Fellow South Africans:
Today we mark the 88th anniversary of the African National Congress.
We celebrate our anniversary during a year that is being observed by the whole world as the beginning of a new century and millennium.
It is therefore inevitable that we should treat this year, two years away from the 90th Anniversary of the ANC, as a special year.
We have already said that we must, through our own efforts, make the 21st Century an African Century.
We have also said that as from next year, the Year 2001, we should ourselves as a Continent, launch the African Century and therefore observe that year as the Year for the Beginning of the African Century.
Therefore, the question we must answer is – what tasks face our movement and people as we prepare for the commencement of the African Century!
The first-ever Pan African Congress was held in London one hundred years ago, in the year 1900.
At that historic Congress, which brought together Africans from the African Continent, the United States and the Caribbean, the determination and clarion call was made:
The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line!
The twentieth century has experienced many problems.
These have included two world wars, the crime against humanity committed against the Jewish people by Nazi Germany, the genocidal killings in Rwanda and Burundi and the ravages brought about by colonialism, apartheid and neocolonialism.
But what was said at the Pan African Congress in 1900 proved to be very correct – the problem of the 20th Century remained the problem of the colour line!
This eventful century failed to solve this problem.
As was the case a hundred years ago, the solution to this centuries old problem constitutes a challenge both to ourselves as Africans and to the rest of humanity.
As we mark the Year 2000, our own determination and clarion call must be:
The challenge facing the 21st Century is the solution of the problem of the colour line!
As the leaders of the African peoples and the peoples of African origin met in London a century ago, the peoples they represented, except those in the Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti and the United States, were still in bondage.
The freedom of the slaves of the American South was less than four decades old and was, in any case, severely compromised by continuing racial discrimination and oppression throughout the United States.
A century later, the political circumstances of the black people have changed radically. After major struggles everywhere, political liberation has been achieved.
Where she was colonised and oppressed in 1900, Africa in 2000 is free.
And yet the problem of the colour line, loudly and correctly proclaimed in 1900, has not been resolved!
The complete emancipation of the peoples of Africa -
the heart of the problem of the colour line - has not yet been achieved.
Your organisation, the African National Congress, whose 88th anniversary we celebrate today, is one of the premier movements for national liberation on our Continent.
Throughout the years of its existence, it has held high the banner in our own country for the resolution of the problem of the colour line.
For decades, it has held in its hands the hopes of millions of Africans inside and outside our country for genuine emancipation.
The question that faces this movement now, as we prepare to define the 21st Century as an African Century, is what it should do to contribute to the realisation of this goal!
But why is it that we say that the complete emancipation of the peoples of Africa has not yet been achieved!
The people of Africa, including our own, continue to be immersed in poverty.
Millions of Africans continue to lose their lives as a result of preventable diseases, including AIDS.
Millions of families cannot feed themselves because they have no jobs, no land they can till and what they produce and sell cannot guarantee them a decent standard of living.
Millions have no possibility to live in conditions of freedom because we continue to allow tyrannical regimes to impose themselves on us, especially those that carry guns.
We have permitted some among us, as during our struggles for liberation, to become part of the problem of the continuing suffering of the masses of our people rather than being part of the solution, thus further complicating our possibility to advance.
Millions cannot live in conditions of safety and security because we give the opportunity to some to impose wars on us, deny us the possibility to solve our problems by peaceful means, and thrive as criminals who murder, rob and rape.
We have allowed big-time robbers to enrich themselves by corrupt means and at the expense of millions of people who were already poor.
We have given space to those who do not care for the fundamental aspirations of the people, to divide the people and divert them from their real and common interests, by driving them to racism, narrow nationalism, tribalism, ethnicity, regionalism and religious fanaticism.
We have accepted the creation of conditions as a result of which some of the best African brains have left our Continent, choosing to settle in countries outside Africa which were already more advanced than we are.
