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Ceremony marks ANC’s century of struggle for South Africa freedom

Published Jan 12, 2012 10:54 PM

The African National Congress, the continent’s oldest liberation movement, marked the 100th anniversary of its formation on Jan. 8. After struggling for decades against apartheid and settler-colonialism, the ANC has governed the Republic of South Africa since its 1994 victory.

More than 50,000 people jammed the local stadium in Bloemfontein in the Free State that had been upgraded to host one of the 2010 World Cup soccer matches. Current ANC leader and president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, delivered the keynote address concluding the rally.

Earlier, dignitaries from countries around Africa and the world attended a ceremony located at the Wesleyan Church, where the ANC was formed in 1912 during the height of the colonialist hold on the continent. A torch was lit, designed to burn for the entire year to commemorate this milestone in the fight against legalized racial oppression.

The ANC Today newsletter reported that 100,000 people were mobilized for the celebrations, which shall continue throughout the year. ANC National Chairperson Baleka Mbete, who is also chairperson of the National Centenary Task Team, wrote, “This movement is the legacy of stalwarts like John Langalibalele Dube, Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, Chief Albert Luthuli, Mama [Albertina] Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, (OR) Tambo and Lilian Ngoyi amongst others.” (ANC Today, Dec. 16-22)

Each month throughout the year, the ANC will recognize the various historic leaders. In January, it will honor the ANC’s first president, uBaba uLangalibalele John Dube (Mafukuzela), who served between 1912 and 1917.

Perhaps the best-known past ANC president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who due to frail health was unable to attend Jan. 8, will be honored in July under the theme of “Building a Caring Nation.” Mandela was a political prisoner for more than 27 years in the apartheid state’s dungeons, where his imprisonment gained worldwide recognition for the liberation movement until his release in 1990. He then led negotiations setting up the first nonracial democratic elections that brought the ANC into office in 1994.

Since 1994, South Africa has had four ANC presidents: Nelson Mandela, (1994-1999); Thabo Mbeki, (1999-2008); Kgalema Motlanthe (2008-2009); and the current head-of-state, Jacob Zuma, who was elected to office in 2009.

Mass, labor and armed struggle
led to ANC victory

Known for its vast wealth in gold and diamonds, South Africa developed as the most industrialized state on the continent as well as the most repressive.

Consequently, the character of South Africa’s national liberation struggle differed from others in the region. The mining sector spawned a considerable manufacturing sector as well, and by the 1920s, a huge labor movement would emerge.

To maintain the racially exploitative system, the ruling class sought to separate out and superexploit the African working class. Nonetheless, during the post-World War II period, broad alliances emerged encompassing the majority African population in coalition with Indians, peoples of mixed race and progressive whites, many of whom were communists.

The South African Communist Party, formed in 1921, eventually recognized the indispensability of building a national liberation movement that was led by African people. The Tripartite Alliance would emerge during the 1980s, which brought together the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the SACP as well as the ANC. This alliance has maintained political control of the country since 1994.

The ANC and internationalism

In recognition of international support for the liberation struggle from people of conscience and goodwill throughout the world, ANC Today noted that it “will host an International Solidarity Conference where former anti-apartheid organizations and individuals throughout the world will converge on our soil to craft a way forward” and “at an ANC-led government level, our country will in May 2012 host a conference to be attended by the African Diaspora.”

The celebrations will also recognize Cuba for its contribution to Southern Africa’s liberation. Cuba sent hundreds of thousands of its own internationalist volunteers to fight for the defeat of the racist South African military in Angola between 1975 and 1988. These battles contributed to the liberation of Namibia and the elimination of apartheid.

The ANC Today thanked Cuba and all international supporters: “The humane people of Cuba are amongst the many dear friends across the world that marched side by side with us during the epic periods of our struggles for the liberation and freedoms of our country and the continent.”

The global struggle against imperialism

Although the 1994 events were a monumental victory against racism, national oppression and imperialism, South Africa still remains integrated within the world capitalist system. Consequently, the world capitalist economic crisis has impacted South Africa. Unemployment and poverty remain major challenges for the ANC, COSATU and the SACP.

The struggle of South Africa’s working class, the largest and best organized on the continent, is still a tremendous force worldwide. COSATU and other labor federations are fighting for a living wage and political empowerment for the working class inside the country. Meanwhile, international finance capital is still working to maintain its grip over the majority of the population inside the country.

With the growing U.S. intervention in Africa through the U.S. Africa Command, national liberation movements, progressive governments and working class organizations must intensify their struggle to defeat imperialism once and for all.

The U.S., France and Britain have intervened in Libya, Somalia, Ivory Coast and other states. They have targeted neighboring Zimbabwe with economic sanctions since 2000, when the ruling party sought to re-correct the legacy of colonialism with a massive land redistribution program to more than 400,000 African families.

Inspired by the victory against apartheid, the working class, farmers and youth of the continent, in alliance with the genuine forces of progress throughout the world, must defeat all these efforts to maintain imperialist domination in Africa and finally end exploitation and oppression on the continent. n