ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa dances with former president Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during the ANC’s 106th anniversary celebrations in East London. File picture: Reuters.

When the ruling party convenes in Kimberley on January 11 next year to celebrate its 108th birthday, it will be another day to remember how far the party has come.

January 8 became a key date when Oliver Tambo, a maths teacher from Bizana in the Eastern Cape succeeded Inkosi Albert Luthuli as party president and started using this day as a call for an ANC uprising. Tambo chose the date to place significance on the fact that the party was founded on January 8, 1912, in Mangaung.

Beaming the statement from radio stations either from Mozambique, Zambia or Tanzania, Tambo kept the anti-apartheid fires burning.

Thereafter, the tradition became a yearly political event and the ANC revelled in the fame it brought to the party.

It has been documented that while its members were in exile, the ANC issued its first January 8 statement in 1972. Following a hiatus, the party issued its next January 8 statement in 1979.

In the years between 1972 and 1979, it released statements related to major events or issues. These were known as special statements and among the incidents the party condemned was the shooting of Soweto students during June 16, 1976, riots and cross-border raids by the apartheid army and the military occupation of townships.

During years of either local government elections or provincial and national elections, the January 8 rally doubles as manifesto launch and gives a hint of what will be contained in the State of the Nation Address, usually held in February each year.

However, political analyst Xolani Dube of the Xubera Institute said the event had lost its meaning. He said it had become a bash for the elite rather than a programme of action for the year ahead.

“There is no reason for the ANC to stage that event any more The looters masquerading as ANC leaders are running amok misappropriating and vulgarising the honourable, historical communication strategy by turning it into a hedonistic pleasure.”

Political Bureau