We the Africans, who led the ancient world in science, technology, intellectual activity and the arts, have stood by as the rest of the world moved forward while we regressed towards becoming a historical curiosity.
Whereas as a Continent we gave birth to all humanity, we are today seen as the least advanced of all human societies anywhere in the world.
For a millennium, including the passing century, we have failed to destroy the insulting and criminal prejudice which has described the black human complexion as the very representation of everything that is sub-human within the human race.
We have not yet broken the feeling of defeat, surrender and lack of initiative among some black people, which leads them to believe that, indeed, they are not equal to other people who, though as human as they are, are nevertheless of a different colour.
Much work remains to be done to ensure the emancipation of the women of Africa. We could never say we have realised the objectives of the African Century if we do not achieve this goal, which is a central element of the renewal of our Continent.
We have not won the struggle against racism – a defining element of the problem of the colour line which the 20th Century failed to solve!
Thus does it become necessary and possible for us to say that:
The challenge facing the 21st Century is the solution of the problem of the colour line!
On the occasion of its 88th anniversary, the question we must ask is – what must the ANC do, this historic frontrunner of Africa’s movement for national liberation, to discharge its own obligations to the cause of the complete emancipation of the peoples of Africa, including our own!
We are now in the sixth year of our emancipation from the tyrannical system of apartheid.
During the year of our 87th Anniversary, our Year of Mass Mobilisation for the Renewal of the Democratic Mandate, the masses of our people carried out the principal political task we had set ourselves for that year.
The ANC was returned to power with a decisive majority.
Once more, we salute all members of the ANC, our Alliance, the rest of the democratic movement as well as the millions of our people for helping us to achieve this historic victory.
This success of our democratic movement, following on the strategic advances we made in 1994, created the false impression among some within our movement that the struggle is over.
Accordingly, these began to act as though our only task as a movement was to win elections and to share among the cadres of the movement the benefits of office.
Worse still, some others have used the opportunity to assume public office as an opening for them to acquire wealth for themselves by corrupt means and not as presenting a challenge to them and the movement as a whole to serve the people of South Africa.
Clearly, these are not people we can consider as activists of the transformation of the 21st Century into an African Century.
This year, as a movement, we must therefore take renewed steps to ensure that we rid ourselves of these elements, that weaken our capacity to carry out our mission to continue the struggle for the total emancipation of our people.
We must do this as part of one of our strategic tasks this year – the strengthening of our movement, the ANC, so that it is able to play its proper role as one of the architects of the African Century.
Apart from weeding out the corrupt elements from our ranks, to meet this strategic task, we must also work to achieve two other goals.
One of these is that we must ensure that we rebuild all the structures of our movement, concentrating especially on our branches.
The second of these is that we must implement a vigorous cadre development programme to ensure that we have the necessary number of properly prepared cadres to ensure that the ANC remains the agent of revolutionary change it has always been.
We must also make certain that these cadres, and the movement as a whole, are clear of the tasks that they and the movement have to carry out.
The order of the day must be clearly spelt out and understood by all cadres and activists so that they pursue the set tasks continuously and in all parts of the country.
All this work, further to strengthen our capacity to play our role in pursuit of the African Century, must also include both the Women’s and the Youth Leagues.
This year we must also work hard to strengthen the Alliance, the rest of the democratic movement of our country and radically improve our links with all these important echelons of the broad progressive movement to which we belong.
The second strategic task we have to carry out is to ensure that we strengthen our links with the masses of our people on a sustained and not a sporadic basis.
This will enable us to increase our understanding of the feelings, desires and aspirations of these masses. It will also help us to carry out our leadership role better and in manner that is responsive to the needs of our people.
The realisation of these goals will also enable us to address this year’s third strategic task.
This third strategic task is the task of ensuring that the masses of our people are mobilised to engage in active struggle and do not become passive recipients of the positive results of the process of progressive change.
