Sibusiso Ngalwa, Sibongakonke Shoba, Caiphus Kgosana and Thabo Mokone
THE ANC, which threw a massive 100th birthday party yesterday, plans to change the way its leaders are elected to protect the organisation from the influence of money and divisive leadership battles.
More than 100000 people flocked to the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein to celebrate.
President Jacob Zuma delivered a 90-minute speech which mostly focused on the history of the ANC and its struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
In its centenary statement, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) outlined plans to modernise and put an end to bruising leadership battles which have characterised its post-exile era.
It will review the manner in which its leaders are elected.
“Leadership development shall be accompanied by a review of the leadership election system of the ANC in order to enhance internal democracy, credibility of the process as well as the integrity and suitability of candidates.
“This will protect the ANC from the tyranny of slates, factions and money and ensure that at all times the organisation is led by the most experienced, most committed, most talented and best collective.”
ANC leaders are elected through branches nominating their preferred candidates.
Candidates are then endorsed by the party’s regions and provinces and the winners are affirmed at elective conferences.
But these have been characterised by factionalism and chaos, with rival factions often drawing up their own lists – known as slates – and lobbying to have opponents sidelined. This means those dispensing patronage are able to dictate who gets elected.
The NEC did not outline how it planned to change the current system and what method it preferred.
There could be stiff resistance from structures to any plans to change the system.
There was tight security around the Free State Stadium yesterday
This extended to the two feeder stadiums which accommodated the overflow crowd who watched proceedings on big screens.
Attempts to disrupt the event were thwarted when a small group of unruly Julius Malema supporters were called to order by ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete.
There were fears that Malema’s supporters planned to embarrass and ridicule Zuma when he spoke.
A small group of vocal Malema supporters from Limpopo tried to boo and heckle Zuma but were drowned out by the crowd.
Zuma spent a lot of time capturing the country’s history and acknowledging struggle icons, including Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko who were leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Black Consciousness Movement respectively.
Zuma also outlined plans to modernise and improve capacity of the ANC at branch level and at its headquarters.
These would include:
- Using IT and management science to continue to reorganise;
- Improving management of the membership system; and
- Employing and developing well-trained, professionally competent, decently paid and highly motivated full-time staff.
The ANC is battling to retain talent at its headquarters as it competes with the government and the private sector for skills.
The party also plans to reconnect with its support base and expand its membership through grassroots mobilisation and engaging with community structures.
It will also re-examine the composition of its branches. “We should consider reorganising the branch of the ANC into voting districts, street committees and cell structures whose primary focus is to solve community problems and improve activism around development issues in communities,” Zuma said.
ANC branches have been criticised for not being active in the communities where they are based. Most are active only prior to elections of leaders.
Zuma meanwhile announced to loud applause that the party had passed the million membership mark. KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC’s biggest province with 244 000 members, followed by the Eastern Cape with 222 000.
The Northern Cape, with 32 000 members, still remains its smallest province.
Festivities started in the morning with a service at the Wesleyan church in Waaihoek, where the ANC was founded in 1912 as the SA Native National Congress.
Zuma lit the centenary flame at the same church at midnight on Saturday.
Inside the Free State Stadium, an elaborate dome-shaped structure covered the raised platform to create a grand stage that Zuma shared with members of his national executive and a few chosen guests.
Flags decorated every corner of the stadium. Party logos were also carved on lawns.
On each side of the stage were large rectangular boxes draped with ANC flags each bearing the face of one of the ANC’s 12 presidents. Massive screens kept the audience abreast of what was happening.
Camouflaged MK vets stood in a guard of honour to welcome those ascending the stage. They formed a strong ring around Zuma when he appeared and escorted him around the venue as he greeted the crowd before joining the rest of the party leaders on stage.
The centenary flame, carried by ANC veterans and former president Thabo Mbeki, was handed over to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Zuma.
The skies opened soon after Zuma delivered his speech, and emptied the stadium.
A drama, song and dance extravaganza termed Tshihumbudzo (The Remembrance) told the ANC story in 100 minutes.
The show featured Dorothy Masuku, Vusi Mahlasela, Judith Sephuma and other artists.
The night was capped by fireworks.