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Friday, 11 January 2008
The one and only ANC!
This week the ANC celebrates its 96th anniversary with a rally in Atteridgeville, Tshwane, bringing the organisation ever closer to its centenary in 2012.
Few political movements in the world can claim such longevity. Yet it is not only its vintage that the ANC is celebrating. It is also a proud history of struggle with and for the people. It is a proud history that has brought freedom to our nation, and which has seen unprecedented progress in the course of just over a decade to undo the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.
The ANC today is a strong, vibrant and dynamic organisation that enjoys the confidence and support of the masses of the people, as demonstrated in successive elections since 1994. The membership of the ANC has grown significantly over the last five years; there are now over half a million paid-up ANC members. There is still much room for growth and we intend to swell our branches with even more members during 2008 and the coming years.
The ANC has always been an integral part of the lives of the people of our country.
Its growth is celebrated by all who recognize the central role it plays in the life of our nation. Its general state of health is always of concern to all sectors, be it business, faith-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, the media, traditional leaders, labour and the international community.
Fortunately, emerging from the national conference in Polokwane, we are able to say proudly that the ANC can only go from strength to strength. There is only one ANC. It is united and very focused on its mandate of leading transformation and being the leader of development and progress in our country.
As we gather in Tshwane to celebrate the 96th anniversary, we are called upon to reflect on our history, to understand why the ANC has lasted so long and achieved so much. We must do this better to understand what we will need to do to ensure that the ANC continues to thrive and continues diligently to serve the people long after its centenary.
In preparation for its National General Council (NGC) in 2005, the ANC produced a discussion document entitled 'Unity and Diversity in the ANC'. The document said: "In South Africa and in other parts of the world, movements and parties of about the same age as the ANC, have collapsed, become irrelevant or are struggling to stay alive.
What has given the ANC this extraordinary capacity to survive and sustain its relevance?"
Among the answers to this question that the document suggested was that the ANC's capacity to survive lay in its approach to the question of unity:
"Unity is an organisational value upheld and pursued by all political movements because it enhances the effectiveness of collective action. But, political collectives are made up of diverse individual members, who have come together to pool their energies in pursuance of shared objectives. The more elastic the breadth of the collective and the greater the depth of its potential appeal, the greater the prospect of tensions and conflicts among its adherents. The imperatives of coherent and effective action therefore require a leadership to exercise vigilance not to allow potential and actual tensions to jeopardise it".
The document made the fundamental point that unity is not achieved by mere agreement on its desirability. It is built through ongoing democratic debate and sustained through political action. It is achieved by encouraging a contest of views and a respect for decisions collectively and democratically taken. That is why we have always spoken about 'Unity in Action'.
We reiterate that the ANC is not divided. There are no fundamental policy differences among any members or leaders of the ANC. The vibrant debate that is sometimes misconstrued as division is merely differences of opinion on the implementation of our programme of action. It is a healthy phenomenon which keeps all of us on our toes. We have consistently argued that the mere existence of different views - whether on questions of leadership, policy or strategy - no matter how strongly held or firmly expressed, does not mean that the organisation is divided.
On this 96th anniversary, we underline that ours is a resilient organisation that will continue to grow, fortified by the culture of internal democracy, open debate and engagement. We will focus on re-inculcating that culture of a type of open debate that does not create any hostilities. We need to promote an exchange of views that makes it possible for comrades to disagree vociferously, but still remain firm comrades and friends. A culture that makes every issue open to debate and scrutiny, in a comradely manner.
Given the vibrancy and nature of this organisation, the debates are not likely to stop anytime soon. The boundless energy of the ANC Youth League will continue to reverberate throughout the length and breadth of our country, ensuring adherence to the culture and traditions of the movement as it has historically done. The ANC Women's League will continue to bring the gender question to the centre of our social, political and economic life, building on the remarkable gains made at Polokwane.
Our Alliance Partners are known to make their views known speedily should they suspect we are compromising the National Democratic Revolution! Working together to implement the resolutions of our respective conferences, we should be able to find more common ground than areas of difference henceforth. We will always welcome the views and opinions of our Alliance partners on the progress we are making in meeting the mandate of our people.
In celebrating the 96th anniversary, we assure all sectors of our society that the ANC remains strong. It lives, it leads.
We are determined to ensure that we work in a manner that strengthens the confidence of all our people in the ANC as the leader and organ of transformation in our country. People need to look at this organisation and view it as one that should guide them on a day to day basis and support them in all spheres of life - be it political, social, economic or cultural.
We also look forward to strengthening even further, the fraternal ties with like-minded organisations in the continent, particularly in SADC, and the rest of the developing world. The ANC should continue to be a beacon of hope, and an active actor in the regeneration and rebuilding of our continent - fighting poverty, underdevelopment and general deprivation.
Bringing the ANC to the centre stage of all aspects of life in our country will be among our first tasks as we begin this New Year. It must occupy our attention during 2008, and in the remaining years before our centenary.
There is not one among us who is exempt from this responsibility. If we are to achieve what conference has demanded of us, we will each have to do everything in our power to ensure that the precious torch we now carry is indeed passed on to the next generation undiminished.
Let black, green and gold fly all over our beloved country as we celebrate 96 strong fighting and building years!
Jacob G Zuma