Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the 109th Anniversary of The African National Congress
08 January, 2021
The people of South Africa,
Comrades and Friends,
Nearly half a century has passed since the ANC in exile issued the first January 8th Statement.
It was a time of great upheaval.
The people of our country were suffering under a repressive regime.
The liberation movements were banned, and our leaders were imprisoned, banished or exiled.
And yet, even without being allowed to gather or to organise, and without our leaders being in their midst, the message of the ANC found its way to our people.
It gave them strength, hope and courage.
Today, we deliver the January 8th Statement at a time of great upheaval in our country and across the world.
The ANC celebrates 109 years since its founding in the shadow of a global pandemic that has led to great suffering and loss of life, that has severely damaged our economy and that has profoundly changed how we lead our lives.
None of the traditional activities we hold to mark the birthday of the ANC are taking place this year.
Due to the necessary restrictions that are in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus – and the need at this time to exercise utmost caution – we are not undertaking our traditional door-to-door engagements, community meetings and January 8th rallies.
And yet even as we are unable to gather in our numbers, even as the leadership of the ANC is unable to be with you in person, the message of the ANC lives in the hearts and minds of our people.
It gives inspiration and encouragement to our members, supporters and many others across the nation.
The people of this country have entrusted the ANC with the responsibility to work with them in building a better life for all.
Over the course of its history, the ANC has lived up to this responsibility.
It led the heroic struggle of the South African people against apartheid, resulting in the country’s first democratic elections and the adoption of a democratic Constitution.
In government, the ANC led the reconstruction of our society from the ashes of apartheid misrule.
We worked together with the people to expand access to housing, electricity, water and sanitation and social infrastructure for millions of our people.
We expanded access to education and health care.
Prior to the onset of the global financial crisis, our policies contributed to the revival of our economy, the creation of millions of new jobs, the stabilisation of our public finances and the reduction of poverty.
It was these achievements that earned the ANC the confidence and trust of the South African people.
The trust that our people have invested in us should never be taken for granted.
We know that to fulfil our role and discharge our responsibility, we must renew and rebuild our movement and ensure that it remains true to its founding values.
The values on which this movement was founded are integrity, honesty, tolerance, respect and, above all, service.
While important progress has been made in the renewal and rebuilding of the ANC since the 54th National Conference, there is still much to be done.
The organisation has been weakened by corruption, resistance to renewal and controversies involving ANC leaders.
These problems have widened the social distance between the ANC and the people.
At the same time, there is a danger that internal conflicts can consume us, and detract from the very real work we need to do to unite and transform our society.
For over a century, the ANC has sought to fulfil its historic mission to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
In the face of the great challenges before us, it is more important than ever that we keep our sights firmly on this mission.
In this year of 2021, our foremost priorities as the African National Congress are:
Firstly, to act together with all South Africans to defeat the coronavirus.
Secondly, to place our economy on a path of renewal and recovery.
Thirdly, to forge ahead with the fundamental renewal of the ANC.
Fourthly, we must work to build a better Africa and a better world.
As a movement, we continue to draw strength and encouragement from the great struggles fought by those who came before us.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of South Africa’s most remarkable and pioneering leaders, Charlotte Mannya Maxeke.
She was the first black South African woman to obtain a science degree, was a delegate to the ANC’s founding conference in 1912 and was a founder of the Bantu Women’s League, a forerunner to the ANC Women’s League.
She made an exceptional contribution to the struggle for the liberation of women in South Africa and challenged contemporary attitudes about the place of women in politics, society and the economy.
She was a fearless leader who organised the first defiance campaign against the pass system, mobilising women to burn their passes.
She organised farm workers and domestic workers and dedicated her life to improving the conditions under which African women lived.
This year also marks the centenary of the South African Communist Party.
Since its formation in 1921, the Communist Party has been a dependable ally not only of our movement, but of the oppressed and exploited people of South Africa.
It has been at the forefront of the struggle against racial discrimination and capitalist exploitation.
The Communist Party has also played a critical role in the ideological development of the liberation movement.
As we celebrate this great milestone alongside our Alliance partner, we reaffirm our shared commitment to the achievement of a National Democratic Society.
Comrades and Friends,
The coronavirus pandemic has deepened poverty and unemployment in our society.
The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the fault lines of inequality, income deprivation, asset poverty, and lack of skills and economic opportunities among the majority of our people.
The economy has contracted sharply. Around two million jobs have been lost and many more people have fallen below the poverty line.
