Saturday, June 23, 2018

In South Africa: Joy, sadness as Mandela's party turns 100

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa — Tens of thousands of chanting and dancing revelers waved the green and gold colors of the African National Congress as Africa's oldest liberation movement celebrated its 100th anniversary Sunday, though many South Africans say the party hasn't delivered on its promises since taking power in 1994.

A dozen African leaders and more former heads of state attended a midnight ceremony where President Jacob Zuma lit a flame, expected to stay alight the entire year, at the red brick, tin-roofed Wesleyan church where black intellectuals and activists founded the party in 1912.

Absent because of his frailty was Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president who is just six years younger than his movement. The world icon was jailed for 27 years by the racist white government, and his organization was formerly declared a terror group by the United States.

Joy at the ANC's leading role in ending white minority rule in 1994 was tinged with sadness over its failure to bring a better life to most South Africans, and corruption scandals that have embroiled members recently.

The 45,000-seat stadium at Bloemfontein overflowed Sunday with crowds that spilled outside, dancing and singing.

"We need to ensure that our program of transforming our country is accelerated and taken to new steps," Zuma said in an afternoon address.

He acknowledged the problems confronting the ANC, saying it needs to "defeat the demon of factionalism" and take "urgent and practical steps to restore the core values, stamp out factionalism and promote political discipline."

The ANC describes itself as the home of the working class and the poor, but inequality has grown in recent years even as a small black elite around the party has become multimillionaires flaunting lavish lifestyles.

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