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Statement of the National Executive Committee on the occasion of the 86th Anniversary of the ANC

8 January, 1998

Compatriots:

Today we mark the 86th anniversary of the people's organisation, the African National Congress. As in previous years, we take advantage of this important day in our country's political calendar to extend our greetings to you all and to wish you further successes in our continuing struggle for total liberation.

During this past 85th Year of the ANC, we made further progress towards the achievement of the goal from which we will never depart - the building of a better life for all, in a people-centred society. We are proud that our organisation, in all its elements, did what it could to take our country forward along this road.

As a result of our unwavering commitment to this goal, more of our people have houses this January 8th than did last January 8th. Greater numbers of people have the benefit of clean water and modern sanitation.

Larger numbers of people have access to health care. More children have entered the school system with many of these studying in newly-constructed classrooms. Many homes, in both rural and urban areas, have been electrified. More of our people have gained access to land.

New roads have been built and old ones improved. For the first time, many people have access to telephones. Progress has been made in changing the leadership of the public service to make it more racially and gender representative.

More black people have entered the economy as more than just workers and consumers, signifying progress, however limited, towards the deracialisation of our economy.

Through their intervention in the decision-making processes at all levels of government, greater numbers of people have participated in our country's system of governance, contributing to the achievement of our goal of ensuring a people-driven process of transformation.

Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a significant amount of truth has been shed on the gross human rights violations of the apartheid regime.

As a result of this, many among us got to know about what had happened to our relatives, friends and comrades, some of whom has disappeared without trace.

Accordingly, families and our movement itself, were able, finally, properly to lay to rest some of the heroes and heroines who perished in the struggle for the freedom we enjoy today.

The country, and indeed the peoples of the world, got a better insight, however slight, into some of the depravity into which the apartheid system had sunk as it tried desperately to save itself from defeat.

We can report on many other advances that we have achieved during the Year of the 85th Anniversary of our movement, the ANC. Only those who are afraid of the truth and are driven by narrow and hostile partisan interests will deny the fact that we have moved forward towards the better life which is due to all our people.

But this past year has also confirmed what our movement has said to the country for some time.

This is that democratic South Africa has inherited a social and economic situation which makes it inevitable that it will require a fairly considerable period of time for all of us to achieve the objective of a better life for all, to which we are committed.

The multi-faceted challenge posed by this apartheid heritage was demonstrated vividly as we brought the past year to a close.

As a result of the historical erosion of the sense of community, many people continued to behave irresponsibly on our roads, resulting in unnecessary death and injury to thousands of our citizens.

Many among our youth could not secure their matriculation exemptions, precisely because our educational system still carries within it pupils and teachers who have still not overcome the dismal effect of apartheid education.

Even the escape from prisons and police stations of both convicted prisoners and those awaiting trial emphasised the work that still has to be done to clean up and strengthen our criminal justice system, so that it acts in a manner consistent with the demands of our democratic system.

We can also say the same thing about the achievements during the Year of our 85th Anniversary which we have already mentioned. In all these areas, we did not record as much progress as we would have wished.

This was not as a result of a lack of will. It was a direct consequence of the fact that we have to wage a determined struggle to overcome the terrible legacy of the apartheid system, which in millions of ways, continues to define the nature of our society.

We must also make the point that the clearer and more measurable the impact of this legacy becomes, the more determined becomes the offensive of the architects and beneficiaries of the apartheid system to convince the country that this legacy does not exist.

Rather, and in an effort to restore themselves to positions of political power, they argue that the problems the new South Africa has to grapple with, are the creation of the democratic order and therefore represent the failure of democracy.

As part of our own rejection of this grandiose myth, we must not allow ourselves to abandon the correct point of view which, up to now, we have upheld without hesitation, that the new society we all seek cannot be built overnight.

The damage done during a period covering three centuries cannot be undone in three years.

Those who are contemptuous of our level of intelligence have tried to push us to demand of our popularly elected government that everything we wish for should be accomplished in one day.

By our refusal to act like children who, out of innocence, will allow themselves to be led by those who, only yesterday, oppressed us, we must continue to treat with the necessary sense of responsibility the fact that our victory, obtained through struggle, has given us the possibility and obligation to determine our own destiny.

Neither should we allow those who visited the misery of the apartheid system on our country and people get away with the false propaganda which is directed at seeking to absolve the perpetrators of a crime against humanity from the terrible and lasting harm they wrought on our country and beyond.

Indeed, by their behaviour, these are leaving us, who have sought to forgive, with no choice but justifiably to proclaim as loudly as we can - we accuse!

The progress we have made during the 85th Year of the ANC with regard to policy formation and the passage of the necessary legislation, has underlined the reality that the future of our country is in the hands of the people.

Building on the previous two years of democratic rule, during this past year we put in place many policy positions which define the kind of democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society we are struggling to create.