Without the economic and social relief measures that the government put in place, and without the urgent interventions to strengthen our public health care facilities, the situation could have been far worse.
Throughout the country, communities are still confronted by high rates of crime, violence and other social problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse.
The second pandemic in our country – of violence against women and children – continues to plague our society.
Ending gender-based violence in all its forms is therefore integral to the social and economic progress of our nation.
While great progress has been made since the advent of democracy, there are many areas that suffer from a lack of housing, access to electricity, water and sanitation, and social infrastructure.
This is due both to the huge disparities of our past and to ongoing weaknesses in governance, capacity and financial management within the different spheres of government.
The reconstruction of our economy must addresses the fundamental inequalities and exclusion that continue to characterise our society.
To bring about this change, we need a radical programme of action that is restorative, that rebuilds and that is transformative.
Transformation is not only a fundamental obligation enshrined in our country’s constitution.
It is also necessary if our economy is to benefit from the creativity, talent, energy and skills of all South Africans.
The ANC has been given the mandate by our people to be the governing party in most of the municipalities, in eight provincial governments and in national government.
With governance comes great responsibility.
The ANC must win public confidence by progressively meeting the needs of the people, accounting to communities, deploying the most capable cadres to positions of responsibility, managing public resources ethically and acknowledging weaknesses.
This is the message that every ANC member should take to heart in 2021 as our country holds the sixth local government elections since democracy.
We have to account to the people on the state of our municipalities, many of which are facing deep challenges with respect to governance, stability, service delivery and financial management.
We must tackle the apartheid legacy of inequality and severe infrastructure backlogs at a local level and the persistent problem of unviable municipalities with weak revenue bases.
It is the ANC that must heed the cries of our people for a decent quality of life, and must rid government structures of corruption, cronyism and patronage.
In all areas, the ANC has to demonstrate that we are taking real steps to resolve the problems which our people face.
Let us not be paralysed by the complacency of incumbency.
In this the 27th year of democracy, the ANC cannot campaign on a platform that simply recounts the glories of the past.
Our people now want to hear what the ANC is going to do concretely to improve their lives.
They want to see us in action serving their interests.
Despite our many challenges, there is great cause for optimism.
And in this we know we can count on the people of South Africa who believe in the ANC, who support the ANC and who have entrusted the ANC with the responsibility to change our society for the better.
It is the resilience and courage of the people of our country that has taken us through the most difficult of years.
It is the people of South Africa who continue to stand by us, united and determined, as we begin the task of recovery and reconstruction.
Comrades and Friends,
Our foremost immediate priority in 2021 is to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virus is ever-present and it threatens the health and well-being of everyone in our country.
It threatens livelihoods and undermines our efforts to rebuild the economy and create jobs.
South Africa is in the midst of a second wave that could prove deadlier than the first unless we all play our part to curb and defeat this virus.
We have to intensify our efforts to promote responsible behaviour, such as physical distancing, washing or sanitising our hands, wearing face masks appropriately and adhering to other protocols.
We will continue to strengthen our health system and sustain community health interventions such as mass screening, testing and tracing.
We will, within our country’s means, continue to provide social support to the vulnerable and economic support to businesses and workers in distress.
To overcome COVID-19 we are preparing to implement a mass vaccination programme that reaches all South Africans as appropriate quantities of an effective and suitable vaccine are procured.
This programme will initially prioritise health workers and other frontline personnel such as teachers and police men and women, the elderly and people with co-morbidities.
We will progressively reach all South Africans through a mass vaccination campaign to achieve herd immunity and prevent ongoing transmission.
We need to actively counter the spread of disinformation relating to COVID-19 and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus, its treatment and the development of vaccines.
Above all, as we have done over the past year, we must continue to work together as a united nation to confront the grave coronavirus threat.
Our focus throughout must be on saving lives and protecting livelihoods.
Our second priority for 2021 is economic recovery.
We have to achieve higher levels of economic growth and investment.
We have to create jobs and bring more black South Africans, women and youth into the mainstream of economic activity.
In the relief phase of our social and economic response to the pandemic, we put in place a number of emergency economic interventions.
We are now in the phase of rebuilding, and our focus is on aggressively implementing the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
We are undertaking large-scale public investment in key sectors such as energy, water and sanitation, roads and bridges, human settlements, health and education, digital infrastructure and public transport.
We are promoting investment in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism.
We are providing support to small-scale manufacturers and township and rural entrepreneurs.
