Comrade, friends, fellow South Africans,
The ANC centenary represents a milestone achievement not only for the ANC, but for all liberation movements in the continent and the African peoples in general.
The ANC, which is the oldest liberation movement in the continent, has had 12 Presidents since 1912. They were John Langalibalele Dube from 1912-1917, Sefako Makgatho from 1917 to 1924, ZR Mahabane served his first term from 1924 to 1927, Josiah Gumede from 1927 to 1930, Pixley ka Isaka Seme from 1930 to 1936; ZR Mahabane`s second term from 1937 to 1940, AB Xuma from 1940 to 1949, James Moroka from 1949 to 1952, Albert Luthuli from 1952 to 1967, Oliver Reginald Tambo from 1967 to 1991, Nelson Mandela from 1991 to 1997, Thabo Mbeki from 1997 to 2007 and Jacob Zuma from 2007.
Today we salute the first executive committee elected in 1912, which consisted of the Reverend John Dube as President, Solomon Plaatje as Secretary, Pixley ka Isaka Seme as Treasurer, Thomas Mapikela as Speaker and Mr Montsioa as Recording Secretary.
This indicates the seriousness with which they view the ANC and also the values that bind us as Africans. The national liberation struggles were fought to achieve an Africa in which people were free from colonialism, racism, paternalism, patriarchy, poverty and all forms of social and political ills.
Given our common history as a people that were oppressed, we share the belief in democracy, justice, human rights and all freedoms that a free people should enjoy. Most importantly we share the passion for achieving the unity of the African continent. The ANC has worked for the unity of the continent for many decades. As early as in 1892, in his public lecture entitled "Upon my Native Land", the founding President, John Langalibalele Dube, called for African unity and a spiritual, humane, caring and prosperous Africa.
Former President Sefako Makgatho, outlined the African agenda of the ANC as early as 1919: "The ANC aims to unite Africans, not just in South Africa but also in Lesotho, Botswana Swaziland in particular to spearhead a common struggle for freedom".
As Africans we share the quest for prosperity and a better life for all the African peoples, a passion the ANC has had for almost a century now. In his timeless essay, the Regeneration of Africa, published in April 1906, former ANC Treasurer-General and former President Pixley ka Isaka Seme celebrates his African-ness and espouses the virtues of the African continent. He declared boldly: "I am an African, and I set my pride in my race over against a hostile public opinion". He also predicted African development and prosperity, and stated:
"The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities. "Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce, her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons employed in advancing the victories of peace, greater and more abiding than the spoils of war. Yes, the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period"!
We also share the belief in the power that comes from solidarity amongst the oppressed and a people striving to achieve any goal. As South Africans we were the beneficiaries of solidarity over many decades from our brothers and sisters in the continent and beyond. The longest serving ANC President, Comrade Oliver Tambo emphasized international solidarity, and laid the foundation for the post-apartheid South African foreign policy. We remember his words at the Congress of the Angolan ruling party, the MPLA in Luanda in 1977, when he said: "We seek to live in peace with our neighbours and the peoples of the world in conditions of equality, mutual respect and equal advantage".
As Africans and former liberation movements we also share the experience of having leaders who have always been willing to sacrifice everything to ensure the achievement of freedom. We recall President Mandela`s profound words from the dock during the Rivonia Treason Trial, on 20 April 1964 in court when he said:
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die".
Today we also celebrate many outstanding leaders in the continent. We were inspired by Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Sellasie, Jomo Kenyatta, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Samora Machel, Agostinho Neto, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Amilcar Cabral, Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, and many others. We continue to draw inspiration from their selflessness, commitment and dedication to this continent and its people.
Indeed the continent has a bright future. Let us draw inspiration from former President-General Albert Luthuli, who foresaw this as early as 1961, when he said:
"Africa is a vital subject matter in the world of today, a focal point of world interest and concern. Could it not be that history has delayed her rebirth for a purpose? The situation confronts her with inescapable challenges, but more importantly with opportunities for service to herself and mankind.
She evades the challenges and neglects the opportunities to her shame, if not her doom. How she sees her destiny is a more vital and rewarding quest than bemoaning her past with its humiliations and sufferings".
Thank you for joining us in this special occasion. We look forward to a successful centenary. Let us draw lessons that will take this continent forward to one that is free from poverty and wars and in which every woman, man and child lives in freedom, dignity and prosperity.
I thank you.
Comrade Jacob Zuma
President of the ANC