much more that needs to be done to give effect to the resolutions of the 54th National Conference.
While we have been decisive in several areas, our task is incomplete and the potential for reversal still exists.
We should not falter in our resolve to act with urgency and purpose to take the process of unity and renewal to even greater heights.
In the January 8th Statement last year, we agreed to undertake a deliberate programme of organisational renewal that addresses problems of division and dysfunction.
Over the course of the last year, most structures have diligently undertaken efforts to unite, build and renew our movement.
Cadres are showing a greater sense of purpose and a sincere commitment to restoring the link between the ANC and the people.
Despite this progress, the work of organisation-building requires commitment and hard work.
We need to convert the mood of renewal into practical action to build a fully united, cohesive and effective movement for radical change.
We have made progress in restoring the integrity and credibility of the ANC.
Where necessary, we have taken measures to deal with cadres who have undermined the integrity of the movement and the ethical standards expected of public representatives and ANC leaders.
This is among the most difficult of organisational tasks, but we remain resolute in our efforts to stamp out deviant and abhorrent practices,
We have done much to bring the ANC closer to the people.
Through the Thuma Mina campaign, we have more intensely reached out to communities, demonstrating the ANC’s commitment to improving people’s lives.
Our public representatives and branch members have worked hard to ensure greater consultation and engagement with communities on issues that affect their lives.
One of the most important achievements of the past year has been to unite all South Africans around a shared vision of fundamental transformation.
Across society, our people are embracing the ‘new dawn’, which in its content and purpose reflects a popular vision for renewal and far-reaching change.
In line with this task, we have worked with our social partners behind a programme to increase investment, grow the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty.
We have taken bold steps to confront corruption and state capture and restore the credibility of public institutions.
Through this work, and through the contributions of millions of South Africans, we have established a firm foundation for growth and renewal across society.
It is critical therefore that we should strengthen our resolve and deepen our unity in pursuit of a better life for all South Africans, especially the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded.
Comrades and friends,
South Africans will head to the polls later this year to elect their representatives in national and provincial government in our country’s sixth democratic elections.
The ANC will contest these elections to achieve a decisive mandate for societal renewal, faster social transformation and national unity.
We have learned much from both the positive and negative experiences over the past 25 years.
We recognise that in recent times, our movement has fallen short of our people’s expectations.
The reasons for this declining popular confidence was critically and thoroughly discussed at the 54th National Conference, and a programme was adopted to correct these mistakes.
This weekend, we will gather at Moses Mabhida Stadium to formally release our annual January 8th Statement and to present to the people of our South Africa our 2019 Election Manifesto.
In this manifesto, we have a clear plan for growth and faster progress.
It is a plan for an inclusive economy and society in which all South Africans experience a steadily improving quality of life and enjoy shared prosperity.
It is a plan to unite the country, grow the economy, create jobs and reduce inequality.
It will call on all South Africans to be part of an extraordinary national effort to place the country on a higher path of growth and development.
It will call on all our people – black and white, young and old, urban and rural – to work together to grow South Africa.
Comrades and Friends,
As we celebrate this anniversary, we must agree that one of the most important organisational tasks of the year is to intensify the renewal of our movement.
All leaders and members should focus their efforts on strengthening unity and working together to address challenges facing communities.
Our branches must be strong organs of civil society that reflect the broader composition of communities where they are located and that lead in addressing community concerns.
We will work more diligently to ensure that factionalism, gatekeeping, patronage and other deviant practices are eradicated.
We will accelerate the fight against corruption both within the organisation and in government and broader society.
Members of the ANC, working with communities and various sectors of society, must expose corruption and state capture.
We must also organise against social ills such as gender-based violence, substance abuse and racism.
Together with progressive community based organisations, the ANC will run local campaigns against gender based violence.
These campaigns will focus on addressing the root causes of gender based violence and will include a specific effort to educate young children on healthy gender relations.
Our structures must strengthen ties with cultural, religious, sports and other bodies of civil society.
Branches must work with new and emerging progressive organisations such as those of youth and women and ensure that the ANC represents the broadest section of society and reflects the ever-changing face of our nation.
This year, we will focus on the task of building a better Africa and a better world.
Through forging stronger partnerships with progressive formations and governments across the world, we will actively campaign for the interests of Africa and developing countries on all international platforms.
We will champion the struggles of the colonised and oppressed, especially those of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara.
In rebuilding and renewing our movement and our country, we must be resolute in our commitment to building a South Africa that is united in its diversity.
Our forebearers abandoned racism and tribalism in a commitment to forge a new South African nation which is non racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous.
Our revolutionary duty is to deepen the commitment to fight against racism and tribalism.
The people who founded the ANC were from every walk of life.
They fought for the freedom of the oppressed and the liberation of the oppressors.
There should be no room in our movement or in our society for those who discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation.
South Africa belongs to all of us.
In this year, we will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Morogoro Conference, held in Tanzania in 1969.
There is much we can learn from that historic event – and the spirit and resolve shown then by our members – as we confront the challenges of the present.
At the Morogoro Conference, the organisation dug deep, confronted internal challenges and emerged with a clear purpose of uniting and strengthening the organisation.
Comrades set out a programme for organisational renewal and were resolute in ensuring that this programme was adhered to.
This is the spirit, the courage and the dedication that every ANC member must now draw upon.
We take heart from the tremendous courage and fortitude shown by the membership and supporters of the ANC today, who demonstrate their commitment to uniting and rebuilding this glorious movement.
The leadership of the ANC is humbled by the commitment to the ideals of our founders shown by ANC members and supporters throughout the length and breadth of our country.
As we depart from this place to undertake the task of building a national democratic society, let us reassure the great leaders of years gone by – starting with John Langalibalele Dube – that we shall not rest until the sunshine of a new civilization rises upon our land and shines on all our people.
Just to be sure the reassurance we give to President John Dube and the founding fathers and mothers of our glorious movement about our determination to address the tasks ahead of us was best articulated by the drafters of our lodestar policy document, The Freedom Charter when they said: “Let those who love their people and their country say as we say here these freedoms we shall fight for, side-by-side throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty.”
President John Dube we too, 107 years later can say today “we shall work side-by-side throughout our lives until we have improved the lives of all South Africans”.
I thank you.