These related to many aspects of our national life, including such areas as health, education, housing, welfare, the economy, the budget, the public service, safety and security, local government, industrial relations, foreign affairs, agriculture and land affairs, arts and culture and intergovernmental relations.

Progress in this area of policy formation, and the attendant legislation, constitutes one of the major achievements of the democratic revolution. It is through this process that we lay the legal and realisable base for the actualisation of the perspectives spelt out in both the Freedom Charter and the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Compatriots:

As we begin the 86th Year of the ANC and prepare for the fifth year of democratic rule, we must return to a noble concept which inspired us in our millions successfully to confront the armed and brutal might of the apartheid system.

We refer to the idea fundamental to the success of the democratic revolution that the people are their own liberators!

Once again, we must state the mobilising truth that you, the people, have the responsibility to bring about the reconstruction and development of our country.

The question that has faced us since we secured our common victory over the system of white minority rule is - what ways and means should we use to ensure that the people themselves engage directly in the struggle to create the new South Africa!

The progress we have made as a revolutionary movement to lay down the policy base for the transformation of our country not only constitutes one of our major successes over the last three years, but also gives us the possibility to ensure that you, the people as a whole, participate in the struggle for the implementation of these policy positions.

What we are speaking of, therefore, is the imperative for popular participation to ensure the consolidation of people's power!

The question that must be answered is what needs to be done to achieve these objectives of both popular participation and the consolidation of people's power!

To advance the objective of progressing towards a better life for all our people, we must dedicate this 86th Year of the ANC to the mobilisation of our country as a whole to struggle for the accomplishment of this objective, against any notion that change must come solely from government initiatives, with you, the masses of the people, standing and waiting for the government to "deliver".

We will be greatly assisted in our effort to achieve this objective by the decisions taken at, and the impact of the highly successful 50th National Conference of the ANC which, as you know, was held as we brought the 85th Year of the ANC to a close.

This historic conference, during which the generation of the Mandela's, the Sisulu's and the Mbeki's passed on the baton of leadership to a younger generation, adapted resolutions on all major issues facing our country.

It is one of our responsibilities to communicate these decisions to the country as soon as possible and to mobilise for their support, to encourage a properly focused and people-driven process of change.

The critical point we are making is that we have made great progress with regard to the formulation of policy. This is what will guide us as we continue the struggle for the reconstruction and development of our country. Of decisive importance in this regard is the fact that we have reached the point where we must engage in a determined effort to involve all our people in the implementation of these policies.

The historic challenge of the fundamental transformation of our society requires an enormous effort of popular mobilisation which should even surpass what we achieved during the struggle to end the system of white minority rule.

We should aim to ensure that every citizen becomes a patriot and that every patriot should be engaged in the struggle for social transformation. Only in this way will we be able to carry out our historic responsibility of speedily wiping out the apartheid legacy and bringing about the changes which all of us yearn for.

This gigantic task of sustained mobilisation will pose a special challenge to all the structures of our organisation, from the branch upwards, to be in dynamic contact with the masses of the people on a daily basis. These structures must live up to the slogan - the ANC leads! and actually take the lead in initiating all the campaigns we address in this Statement.

A special responsibility will also fall on the shoulders of the thousands of our elected representatives who serve in all three tiers of government, themselves to be in the forefront of the struggle to draw these masses into action.

Informed by our policy positions, the structures of our organisation, including the Leagues, must ensure that they communicate these positions to the people and mobilise them to participate in the process of changing their lives for the better.

Accordingly, as was clearly spelt out at our 50th National Conference, membership of the ANC should not merely consist in carrying a membership card. Principally, membership of the organisation should mean actual involvement in a programme of action to ensure that the masses of the people themselves continue to be their own liberators.

This challenge also faces our allies, who must also play a central role in the offensive for popular mobilisation for change. It encompasses the organisations of the mass democratic movement as well, which must bring their weight to bear in the continuing struggle to activate the people for fundamental change.

Furthermore, we must draw into this sustained campaign all other social formations and individuals who are inspired by the common objective of the transformation of our society so that it provides a better life for all.

We will now mention some of the issues around which we should activate the people for fundamental change, without aiming to produce an exhaustive list.

Clearly, one of these is the issue of corruption and crime. Central to our success in the area will be the restoration to our society of a value system informed by the concept of a good quality of life for all our communities and all citizens.

This cannot be achieved while we are confronted by the high crime rate to which our country has been victim for many years. It cannot be achieved while some people continue steal public resources through corrupt practices, including tax evasion.

It cannot be realised while some functionaries within the state administration, including the criminal justice system, are themselves involved in crime or the facilitation of such crime.

Similarly, we cannot say we have attained this good quality of life for all our communities and citizens if we continue to permit the perpetration of crimes against women and children and turn a blind eye to the practice of resort to violence against persons, which, in many instances, results in death.

To address these and other related matters, we must mobilise in our localities and where we work against corruption and crime, cooperating fully with the state law enforcement agencies. Not only must we work to ensure that the people do not do crime. We must also strive to ensure that the people do not tolerate crime.

