The speech is expected to set the tone for the ANC and government business for this year.
Recently-elected ANC president Ramaphosa will be delivering his address at a time when his party has to decide whether to recall President Jacob Zuma before the end of his term in 2019.
On Friday ANC leaders were all out to woo Buffalo City communities. Various vans packed with audio and loud speakers drove around areas of East London and calling for residents to come in their numbers for the January 8 Statement.
The ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said it was all systems go for the party’s 106 birthday celebrations.
“The programme will commence at 8am and the officials will greet attendees in the overflow areas; we also have an entertainment line up including Zahara, Mzwakhe Mbuli and Distruction Boys among others,” said Magashule.
Magashule said Zuma will attend the party celebrations as an ex-officio member of the NEC. He said former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe have also been invited. Magashule said the event will be graced by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But all eyes will be on the recently-elected ANC president, otherwise known as The Buffalo.
Ramaphosa's appearance on stage also comes a day after a media report that some Zuma loyalists were pushing for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to be appointed as the interim president, as part of a deal with the beleaguered president. This was, however, dismissed by the ANC on Friday.
Magashule said there was no substance to the rumour and even referred to it as fake news.
Those calling for Zuma’s head have claimed that having the president of the country not being the president of the ANC creates “two centres of power”.
Earlier in the week Magashule said, however, that there is only one centre of power - the ANC - suggesting that the state president will be getting his orders from the ruling party.
On Friday, Ramaphosa met with Kenyatta in what was seen as a sign of a power shift.
The meeting came just a day after Kenyatta met Zuma in Durban. Speaking after the meeting, Ramaphosa said they had discussed, among other things, the relationship between Kenya and South Africa. Zuma will attend the rally in his capacity as an ex-officio member of the national executive committee.
Expectations are high that the speech, which is an NEC statement, will unpack some of the policy positions adopted at the ANC’s 54th national conference last month. These include the expropriation of land without compensation and the implementation of free education at tertiary institutions.
The speech will also influence and set the tone for government policy and programmes for the year, with the state of the nation address expected to take its cue from the statement.
It will, however, seek to mend divisions in the ANC and within the ANC-tripartite alliance.
Giving a glimpse of his speech, Ramaphosa said he would focus on uniting the ANC and the country.
The speech will also be closely watched by the ANC’s alliance partners, Cosatu and the SACP.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said the speech was important as it comes after the national conference.
“What is key is that they are coming from a national conference which had far-reaching resolutions on a number of issues. The policies that were adopted at conference - we hope they will be clearly pronounced upon, in particular on the issue of land and the issue of jobs. We would also like to hear how we are going to fix the economy,” Dlamini said.
The rally will also mark the unofficial start of an early election campaign for the 2019 general elections.
Dlamini said the ANC would need to win convincingly in 2019 to be able to implement some of its resolutions.
However, Ramaphosa would need to tread carefully as the speech could affect the economy.
Ian Cruickshanks, chief economist at the SA Institute of Race Relations, said if Ramaphosa announces that the party will forge ahead with the expropriation of land without compensation, this would have a negative impact on the economy.
“That would extremely negative. It can lead to almost zero capital growth. He should speak about it because it has been confirmed as ANC policy. We need to know if he can find a way of backing out of it,” said Cruickshanks.
Political Bureau and ANA