South African’s National Liberation Movement

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National Conference​

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22 December 1997

We the delegates to this 50th National Conference of the African National Congress, drawn, as we are, from all corners of our country, and from every sector of South African society, solemnly dedicate ourselves to meeting the challenges of the ongoing struggle for social transformation.

In re-dedicating ourselves, we draw strength from the extensive changes brought about by the ANC over many decades, and especially since we became the governing party of our country. Political peace and stability, a new sense of national pride, unity and patriotism, the consolidation of democratic governance in all spheres – these enormous gains have been ushered in by the ANC.

We have begun to turn around an economy that was in the throes of chronic decline. In health-care, in the provision of safe drinking water, in the supply of electricity, in land restitution and reform, in welfare provisions, in education and housing, vast struggles for transformation are unfolding. In thousands of localities, change is underway. It is tangible. We are immensely proud of these achievements. We are strengthened by the conviction that it is only the ANC, underpinned by huge popular support, that could lead this historic process.

But we are also well aware that the pace of change and the quality of services need much improvement. As the leading political organisation in government, we need to strengthen our links and consultation with the masses.

We have only just begun the gigantic task of building a new society out of the ruins of racial oppression and minority rule. Problems of poverty, unemployment, crime, and corruption persist. Much needs to be done to transform the state machinery. Some of the forces which sought to prevent democracy are today regrouping and trying to undermine the people’s gains. There are also new difficulties. Our country and our continent are faced with the challenge of combatting a devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic.

On every front, the struggle for a better life for all continues.

We have met in this 50th National Conference under the banner of: “All Power to the People!” This slogan captures the central tasks of building a common national agenda of reconciliation and transformation. The resolutions we have taken at this Conference, the programmatic perspectives we have reaffirmed, all of these are fundamentally directed towards ensuring the involvement of the people in governing themselves, and in changing their lives for the better. We also reaffirm the principle that the people are, and will continue to be, their own liberators.

In particular, this Conference has reaffirmed the historic alignment of our movement to those who have been most oppressed because they are black, because they are working people, because they are women, because they are from rural areas, because they are poor, because they are disabled. We continue to dedicate our organisation to the principle that change must be change, first and foremost, for the overwhelming majority.

In our deliberations at this 50th Conference we have returned, time and again, to the centrality of morality in rebuilding of the fabric of our society. As cadres of the ANC we have a duty to be in the vanguard of fostering a morality of democracy, openness, and humanism, of respect for life, and tolerance of difference. In particular, we dedicate ourselves to working selflessly in the historic struggle for a people-centred transformation. We will work to expunge any elements of opportunistic careerism, let alone corruption, from within our own ranks, and indeed from within our wider society.

We have embarked on a vast process of transformation, that touches every single aspect and sector of our society. It is a process of transformation that is, and shall remain, throughly democratic and participatory in character. We have declined, out of deep conviction, a path to growth and development that would be based on a top-down, bureaucratic mobilisation of resources. In many respects, what we are attempting is unique in recent world history. We are also seeking to emerge from colonialism, civil war and under-development in a world which has changed dramatically in the past decade. We are, as South Africans, pioneers.

In this context, the 50th National Conference of the ANC calls on the widest range of South Africans, whether they be ANC supporters or not, to join us in partnership in this pioneering task of nation building. The challenges before us require the building of a spirit of Masakhane amongst the rich and poor, the employed and unemployed, old and young, black and white. We call on intellectuals, religious leaders and the media to join us in the challenge of finding the values, concepts and words for this pioneering task on which we are embarked.

As South Africans, we are well aware that there can be no sustainable reconstruction and development within our own country without the transformation of the Southern African region and of our broader continent. It is for this reason that we have, in this 50th Conference, embraced the vision and concrete challenges of an African Renaissance.

We, the delegates to this Conference, salute our outgoing President. Comrade Nelson Mandela, during the long, hard decades of apartheid rule you were the embodiment and personification of our collective spirit of resistance. Over the last eight years you have steered our organisation and inspired our country and the world, not just with the values of collective resistance, but also with your example of determination, reconciliation and rootedness amongst the millions of ordinary people.

We hope that the vibrancy, depth of discussion, and unity of this Conference has reassured you that your life’s work has borne fruit. You hand over the leadership of our organisation to a new generation of leaders who have, themselves, been nurtured in decades of struggle. Comrade, you take leave of the Presidency of an organisation that is building on over eighty years of experience, but which is, truly, also a vibrant organisation for the coming millenium.

Long live the ANC!

Long live the spirit of revolutionary unity and determination that has prevailed through our 50th Conference!

The struggle continues!