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Statement of the National Executive Committee on the occasion of the 84th Anniversary of the ANC

8 January 1996

Compatriots,

Once more January 8th is upon us, enjoining us, this year, to mark the 84th anniversary of the organisation of the people, the African National Congress.

This, our second year of democratic rule, will also feature a number of other anniversaries. These dates are not mere landmarks in our glorious history of struggle. They are an important part of the unbroken thread of our struggle for the true liberation of our people which must continue and intensify.

I refer here to:

  • the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the South African Communist Party, which was established in 1921;

  • the 50th anniversary of the great mine workers strike of 1946;

  • the 50th anniversary of the historic Passive Resistance Campaign waged by the Indian people in 1946;

  • the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter by the ANC at its conference of 1956;

  • the 40th anniversary of the historic Women's March on Pretoria of 1956;

  • the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the peasant revolts in Zeerust in 1956 which later spread to other areas such as Sekhukhuneland, Zululand and Pondoland;

  • the 35th anniversary of the establishment in 1961 of the people's army, Umkhonto we Sizwe; and,

  • the 20th anniversary of the epoch-making Soweto Uprising of 1976.

We will mark these anniversaries during the 84th year of the ANC as an affirmation of our unwavering commitment to the fundamental transformation of our country and the continuing mobilisation of all sectors of our population to persist in their inalienable role as their own liberators.

Setting the agenda

As invariably happens when the time comes to gather the harvest, many have appeared in our midst who claim that they, and not the millions who sustained the struggle for many decades under the leadership of the ANC, are the ones who planted the seed and tended the tree of freedom.

Among these are those who, for decades, opposed all the forms of mass struggle to which we were obliged to resort. They were pleased to find excuses for the forces of repression when they responded to peaceful struggle with the gun, the sjambok and handcuffs.

These are the elements who denounced us when we called on the world to outlaw and isolate the inhuman system of apartheid, to say nothing of their outrage when we took up arms to rid our country of the apartheid crime against humanity.

They comforted themselves that all manner of atrocities against the democratic movement were permissible as long as they could sustain a propaganda campaign which sought to label us as communists, terrorists and agents of foreign powers.

They pontificated that "no black person was capable of successfully governing a country as sophisticated as South Africa is". In triumph they said - look at the rest of Africa. To this day, many have not abandoned these deep-seated and insulting attitudes.

These include our erstwhile oppressors who, today, cynically portray themselves as the forces which brought down apartheid and as the champions of democracy, justice and the socio-economic aspirations of the poor.

Even now, these new-found fighters against apartheid feel no sense of shame whatsoever when they blame the terrible human and social tragedy we have inherited from our apartheid past, on the victims of white minority domination, and those who fought to free our country from this colonial heritage.

This posturing by our political opponents derives neither from mere vanity nor from ignorance of the history of our country and struggle.

It reflects a struggle which intensifies with each passing day, to define the agenda of the democratic order. It represents a determined effort to determine for our country and people the content, the form and the pace of the transformation process, post-apartheid.

Simply put, among the critical questions we must answer practically, are-what is fundamental change, and who shall set the agenda for that change!

Confronting the apartheid heritage

We have inherited a society characterised by a juxtaposition of both major negative features and important positive factors. It is necessary that at all times we understand these as well as their interaction.

Millions of our people are victims of abject poverty. The overwhelming majority among these are black. Their life condition is described by joblessness, homelessness, landlessness and no access to education, health and opportunities for self-advancement.

Within the black communities, among the worst affected by this human degradation are the women, the youth, disabled people, the elderly as well as the millions of our rural masses.

This situation will not correct itself. Both the public and the private sectors will have to make their contribution to expedite the process of tangible and sustained progress away from this unacceptable situation.

The distribution of wealth, income and opportunity in our society continues to be determined in terms of race and colour, a situation that will perpetuate itself if we do not elaborate policies and implement programmes to end this continued entrenchment of racism.

Our society is also victim to unacceptably high levels of crime. This, too, is part of our heritage from the past and is driven by a variety of causes.

One of these, and the most obvious, is precisely the joblessness and lack of opportunity which is the lot of millions of our people. Progress in these areas therefore lies at the heart of our future success in the fight against crime.

The thousands of our honest policemen and women have continued to carry out their work with great dedication and a spirit of self-sacrifice. They themselves have recognised the need to empower them by further training to raise their levels of proficiency and professionalism.

Work in this regard has started and must continue so that we further improve the quality of our policing and law enforcement.

At the same time, it is clear that we need to increase the strength of the police service, better its working conditions, improve its logistical base as well as continue to attend to the critical matter of ensuring good relations between the police and the communities they serve.