Our emphasis is on localisation so that South African businesses benefit from all areas of economic activity.
We have begun the process of rolling out public employment programmes that will offer greater work opportunities, especially for women, youth, persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups.
The ANC is immensely encouraged by the outcomes of the third South Africa Investment Conference that took place late last year.
It was an affirmation that the investor community appreciates our country as a dependable investment destination.
The ANC government will in the year ahead focus on building new electricity generation and transmission capacity, in the process creating jobs.
The easing of regulations for electricity self-generation by firms and municipalities will unlock significant investment and job creation potential.
There has been progress in policy reform in a number of other areas.
In the mining sector, an exploration strategy is being finalised in consultation with stakeholders.
Reforms in the telecommunications sector will accelerate the rollout of 5G, enhancing our economy’s competitiveness, lowering data costs and boosting the operation of SMMEs, cooperatives and large firms.
The ANC is encouraged that there is broad consensus at NEDLAC on the actions that are needed to drive South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery.
A critical element of success in implementing the plan is the reform of the state machinery so that we can enhance the capability of the state.
The District Development Model aligns the work of the three spheres of government, ensuring that planning and implementation are integrated and actively involve all stakeholders.
Through this model, we are working to bring all parts of government closer to where people live and work.
The success of our economic recovery relies in large measure on the repurposing of state owned enterprises to more effectively and sustainably fulfil their developmental mandates.
As we begin 2021, the ANC renews its commitment to forge ahead with building an ethical, capable and developmental state that can drive the economic recovery.
It is a commitment to managing our country’s economy and public finances in a sustainable manner, so that we can retain our country’s policy sovereignty and our ability to shape our own destiny.
In the course of this year, we will intensify all measures to improve the lives of the poor.
The social relief measures introduced by government in April last year – including the temporary top-up of social grants and the special COVID-19 grant for unemployed people – proved vital in supporting the poor at their time of greatest vulnerability.
As these emergency measures come to an end because of our limited resources, we need to intensify other poverty alleviation measures.
This year, the ANC, government and broader society will need to continue discussions on the desirability and viability of a basic income grant to provide a social safety net to the poor.
Through our massive infrastructure and public employment programmes, we will accelerate the provision of electricity, water, sanitation and other services to those South Africans who still do not have them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to accelerate the process towards the establishment of the National Health Insurance, which will reduce the huge inequalities and inefficiencies in our health system.
Education was severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and the disease will continue to pose challenges for effective schooling in the year ahead.
It is a testament to the determination of educators, lecturers, administrators, learners, students and parents that much of the academic year was recovered.
It is this determination that is needed as we pursue a skills revolution.
This requires that we overcome the fundamental challenge of persistent inequality in all facets of our education system.
We need to work harder to ensure that schools in townships and rural areas are better resourced, that all schools meet the basic infrastructure standards and that poor and middle-class students receive the financial support they need to access and remain in tertiary education.
It is the right of every South African woman, man and child to live in safety, secure from crime and violence.
It is also a prerequisite for inclusive economic and social development.
We welcome the progress that has been made in combating gangsterism and organised crime, but these efforts needs to be stepped up significantly.
The ANC must continue to be at the forefront of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
We commend the work done in particular by the ANC Women’s League and our Alliance partners in consistently campaigning on this issue.
We remain firm that any of our members who are found guilty of such crimes have no place in our movement.
There is only one place where they belong: in jail.
We must be more direct in our efforts to reduce alcohol and substance abuse, which are major contributing factors in the perpetration of violence.
The temporary restrictions that were placed on the availability of alcohol under the state of disaster regulations have demonstrated how abuse of alcohol fuels violence, trauma and reckless behaviour and places a burden on our health services.
We must take measures to reduce the abuse of alcohol through a combination of legislative and other measures and community mobilisation.
We are making progress in restoring the credibility and integrity of government, and action is being taken against those who are implicated in acts of corruption.
Across all parts of society, we must continue to provide all the necessary support to our law enforcement agencies so that they can investigate thoroughly and prosecute effectively without fear, favour or prejudice.
We are going to intensify our efforts to end state capture in all its forms.
One of the resolutions of our 54th National Conference was to support the establishment of a commission inquiry into state capture.
We need to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the Zondo Commission are used to ensure that such activities are never allowed to happen again.
The struggle to ensure that the land is ‘shared among those who work it’ remains a historical and economic imperative.
Land reform is central to meeting the aspirations of the Freedom Charter, and to redressing the wrongs of the past.
