The success of the next 100 years of the ANC will be judged on our ability to raise a new generation of South Africans who have equal access to opportunities and development resources to build a prosperous nation.
The ANC needs to recognise that revelling in self-adulation due to a rich history does not mean much unless we can lift the necessary lessons to respond to the challenges of the moment.
Most importantly, the meaning of these 100 years of struggle must provide the ANC with the opportunity to stand back and look at itself from the vantage point of hindsight. By opening up its mind and introspecting this way the ANC will also afford itself an opportunity to know how others in turn view its progress and prospects towards the future.
No organisation is guaranteed eternal life based on its historic achievements alone or merely because it fashioned the course to freedom. Organisations are sustained through long-term visions resulting from conscious actions taken today in the interest of present and future generations.
Once the ANC itself begins to bemoan the challenges facing society, instead of tackling them, it can no longer be seen as a leading force and an agent for change. Thus, the ANC will have to renew itself by re-emphasising the traditions and core values and by preventing its quintessence from being corroded by sins of incumbency that have plagued post-colonial liberation movements elsewhere before. Consequently, the ANC needs to work to ensure that it emerges in this current period fully consistent in outlook and orientation with the character of a modern progressive party.
Throughout its many decades of existence, the ANC has had the versatility to reorganise itself in the light of new experiences and to keep up with the historical process. Its history has not been linear and smooth sailing. At every turning point in its history it had to pause to find a way of accommodating the particular phase of the struggle.
Practical experience over the last few years requires that we relook at the issues of organisational systems and processes with the object of strengthening existing internal democracy and leadership systems. Such a move will require us to also re-look at conditions of transparency in our internal business, including governance, democratic rights of members, improving the quality and nature of our congresses and electoral systems as well as safeguarding the system of democratic decision making.
The ANC's renewal project must ensure that people remain in the state of high mobilisation in pursuing our strategic vision. The social content that lies at the core of our vision charges us with the duty to oppose unregulated markets and the circumscribed role of the state, fully aware that markets have no sense of historical experience and can therefore not address the injustices of the past if left to their own devices.
For centuries, democracy has been serving as the best integument for the system of capitalism. However, developments within the eurozone have dispensed with some of the key elements of democracy by prompting changes of government without going through elections, as has happened in Greece and Italy.
What these developments do is call into question concepts that have until now been universally accepted as axiomatic. Perhaps these developments present a challenge to the South African and indeed African intellectuals to figure out the practical implications for Africa in terms of democracy and economic development.
On this account, the ANC is aware that as it continues to fight poverty, unemployment and social inequalities, it is doing so under historically given economic conditions over which it has little control. The serious limitations of the socioeconomic system on what can be achieved cannot be underestimated. South Africa attained democracy 18 years ago and was welcomed into the world community of nations, a world whose global economic system was
beginning to experience chronic and vicious cycles of crises.
We have to learn from the history of progressive movements elsewhere in the world in terms of post-colonial experience and how they have tried to modernise themselves to deal with present-day challenges. In the past people were their own liberators and still remain so today. Consequently, success in our duties is contingent upon transformation being people-centred and people-driven.
The ANC must studiously avoid substituting itself and its leaders for the people; instead it must be a vehicle of the people's aspirations. National oppression and its social consequences cannot be resolved by formal democracy underpinned by market forces.
While formal democracy may present opportunities for some blacks and women to advance, without a systematic national effort, led by the democratic government, to unravel the skewed distribution of wealth and income, the social reality of apartheid will remain.
By the same token, the value system that inheres in and defines a socioeconomic system that frames the democratic state presents a counterpoint to the historically noble heritage introduced by the ANC. This is reflected in the material acquisitiveness that has enveloped the outlook of society, including some of us in the ANC today. No less a figure than George Soros hit the nail on the head in this regard when he held that: "Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value. What is more expensive is considered better. The value of a work of art can be judged by the price it fetches. People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reversing the relationship postulated by economic theory. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles.
Society has lost its anchor." Money defines the value of everything; it prompts the relentless pursuit of material riches to assert human value. As a leading social force aiming to exterminate social conditions that breed underdevelopment, ANC cadres must remain vigilant lest they be sucked into the vortex of the socioeconomic system that defines our era. It is a social system that puts individualism and greed above all else and goes against the grain of the ideals of a humane society.
This socioeconomic system has foisted an antithetical cultural outlook that puts a premium on the money agenda; an agenda that reflects material riches as the point of departure.
This is the story of our past. As they say, the past we inherit; the future we create!