At the start of a year when South Africa marks 20 years of non-racial democracy, the ANC has just celebrated its founding in 1912. With elections looming, the ANC is keen to be seen looking to the future as well.
On January 8, South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) marked 102 years of its existence, making it the oldest political movement on the African continent. The anniversary comes at a time when the ANC and South Africans in general are taking stock of 20 years of non-racial democracy and the end of apartheid.
In a statement highlighting the achievements of South Africa's democracy over the past 20 years, President Jacob Zuma and other top ANC leaders said that the liberation movement is the only political party the people should vote for in the upcoming elections.
Despite the shortcomings in creating sufficient job opportunities, especially for the youth, South Africa had the strongest economy on the African continent. Other achievements included a strong and independent judiciary, a fearless media, and vibrant institutions such as the Public Protector and the Auditor General.
The political agenda for the future
The party leaders said their main focus over the next five years will be on economic growth, rural development, education, health, safety, and security. "We will put emphasis more on the areas where there have been difficulties," said Gwede Mantashe, the secretary-general of the ANC. "I would imagine that there will be a major emphasis on jobs and the economy, particularly youth employment."
But many South Africans doubt whether these goals can be reached in the next five years or even ten. Speaking to DW, Chief Mthembu, an independent consultant, said, "Having attained democracy or political freedom, then the big task now going forward is that we need to concentrate on economic empowerment." He said that everybody from the private sector to civil society should be involved in ensuring that we fight the scourge of poverty.
Poverty and crime
"If I was also starving and I couldn't get food, I would also be out there robbing, breaking in," said Ian Matthews, a financial manager. "I actually feel worried and sorry for all those people, and if we can do something to help them, that's where I would like the government to help."
Paul Roxborough, a businessman, is seriously worried. "The situation of crime in this country is absolutely horrendous and ridiculous."
Trade union organizations and political movements, some of them allied with the ruling ANC, have also emphasized that drastic measures must be taken to overcome the deep economic inequality that currently exists in the country.
Solly Mapaila, a leader of the South African Communist Party said, "They should remain focused on the revolutionary mandate to fully liberate our people from economic bondage as we enter the second phase of our transition." Mapaila added, "These processes should be anchored around our own values of selflessness, of sacrifice, of loyalty to our people."
Robert Whiteford, an independent political observer, said he expected the ANC, which he believed will be returned to power after the April elections, to be more vigilant in protecting the country's hard-won democracy. "I am not concerned about the future, but I think certain things need to be changed, [for example] if the President has been involved in some of the things, he must step down, and somebody else must come into his position."
Whiteford had the impression that the rest of the world was watching what was happening in South Africa. "Personally, I think they are concerned about the way the president is running things."
While the ANC is lauding itself on its 102nd birthday and on the 20th anniversary of non-racial democracy, it has to be alert to the fact that a significant number of people are concerned about many aspects of life, especially corruption and the deterioration of services in areas such as health, safety, security and education.