Of great importance also is the need to reassert the primacy of social morality among our people as a whole.

A new patriotism

This must form part of a new patriotism which should inspire and motivate the majority of our people to unite around a common perspective, whose vibrant core must be the building of a new and winning nation.

The illegitimacy of the apartheid system and the lawlessness and moral bankruptcy of white minority rule has created for us a crisis of ethics.

The erstwhile ruling group has infused our society with a culture of rapacity which is informed by the heartless concept of each one for himself or herself and the devil take the hindmost.

Out of this terrible world, which feeds and nurtures criminal behaviour, have emerged, ugly and venomous:

  • scant respect for human life and the dignity of the individual;

  • pervasive corruption affecting both the mighty and the lowly;

  • disdain for the right of the citizen to hold their possessions in conditions of security;

  • terror against those who are weak and vulnerable, including women and children; as well as,

  • disregard for the norms that make for a just, equitable and stable civil order, including the obligations of the individual with respect to public property and public revenues.

Progress in the reconstruction and development of our country can thus not be measured solely in terms of the volume of material benefits that accrue to the citizen, but must be judged also by the overall quality of life enjoyed by the citizenry, as well as the health of society as a whole.

These are matters we must address in open debate. As we strive to root out the rot, we must draw on a tradition and a human instinct which is by no means extinct, the ethical tapestry described as ubuntu.

National Reconciliation

The task of healing the wounds of the past is not yet accomplished. The challenge of national reconciliation remains firmly on our agenda.

Much still remains to be done to build a common sense of nationhood, in which none should define their destiny in racial or ethnic terms, separate from and in conflict with the destiny of our nation as a whole.

It is in this context that we must continue the struggle to give life to what we said in the Freedom Charter - that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people as a whole.

But the national reconciliation for which we continue to struggle cannot be founded on the preservation and perpetuation of the old order of white privilege and black deprivation.

True reconciliation does not consist in merely forgetting the past. It does not rest with black forgiveness, sensitivity to white fears and tolerance of an unjust status quo, on one hand, and white gratitude and appreciation underlined by a tenacious clinging to exclusive privilege, on the other.

Fundamentally, it has to be based on the creation of a truly democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society so that everything that leads to racial and ethnic tension and conflict in our society is done away with.

A serious challenge therefore faces especially our white compatriots to grasp fully the importance of their role in the efforts to achieve national reconciliation. Together with them, we must answer the question - what is it that they must do to make a meaningful contribution to this vital national objective.

Entrenching democracy

It is also vitally important that we continue the struggle to ensure that the machinery of state and the assets which the state disposes of, are properly geared to serve the interests of the people as a whole.

That state machinery and resource base cannot truly serve the cause of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist order unless they undergo a process of transformation, whose content clearly cannot be defined by those who were the principle beneficiaries of the old order.

Fundamental though this is, it is not sufficient that we have elected organs of government which are accountable to the people. It is also critically important that the instruments of governance be structured and motivated to fulfil the democratically expressed will of the people.

Here is yet another theatre of struggle in which we will have to overcome the resistance of those who wish to cling to the benefits and the practices of apartheid.

Such resistance has to be overcome because it seeks to perpetuate the system of ill-gotten gains which derived from the pursuit of the objectives of the exclusive upliftment of the white section of our population and the entrenchment of the apartheid system, including its bantustan offshoots.

Similarly, we must ensure that all our elected representatives, at national, provincial and local levels, themselves discharge their responsibilities to the people in an efficient, effective and honest manner.

Thus we need to empower them with the skills and resources to ensure that they accomplish this objective. There can be no gainsaying the fact that on these, who constitute an important layer of leadership in our country, rests, in good measure, the responsibility to inspire the people, provide them with a vision and ensure that their hopes and aspirations are adequately addressed.

Yet another challenge ahead of us is the completion of the process of constitution-making, as part of our effort further to entrench democracy in our country.

Of critical importance in this regard is the need to ensure that this fundamental law is fully expressive of various tenets, including:

  • the concept and practice of democratic majority rule;

  • protection of human rights;

  • protection of language, cultural and other rights of all national groups;

  • the unity of our country while recognising its diversity;

  • a proper distribution of power between the various tiers of government without this leading to fragmentation;

  • the empowerment of civil society to participate in the process of governance; as well as,

  • efficient, open and accountable government.

It is also important that we complete the new constitution within the period we set ourselves so that, as soon as possible, the country has a clear vision of the constitutional framework within which it will function.

Our international obligations

If for no other reason, as a result of the history of our liberation struggle, we know very well that we are part of a wider world. In the sphere of international activity our tasks are many, varied and interdependent.