This will necessitate that in all localities throughout the country, the progressive movement engages the people, including such formations as the religious institutions, cultural and sports organisations and community-based organisations as well as individuals of influence, in a common offensive against crime and corruption.

We must also carry this offensive into our places of work to ensure that we give no quarter to those who are actively undermining the democratic revolution by imposing crime and corruption on our society.

In this regard, a special responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the progressive trade union movement to be the people's guardians against crime and corruption at the workplace.

For example, the public sector unions will have to engage in a sustained campaign to root out corruption in the police service, the prisons, the judiciary and the rest of the civil service, helping, among others, to weed out ghost workers and ghost pensioners and to end theft and wastage of public resources.

Similarly, we have to mobilise the people to participate in the campaign that was launched last year to restore the culture of learning and teaching as well as discipline without our educational institutions.

Among other things, this will require that we mobilise the parents to be involved especially in ensuring that once again, the children and the youth acquire a culture of learning. It will also necessitate that the student organisations also do their work among their members and constituency to ensure that we achieve this objective.

At the same time, the teachers' organisations will also have to elaborate their own programme of action to ensure that the teachers themselves are disciplined, committed to their work and proud of their profession.

As teachers and students, we cannot continue to lay all the blame for our failures on society while we ignore our own responsibilities to learn and teach.

In this regard, we would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute especially to the teachers, students and parents who come from the disadvantaged areas of our country for the work they did together to produce some of the excellent matriculation results which were achieved in some of the schools based in these areas.

A similar challenge faces the intelligentsia in our institutions of higher learning and the research establishments, itself to see what input it can make into the process of the reconstruction and development of our country, thus to use its considerable brain power to help the country to solve the many problems with which it is confronted.

Some in our country have also demonstrated an important sense of initiative by coming together to save some of their earnings and to participate in the construction of their own homes, thus supplementing the housing subsidy which government provides so that they can acquire more spacious homes than are possible if we rely solely on this subsidy.

We should try to spread such examples throughout the country, again so that the people are not reduced to mere recipients of government grants, but themselves become involved in their own upliftment.

Clearly, we can say the same thing about the Masakhane Campaign which is so critical to the sustained improvement of the quality of life of especially the most disadvantaged sections of our society.

To succeed, this Campaign must be led by the people themselves together with their popular organisations. It cannot just be left to government. It must therefore be seen for what it is, namely, popular involvement to achieve people-centred development.

One of the most important events that will take place in our country this year will be the convening of the Job Summit to deal with the urgent and important matter of the creation of jobs.

Consistent with the call we are making in this January 8th Statement, we believe that this Job Summit will provide an opportunity for our country's business sector itself to elaborate concrete proposals about what it can do to create more jobs.

As corporate citizens, the business people have as much interest in peace, stability and progress as any other citizen. In pursuit of that interest, they have an obligation themselves to make a contribution to the realisation of these objectives. Clearly, one such major contribution would be in the area of job creation.

We must also strive to inspire other institutions, such as the media, to define for themselves what role they can play in the process of engaging the entirety of our society around the common objective of ensuring a good quality of life for all communities and citizens, in a people-centred society.

The totality of the activities we have indicated and others besides, would constitute the elements of what we have described before as a New Patriotism - a patriotism which should drive all of us to answer the question of what each one of us can do to build a South Africa of which we can all be proud.

As in the past, we take advantage of the occasion of our anniversary to extend our greetings to the peoples of the world.

We reiterate our undertaking to these millions who not only fought to end the system of apartheid, but also continue to be very interested in our success as a democratic country, that in action, we will continue to strive to build a society which can also make its own contribution, however limited, to the objective of creating a better world.

We make this undertaking especially to the peoples of Southern Africa, Africa and the third world, many of whose leaders will convene in our country later this year during the Summit Meeting of Non-Aligned Countries.

We will also continue to act in solidarity with the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara and East Timor to make our own contribution together with the rest of the international community, to help to arrive as just and lasting solutions to these continuing challenges.

We also extend a world of appreciation to the peoples of the developed world who have continued to be engaged with us in the common struggle to create a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and prosperous South Africa.

The revolutionary challenge of the day is precisely to engage the entirety of our people in action directed at the birth of such a society. We therefore call on all our people to rise to this challenge as conscious activists for change, inspired by the New Patriotism which derives from our common victory against apartheid and our recognition of the fact that all of us share a common destiny in which an injury to one is an injury to all.

Accordingly we proclaim this, the 86th Year of the ANC, as the Year of the Popular Mobilisation for the Consolidation of People's Power and charge all progressive formations with the responsibility to ensure that we succeed to engage the masses of the people in active struggle for fundamental social transformation

Amandla ngawethu!

Matla ke a rona!

Issued by: African National Congress
Department of Information and Publicity
8 January 1998