During the course of this year, we expect Parliament to approve an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution, clearly outlining the circumstances in which land may be expropriated without compensation.
This will give effect to an important resolution of our 54th National Conference and will contribute to the acceleration of land reform.
This needs to take place alongside a comprehensive land reform programme that, among other things, draws on long-standing ANC resolutions and on the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture.
We will strengthen existing policies to ensure fair and equitable redistribution of land.
This year a focus will also be on resolving security of tenure that affects millions of our people and on speeding up the outstanding claims of labour tenants.
The redistribution of land will be done in a manner that promotes economic growth and sustains food security.
Critical in this regard will be our focus on effective support to those who have acquired agricultural land.
This will help to address asset poverty and improve the ability of many to engage in productive economic activity.
Our third priority for 2021 is to forge ahead with the renewal of the ANC.
Although progress has been made since our 54th National Conference, we have yet to give full and decisive effect to its resolutions on rebuilding and renewing our organisation.
During the course of this year, we will continue to focus on the vital task of building unity of purpose and unity in action.
This unity must be founded on a common commitment to the core values of the ANC and serving the South African people.
Unity cannot be used to shield those involved in wrongdoing from being held accountable.
We are going to strengthen the ANC’s Integrity Commission, to enable it to act decisively, without fear or favour, to deal with corruption and wrongdoing in our ranks.
We reiterate, as resolved by the National Conference, that every member accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices should account to the Integrity Commission immediately or face disciplinary processes.
Members who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative, or prosecutorial procedures, will be summarily suspended.
The NEC will soon finalise guidelines on the implementation of these resolutions.
It is only if we stand united against corruption that we can restore the integrity of our movement.
As we begin our campaigning for this year’s elections, we want to make it very clear: we will not tolerate members of the ANC who are involved in crooked practices like vote-buying, branch list manipulation to secure positions, or extending patronage to get votes.
We call on all ANC members to be mindful that they represent an organisation and not themselves.
The fourth priority for 2021 is to work towards a better Africa and world.
The grave conditions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have not been faced by us alone.
The pandemic has disrupted global trade, investment, production and travel.
Economies around the world have contracted and millions of jobs have been lost.
Developing countries with few resources available to mount an effective health response have been hardest hit.
At the same time, this has been an unprecedented era of global cooperation and solidarity, especially intra-African solidarity.
During our chairship of the African Union, South Africa has been instrumental in forging more effective collaboration among African countries in tackling the economic effects of COVID-19.
We have worked with other countries to develop effective health responses and ensure that all African countries have access to essential medical supplies and, ultimately, a vaccine.
We must continue to build on the cooperation that has been forged under the pandemic to deepen the ties of collaboration between the countries and regions of the world.
The ANC affirms its commitment to meeting the aspirations of the AU’s Agenda 2063 of an integrated, united, prosperous and peaceful continent.
The ongoing conflicts in the Eastern DRC, Sahel region, Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Mozambique remain a major concern.
They make the goal of Silencing the Guns more relevant and urgent.
To support the advance of democracy and good governance across Africa we will continue to use the mechanisms of the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament and regional bodies.
We will strengthen the Southern African Development Community as a powerful instrument for economic integration, development and stability in our region.
The pandemic presents an opportunity to set the global economy along a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly, low-carbon and climate change resilient developmental pathway.
To this end, recovery strategies must be aligned to the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change, the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and other multilateral environmental agreements.
The countries of Africa need to be united in support of multilateralism and in the reform of global institutions, such as the United Nations Security Council, to ensure that they represent the interests of Africa and the developing world.
The ANC welcomes the coming into operation of the African Continental Free Trade Area on the 1st of January 2021.
The African Continental Free Trade Area heralds a new era of African integration, development and progress.
Importantly, it will enable African countries to benefit from their own natural resources and reduce their dependence on countries outside of the continent for manufactured goods and services.
Economic empowerment of women in Africa is critical not only to gender equality, but also to Africa’s overall economic development.
We will continue to push for preferential procurement for women and favourable trade arrangements.
We remain firm in our conviction that Africa is rich in potential.
Our continent is rich in human capital, in its youth dividend, in its resources, in its environmental endowment and in its location.
Despite the weaknesses in the world economy, Africa is on the threshold of a new era of integration, growth, prosperity and development.
It is more important than ever for the ANC to forge ahead with its task of building progressive alliances, particularly on the African continent.