A stable peace in our country is not possible without peace outside our borders. Our prosperity is not possible in a world afflicted by poverty and economic depression.

Our own freedom as a people is diminished when another people are not free.

Thus we have a continuing responsibility to make whatever contribution we can to the struggle for the birth of the new world order that is spoken of, so that the peoples of the world, including ourselves, live in conditions of democracy, peace, prosperity and equality among nations.

In pursuing these objectives, we must be careful to avoid great power arrogance and conferring on ourselves a misplaced messianic role. As a liberation movement we have always insisted on our own right to determine our future.

When we act in solidarity with other peoples, as we will continue to do, we must bear these principles in mind, consistently acting in a manner that takes into account all factors and not merely what may seem fashionable on a particular day.

Such are some of the principal items that we, as the leading political representative of the people of our country, must, in practical ways, put on the South African agenda.

Out of this perspective must derive a programme of transformation which recognises both the urgent need to address all these issues and the resource constraints which might limit our capacity to realise the objectives we set ourselves.

The order of the day

In this context, let us therefore indicate some of the specific tasks we must aim to achieve during this, the 84th anniversary of our movement.

We have already dealt with the issue of the completion of the Constitution. It will therefore be the responsibility of the relevant organs of our movement to make certain that they position themselves in a manner which will ensure that our objectives with regard to the new Constitution are realised.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate our call to the IFP to return to the Constitutional Assembly, unconditionally. We must emphasise the point that the CA is a democratically elected body, mandated by the people to draft and adopt a new constitution.

The CA is therefore the only route available to all the political formations in our country, without exception, and to our people in general, to advance their constitutional objectives and to contribute to the constitutional future of our country.

Furthermore, we want to advise the traditional leaders in our country to abandon the illusion that there can ever emerge a constitutional settlement which grants them powers that would compromise the fundamental objective of a genuine democracy in which the legislature and the executive at all levels are made up essentially of elected representatives.

We believe that the present constitution has adequate provisions to address the question of the role of traditional leaders. We accept that these provisions should be carried over into the new constitution.

Those who entertain the idea of the establishment of regions based on race or ethnicity should also reconsider their position. The protection of the cultural, language and other rights of all our national groups is fundamental to our own perspective.

We need to sit down to discuss and agree on how the exercise of these rights can be ensured and protected from being undermined by any arbitrary actions of the government of the day.

The idea that the future of any national group would best be secured by the establishment of an ethnic state ignores the fact that it was precisely this apartheid "solution" that led to the conflict which the democratic settlement seeks to end.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has now been established. It will be important that the Commission strives to complete its work as speedily as possible, without sacrificing the objective of establishing the truth about gross human rights violations of the past.

As a movement we are committed to contributing what we can to ensure that the Commission also achieves its goals both of exposing the truth so that such human rights violations do not recur and contributing to the process of reconciliation among the forces engaged in a life-and-death struggle, the one to defend the system of apartheid and the other, to secure our national liberation.

Vengeance is not our goal. The building of a new nation at peace with itself because it is reconciled with its past, is our objective. Let us all therefore tell the truth that has to be told, and thus become architects of the new order of respect for the life, the dignity and the rights of every citizen.

The third important political challenge we face this year is to secure a decisive victory for the genuinely democratic forces in the Local Government elections that will be held in KwaZulu/Natal and the Cape Town metropole, in the same way we did in the national, provincial and local elections.

This victory, for which we must work very hard, will be vital in terms of the rejection by all our people of the ethnic and racial agendas which some political forces in our country continue to pursue, a further impulse towards the creation of a non-racial society.

It will also serve as an affirmation of the commitment of these masses to the vision we have put forward, of the fundamental reconstruction and development of our country in the interest of all its people and of ensuring that power truly resides in the hands of the people.

As a movement, we commit ourselves to continue to conduct our election campaign as we have done before, without resort to violence and intimidation. We call on other parties thus to commit themselves as we do, in both word and deed.

Furthermore, we must ensure that the people themselves take up the struggle for an end to violence and the creation of a climate conducive to free political activity, especially in KwaZulu/Natal.

For its part, the government will have to discharge its responsibility to ensure that the forthcoming local government elections are conducted in conditions of peace and stability, so that they are indeed free and fair.

Government will also have to take additional steps further to expedite economic growth and development, among other things to address the challenge to create new jobs and new wealth that would improve the standard of living and the quality of life of our people.

In this regard, we, together with our allies and the rest of the democratic movement, must continue to grapple with the issues of the restructuring of state assets, the reorganisation of the public service and the redirection of public expenditure to focus on the development needs of our country and people, while maintaining the necessary fiscal discipline.

