ANC Celebrates 96 Years

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[Africa: Commentary]

South Africa’s African National Congress, the oldest nationalist movement in Africa, formed on January 8, 1912 has celebrated its 96th anniversary.

It all started with Pixley ka Isaka Seme urging Black people to form one national organization united against oppression in 1911; it went through to the turbulent harsh and brutal apartheid years, Black resistance and international isolation, the fall of apartheid to the recent winning of ANC leadership race by Jacob Zuma.

The survival of the ANC as a Black movement demonstrates the durability of one of Africa's oldest political party which was established to promote the rights and freedoms of the African people.

Elsewhere in Africa, very few nationalist movements have survived the turbulence of political and social change. Most dominant early nationalist movements have sunk into oblivion or reduced to mere small opposition parties without much influence as the continent's political, economic and social space transformed over the years.

Early nationalist movements in Africa sought to fight for independence, the rights and freedom of Black people against oppression and exploitation.

A number of gifted leaders of the struggle -Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, Walter Sisulu, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Eduardo Mondlane, Augustino Neto, Jomo Kenyatta, Sam Nujoma, Milton Obote and many others in all corners of the continent guided and shaped the direction of the struggle against oppression.

In the Diaspora too, the Black Civil Rights movement under the able leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King also inspired the struggle of the Black man worldwide by advocating non-violent protests to promote the rights and freedoms of the African people both at home and abroad.

Prominent figures such as WEB Dubois, Malcolm X, and many others also helped to shape and influence the Pan African movement in the Diaspora.

Back biting, internal rivalry, elimination of bright and promising politician such as Patrice Lumumba, Tom Mboya, Steve Bantu Biko, Chris Hani, Ken Sarowiwa by enemy forces, the disillusionment of the masses, brutal dictatorships, poor service delivery, corruption, manipulation and lack of credible opposition politics still haunt Africa today.

The African masses still hunger for genuine freedom of expression, association and resources -land and capital and better access to education and healthcare services.

Today, as the ANC celebrates its 96th anniversary, the sad episodes, the challenges, weaknesses, inspiration and Black pride are all deeply embedded in its belly.

Are we as Africans both at home and abroad happy about the way Africans have organized themselves politically? Do we still have leaders who can galvanize and inspire Africans to lead lives they would want to see achieved? Are we happy with the caliber and crop of the new African leaders we see on the continent today?

I'm not glorifying the politics of yesterday, but asking Africans to think seriously about the state of Black political, social and economic movements today.

The Barack Obama victory in the Iowa caucus serves as an important reference point for Africans to reflect what his candidature and victory would mean to Africans and the world over.

"The context and content of Obama's daring entry into the American political landscape has important implications for Africa not only because he shares the same heritage as all of us but because he has challenged us to believe in hope and that we have a part to play in shaping our destinies," says a Zimbabwean political commentator.

There are so many lessons to be drawn from the experiences of the ANC -from its formation in 1912.

Of course, the ANC was not alone in the struggle -the Pan Africanize Congress (PAC), COSATU, the Communist Party, led by Joe Slovo, church organizations, ordinary people and the international community all played their part in the dismantling of the apartheid system.

But, perhaps, the most significant lesson that the ANC teaches us, is the importance of the durability, focus and vision of Black political movements. How the party has remained relevant and connected to ordinary people despite facing numerous challenges offers some big lessons to Black movements both at home and abroad.

A number of Black political parties crumbled after the death of their leaders, others disbanded after internal differences, some failed to polish their images and mandates and sunk into political oblivion.

The ANC is still running 96 years on.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare

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