This must be done in such a way that we realise one of the fundamental goal of our strategy and tactics of ensuring that our process of transformation is people-driven. The masses of our people must continue to be the principal motive force of revolutionary change.
To carry out these second and third tasks requires that as a movement we should ensure that all our members, activists and cadres actively participate in the implementation of our programme of action.
The active and consistent implementation of our programme of action by all members and structures of our movement therefore constitutes the fourth strategic task we must accomplish this year.
That programme of action covers the issues we have mentioned already. These constitute part of the unfinished agenda of the complete emancipation of our people and the sister peoples of the rest of Africa.
Our task is to pursue these matters taking into account the specific circumstances dictated by our own national conditions.
We must ourselves, by our own actions and the results we produce in our own country, contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the African Century.
By this means, we should also win the confidence of the sister peoples of our Continent that we are a serious and reliable partner in the struggle to achieve those objectives.
One of these goals is the further entrenchment of the system of democracy both in our own country and our Continent.
During this year, in particular, this means that we should once again mobilise the masses of our people to participate in the local government elections.
We must work to ensure that the people exercise their right and duty to choose their representatives in this sphere of government, in the same way that they freely chose their provincial and national representatives last year.
As we did last year, we must again work to ensure that the people renew the democratic mandate of our movement by electing our candidates to lead the municipal governments throughout our country.
In this regard, we must make sure that we field candidates who will genuinely represent the interests of the people.
We should no longer allow that our movement is falsely represented by those who only want to use their positions to enrich themselves and others, who once they are elected, never go back to the people to report on their work as councillors.
More broadly, we must also take up the issue of corruption in government and the public sector.
Again we must do this on a sustained basis to ensure that the corruption we inherited from the apartheid system does not become entrenched in our democracy.
In this fight, we must continue to rely on the masses of our people who are our eyes and ears with regard to this scourge which has done so much damage both in our country and the rest of our Continent and slowed down the process towards fundamental social transformation.
Our government is also pursuing anti-poverty programmes focussed on the poorest in our country. These include such areas as welfare disbursements, the school nutrition programme, subsidised housing, programmes funded out of budgeted anti-poverty funds, and so on.
All the structures of the movement, especially those at local and regional levels, have a responsibility to ensure that all these resources actually reach the masses of the people for whom they are intended.
It is therefore critically important that the movement structures we have mentioned should get involved in monitoring the government’s performance in the areas we have mentioned.
We should also assist to ensure that we continue to serve the interests of the millions of our people who continue to suffer from poverty by helping the government to carry out its tasks and not fall into the trap of setting ourselves up merely as vocal critics.
Similarly, our government has put in place programmes and is working on others further to address the important issue of black economic empowerment and the growth and development of our economy.
These include programmes for the development of small and medium business, support for black farmers, affirmative action procurement policies, the critically important area of integrated rural development as well as urban renewal.
All our structures must interest themselves in these programmes to ensure that the financial and other resources that are being directed to our people actually reach them.
In this context, we must also intensify our interaction with the traditional leaders in the rural areas, working with them to ensure that the people in their areas also have the possibility to participate in the processes of socio-economic development to which we are committed.
Once more, one of our aims must be that we assist both the government and the people and not been satisfied merely to be critics of whatever may be wrong.
The development of primary health care has been one of the most important programmes that we have implemented and pursued since we took over government in 1994.
This remains one of the most important pillars in our effort to ensure a better life for the ordinary masses of our people. Once more, the structures of our movement must concern themselves with all matters that relate to this important front of struggle.
This must include the mobilisation of our people properly to respond to the health threats that confront us as a people.
These include the AIDS epidemic which, among other things, requires that we change the habits of our people with regard to issues that relate to sexual behaviour and life style.
We must also take up the matter of accidents and deaths on our roads. Too many of our people are being maimed and killed as a result or reckless driving by many who use our roads.
Clearly, the law will have to be strengthened to deal with the highway killers.