We will deepen efforts to build relations with fraternal progressive organisations on the continent and in other parts of the world to forge a developmental agenda that prioritises the needs of the poor and marginalised.
The ANC will continue to prioritise the African Agenda and enhancing Africa’s status in the global community.
Comrades and Friends,
The renewal and unity of the ANC is a critical enabler for all these noble dreams and plans of transformation.
We have therefore identified several organisational tasks for the ANC in 2021.
We will renew ANC branches as centres for community development and transformation.
Without strong local organisation and mobilisation, transformation will continue to remain elusive.
We must therefore continue to build ANC branches that are true agents for change.
We will deepen cadre development and mass political education.
We need to instil a culture of revolutionary discipline in all our structures, starting with the adherence by all members to their oath of membership.
We will strengthen the Leagues and the Alliance.
We need to engage the young people of our country more actively and directly, and ensure that they are able to participate in the programmes of the organisation.
We must intensify our support for the Women’s League and Veterans’ League so they play their role within the movement and across society.
As we celebrate the centenary of the SACP, we appreciate the role of the Party and its contribution to the strength and ideological advancement of the Alliance.
We reaffirm our strong alliance with COSATU.
We will continue to promote the unity of all veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe and ensure that the challenges facing military veterans are effectively addressed.
We will hold a National General Council that enhances renewal and unity.
The NGC will be held in a few months and must help us to review progress since National Conference and address challenges facing our nation.
It must serve as a platform to build unity of purpose around the ongoing task of renewal.
We will work to achieve a decisive mandate in local government elections.
Building on the gains made in recent by-elections, we must reach every voter and engage those not yet registered to convince them that the ANC remains the best instrument for strong developmental local government.
We will undertake effective communication and social mobilisation.
The ANC must, in action, show that it has the determination, skill, integrity and commitment to steer the programme of social transformation.
We will build social cohesion towards a non-racial and non-sexist society.
The ANC must continue to lead the struggle against racism, ethnic chauvinism, patriarchy and all forms of intolerance.
We must intensify efforts to bridge the historical divides among South Africans.
We need to address the way in which access to wealth, land, education, employment and opportunity remains skewed according to race, gender and class.
This requires that the ANC works with all sectors of society to change the structure of the economy to allow for broader participation by black people, women, the youth and those in rural areas.
We must build an inclusive economy that allows everyone to prosper.
We will advance the African agenda.
The ANC remains firmly rooted among the progressive forces of the world, and it must continue to advance the African agenda, especially as the historic African Continental Free Trade Area comes into effect.
Inspired by the creed of Pan Africanism, we must work with progressive forces to pursue the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the achievement of a more just and equitable world order.
We will work to modernise the ANC and ensure financial sustainability.
We must continue to improve and modernise our core organisational systems, such as the new membership system, branch functionality, our administration, elections campaign capacity, communications, research, fundraising as well as monitoring and evaluation.
Comrades and Friends,
Over the past year many South Africans have lost their lives.
These include fellow citizens who have succumbed to COVID-19.
We remember these loved ones, and we share the loss felt by family members, colleagues, neighbours and friends.
The ANC too has lost many veterans, stalwarts and activists of our struggle over the past year.
Prominent among those that we have lost this past year are Izithwalandwe Andrew Mlangeni, Denis Goldberg and John Nkadimeng.
As we honour their courage, dedication and selfless service, it us up to us as the ANC of today to ensure that the ideals that inspired their lives continue to guide our every action.
As we confront – both as a movement and a country – the greatest health crisis in more than a century, we should draw on our rich history of struggle and solidarity.
It was not long after the formation of the African National Congress in 1912, that the world was struck by the flu pandemic of 1918.
Reflecting on that pandemic, one of the founders of the ANC, Selby Msimang, expressed the hope that “such an epidemic would create a new spirit” of brotherhood and sisterhood among all South Africans irrespective of race and social status.
Over the past year, the people of South Africa have demonstrated that such a spirit is possible.
Let us ensure that, as we rebuild our economy and our society and as we strive to build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, we harness that spirit of unity, cohesion and solidarity.
In recognition of the ideals that inspired the formation of our movement, the mandate set by the 54th National Conference, and the tasks arising from the current environment, the National Executive Committee declares the theme for 2021 to be:
UNITY, RENEWAL AND RECONSTRUCTION IN THE YEAR OF CHARLOTTE MAXEKE.
Let freedom reign!
The ANC lives!
The ANC leads!
I thank you.