Our approach to all these matters will continue to be informed by our pursuit of the objectives contained in the Reconstruction and Development Programme. About this there can be no equivocation.

Our approach will also continue to be informed by the reality that that programme, and life itself, demand that we do indeed change what we have inherited from the apartheid system to serve the interests of the people as a whole.

It cannot be in the interest of the democratic movement or consistent with the new South Africa that we are struggling to create, for us to be satisfied merely to tinker with the apartheid heritage rather than boldly to restructure it in a manner consistent with serving the objective of a better life for all.

The democratic movement must engage all these matters expeditiously. We must ensure that we act as a united force on these issues which stand at the centre of the battle for the modernisation and restructuring of the South African economy and decisively improving the delivery of affordable services to the people.

This year new steps will also have to be taken to improve the rate of investment in the social infrastructure, including housing, communication, education, health, water and sanitation.

In this regard, all structures of our movement should gear themselves to assist in these development processes especially in the context of the Masakhane Campaign.

We must spread the understanding among the people that they themselves are vital participants in development and not mere recipients of goods and services from state organs from which they are alienated.

In as much as the people took many initiatives directly to participate in the struggle for their own liberation, so must they now again take the initiative as the owners and activists of the process of reconstruction and development.

The Masakhane Campaign, conducted at the grassroot level, must therefore aim to encourage and secure this popular participation in development. As part of this process, our formations must then also link up and work with the democratically elected structures and representatives at the local government level.

As part of our offensive to ensure popular participation in development, it is also important that we continue to secure the involvement of community-based and non-governmental organisations.

We ourselves must work with these organisations, provided they are genuinely committed to the promotion of the objectives stated in the national vision of reconstruction and development and, in practice, carry out programmes which actually help to empower the people and improve their lives.

Similarly, as a movement, we must seriously take on board the challenge of opening up the economy to allow for entry into the economy both of small and medium business, especially black business, as well as international investors.

This is critical to the objective of achieving modernisation and expansion of the economy, international competitiveness and job creation.

Among other things, this will require the strengthening of anti-monopoly and anti-trust legislation and measures as well as practical steps to facilitate the growth of micro, small and medium business.

In this regard we must expect that vested interests will wage an ideological struggle intended to protect the status quo by arguing that these matters should be left to the "market", with minimal state intervention.

The reality however is that this market, left to its own devices, can only work in a manner that further perpetuates the structural problems that limit growth, equity, innovation, diversification and competitiveness.

On the broader social plane, we must activate all our structures to join in the crusade against crime in all its forms, focusing on the concept of "the people united against crime and violence".

In particular, we must ensure that all communities are mobilised to join hands with the police service in their difficult fight against crime while our own structures, from the branch upwards, make this a permanent feature on their agenda.

In the same way as we brought an end to the apartheid crime against humanity in struggle, so must we, through united struggle, clear our society of the criminals who, among other things, continue to terrorise all our people and rob the state of its much needed revenues.

There are elements within our society who have not yet come to terms with the permanence of the democratic settlement and that the black majority will, together with its white compatriots, participate in the democratic process of determining the destiny of our country.

These forces continue to hope for a situation in which the most backward political forces in our country would regain the positions they have lost.

To achieve this goal, they are prepared to use all means at their disposal including murder, subversion and disinformation. Indeed we must expect that as the process of transformation deepens so will their resistance get more desperate.

Their principal objective is to weaken and destroy the ANC in particular and the democratic movement in general, at all costs, and to turn the people against our movement.

They also aim to create as many obstacles as they can to ensure that the new government is not able to effect the social and other changes to which it is committed.

This situation calls for maximum vigilance throughout our ranks, in defence both of the principled unity of the movement and its organised capacity to discharge its responsibilities to the nation.

It also demands of our members that they act in a disciplined manner, loyal to the constitution and the policies of our organisation.

This we must inscribe on our banners that through vigilance and discipline we will defeat the forces of counter-revolution!

Mobilise the people

The practical programmes we have to carry out this year emphasise the importance of the mobilisation of our people to continue the struggle for democracy, peace and development.

In this regard, we must educate the people to treat the state as their own, an instrument in their hands in the common effort to achieve a better life for all on a sustainable basis.

We must discourage the notion that the state is a social organism from which the people are necessarily alienated and towards which they stand in political opposition or from which they passively wait for entitlements.

We must not underestimate the challenges that face us in effecting the transition from a resistance movement to the leader of a complex process of the fundamental transformation of our country.

History has now charged us with the responsibility of pursuing the democratic revolution in conditions where much of political power is in the hands of the people.