Nevertheless, as a movement, we will also have to do our work, throughout the year, to raise the level of consciousness among all road users about the value of human life and our common responsibility to protect life.
As a movement we must pay very serious attention to the question of education and training. It is clear that our system of education is not producing enough of the human resources we desperately need to ensure that we catch up with the most advanced countries in the world.
We must therefore make our own contribution at all levels of education among other things to encourage a culture of learning, teaching and discipline.
Similarly, we have to increase our interaction especially with the black intelligentsia and professionals to encourage greater involvement on their part in the processes of fundamental social transformation in which we are involved.
We should also reach out to those who live and work outside our country to draw on their expertise.
All this will require that, among other things, we, together with the Leagues, strengthen our organised presence within the educational sector.
Criminals continue to prey on our people and society, among other things raping women and abusing children. We have to wage an all-out struggle against these elements.
Of critical importance, we must educate and mobilise the masses of our people themselves to participate in this offensive in a determined manner.
As the government continues to improve the quality of our law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system as a whole, we must also work to improve the cooperation between the people and the Police Service.
The tasks ahead of us demand that we achieve the greatest possible unity of the masses of our people, inspired by the new patriotism of which we have spoken in the past.
But we also know that there are some both within our movement and in our society generally who work to divide our people through the propagation of racism, tribalism, regionalism and so on.
We must ensure that in our ideological, political and communication work we give no quarter to these elements, which seek to advance their selfish interests by trying to mobilise the people on the basis of reactionary and divisive platforms.
The movement as a whole must also focus on the issue of the struggle for the emancipation of women.
We must ensure that we have specific programmes to ensure the greatest possible involvement of the women themselves in all the processes of social transformation.
The preparations for and the holding of the National Conference of the Women’s League later this year will give us the possibility properly to concentrate on this strategic issue.
It will take our country a long time before it wipes out the apartheid legacy of racism in our country.
More than many other people in the world, we know the destructive impact of the ideology and practice of racism. We know also that many of the racist divisions, imbalances and inequities created by the system of colonialism and apartheid remain with us.
We must therefore continue to intensify the struggle against racism for our evolution into a non-racist society, a central part of the historic mission of the ANC from its foundation.
Among other things, consideration should be given to convening a National Congress Against Racism this year.
This would enable us to have a broad-based programme of action against the cancer of racism as we enter the first year of the African Century.
During this past year we joined the Socialist International, the biggest of all the international
This has strengthened our relations with some of the most progressive political forces both in Africa and the rest of the world.
At the same time, it has increased the challenge we face as a movement ourselves to interact more actively with our African and international partners in the effort to build a more just world order.
During this year, as our fifth strategic task, we will have to respond to this challenge by working for the development of a strong all-Africa movement for the pursuit of the objectives of the African Century.
We will also have to work to develop the broadest possible international understanding and support for these objectives.
At the same time we will have to work to mobilise other sectors of our democratic movement themselves to work with their counterparts in Africa and the rest of the world as part of our country’s united offensive for the rebirth of our country and Africa as a whole.
As we have said before, among other things, we must intensify the struggle to ensure that by the end of the Year 2000, all countries on our Continent are at peace and that none of our countries is ruled by a military regime.
For almost nine decades, the masses of our people have placed their hopes on the ANC to free them from the great suffering imposed on them by the failure finally to resolve the problem of the colour line.
As we are about to commence the African Century, these masses, both black and white, as well as many other people on our Continent and the rest of the world, are confident that we will not fail to discharge our responsibilities in the concerted struggle for Africa’s Renaissance.
We commend the programme of action contained in this ANC Anniversary Statement to all our members, supporters and our people as a whole.
It must constitute our order of the day as we mark the Year 2000 as the Year of the Dawn of the African Century.
The struggle continues! Victory is certain!
Amandla ngawethu! Matla ke a rona! Matimba a hina!