As the African National Congress celebrates 105 years of existence, the year of 2017 is seen as one where the organisation will come out more united following a turbulent period.
ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe on Sunday said the theme for the celebrations was unity in action and called on members to fully commit to the programme. The celebrations were held at Orlando Stadium in Soweto with supporters packing the stands to listen to president Jacob Zuma speak.
The day started off gloomy with rain dampening the mood and restricting supporters to the top parts of the stadium with shelter. That, however, changed as the day progressed and by 10:30 am the stadium was near capacity. Mantashe said the rain was an indication of a good year ahead for the party.
"2017 is going to be one of the better years for the ANC. Rain is a sign of a blessing, not a curse. We are hoping that this good omen will translate into a good year for the ANC. A good year is a function of working for it. We will have to invest a lot of time and energy in making it a better year," he said.
Mantashe added that the preparations the party undertook leading to the celebrations had painted a fairly good picture of the situation on the ground. He said they now understood what people wanted and they would be working on uniting the movement.
"2017 is going to be one of the better years for the ANC. Rain is a sign of a blessing, not a curse. We are hoping that this good omen will translate into a good year for the ANC. A good year is a function of working for it. We will have to invest a lot of time and energy in making it a better year"
It is going to be an intensive year for the organisation as it prepares for an elective conference in December. In the past, the party has returned from elective conferences bruised and divided. This time around the party is trying to avoid such a thing by eliminating politics of slates which have been blamed as the number one contributors to divisions.
"We have been to the townships in Gauteng, reception is well. We talked to the people and they raised their concerns. We must do that more to reconnect with society. That qualification of unity in action shows that we should not just unite artificially for the sake of it, we must work for the unity of the ANC in the trenches even if we disagree we must disagree in the trenches. All of us must be committed to building a united ANC. A divided ANC is a weak ANC," said Mantashe.
ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize echoed the sentiments and said unity was not foreign to the organisation. He said unity in action was part of the culture of the ANC.
"The ANC was founded on the basis of unity of all the people of South Africa. The ANC survives by looking at how to unite all South Africans so that we can work on a programme that can takeSouth Africa to a better future. Unity is more relevant now because we have been dealing with factions, divisions, and conflicts with the selection of candidates so we believe it's a very important theme," said Mkhize.
He called on members not to loose sight of that when they go to the conference.
"We should approach the conference with a united approach so we are working on that. The year 2017 is dedicated to president Oliver Tambo because he kept the ANC united for the longest time despite the challenges. We are appealing to that kind of unity," he said.