This transition will not occur merely as a result of its better theoretical understanding on the part of both our movement and people.

Above all, it is practice that will teach the people how to take their destiny into their own hands in the new conditions, how to use the power in their hands not as a protest movement, but as organised and conscious fighters for the transformation of our society.

It is for this reason that we have a responsibility to mobilise our people in all their sectors to ensure their engagement in the continuing struggle for democracy, peace and development, with each sector having tasks that relate to its specific situation while being an integral part of our overall programme for transformation.

Strengthen the movement

Everything we have said points to the critical importance of ensuring that our movement as a whole is clear in its objectives, understands and adheres to our strategy and tactics and relentlessly pursues the immediate tasks of our democratic revolution.

This emphasises the urgency of carrying out consistent political work throughout the movement, of developing our cadres and of ensuring that we have the organisational capacity to do this work.

It also speaks to the need to ensure that we actually have a strong organisation, rooted among the people and capable of reaching all parts of our country and all sections of our population.

We will therefore have to take all necessary steps to bring to an end the organisational instability that inevitably resulted from the deployment of many of our leading cadres in various areas of government.

The work to strengthen our organisational structures must take pride of place.

As part of the work, we must attend to the further expansion of our membership.

We must ensure the proper functioning of all our structures.

We must further strengthen the unity of the movement around our strategy, our tactics, policies and programmes.

We must work to ensure the cohesion of the tripartite alliance and the rest of the democratic movement.

In terms both of policy and practical work, we must ensure that the movement continues to provide leadership to all our members, regardless of where they are deployed.

All structures and individuals, from the branch upwards, must be clear about their tasks and be held responsible actually to carry out these tasks.

It is only in this way that we can ensure our cohesion and guarantee ourselves the capacity to lead our country as a whole, fully conscious of the fact that outside of the democratic movement, no other force exists in our country which can carry through a genuinely people-centred programme of fundamental transformation.

Strengthen the leagues

The Youth and Women's Leagues are important formations which are vital to the success of our work. Our movement has the responsibility to help strengthen the Leagues. This process must also ensure that they achieve better success in reaching all the national groups in our country, in their continuing effort to become truly non-racial in their composition.

The empowerment and development of the youth is central to the whole process of the upliftment of our people and renewal of our society. The youth themselves continue to be a vital player among the forces engaged in the struggle for the fundamental transformation of our country.

It is in this context that the Youth League is, once again, called upon to play a pioneering role in terms of helping to engage the youth in the new tasks which arise as a result of the defeat of the system of apartheid.

We can justly be proud of the constitutional and political framework we have already established to address the fundamental question of the emancipation of women. We must continue to place this strategic objective at the centre of the struggle to create a new society.

In this regard, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the women of our country for the excellent contribution they made towards the success of the 4th UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing and urge our government and country as a whole to implement the decisions taken at the Conference.

Central to our success in this regard and to the global objective of the emancipation and empowerment of women, is a strong Women's League, united around a clear vision of its responsibilities and enjoying the support and confidence of the women of our country.

We must do everything necessary to enable the Women's League to regain this position.

Unite for democracy, peace and development

Almost two years ago, the heroic struggle the people had waged for decades, under the leadership of the ANC, brought us to the point where a government chosen by all our people could take power.

Twice, within a period of 18 months, the people expressed their confidence in the ANC as the genuine representative of their aspirations.

Thus we can say that during this period, regardless of what detractors say, we have not failed the people. A good beginning has been made!

There are many examples we can cite in this regard, ranging from the steady recovery of the economy, the continuous decline of political violence in all parts of the country, except KwaZulu/Natal to the strengthening of the institutional base of our democracy.

Among others, they also include the adoption of new legislation which seeks to transform our country into a truly non-racial and non-sexist democracy as well as the important beginning that has been made to meet the needs of the people in such areas as health and nutrition. access to land, clean water, jobs and housing.

And yet there have been persistent attempts to project a fictional mass disillusionment among the people, based on the misrepresentation of their capacity to understand the difficult situation we have inherited.

However, the masses of our people have, in fact, continued to demonstrate that they clearly realise that what faces us is a protracted struggle for transformation that will be won through dogged persistence rather than seemingly spectacular but short-lived quick solutions.

As we mobilise the people to achieve new advances this year, we must rely both on the loyalty of these masses and, inspired by the confidence of the people in our movement, apply ourselves to our tasks tirelessly, to expedite the process of addressing their aspirations and their urgent needs.

During this, the 84th year of the movement of the people, the ANC, let us further enhance the strength of our movement, clearly understand our goals and mobilise the people to achieve new victories in the continuing struggle for democracy, peace and development.