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EAST LONDON – Newly-elected African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramphosa will deliver his January 8th statement in East London on Saturday.
This as the party, which is Africa’s oldest liberation movement, celebrates its 106th birthday in the Eastern Cape.
The ANC’s birthday on 8 January is and has always been an important annual event.
Every year, the National Executive Committee (NEC) releases a statement to take stock of its position.
The party also articulates its vision for the forthcoming months.
Those in East London would be forgiven for thinking the city is observing an extended festive season with people adorned in green, black and gold.
Restaurants, bars and club owners are likely to register increased profits from the visiting patrons this weekend.
WATCH: More bull as ANC celebrates
However, 8 January is not a mere humdinger of a bash that takes place around a specific calendar date.
It is also not a mere speech made by whoever holds the office of president.
The first January 8th statement was issued by the ANC in 1972.
During apartheid, the statement was released by ANC President Oliver Tambo.
It was a galvanising call, linking members in exile around the world with those on Robben Island and activists and supporters within South Africa.
Here’s a list of the various themes over the past years:
January 8th, 1979 - The Year of the Spear
January 8th, 1980 - The Year of the Charter
January 8th, 1981 - The Year of the Youth
January 8th, 1982 - A year of Unity in Action
January 8th, 1983 - The Year of United Action
January 8th, 1986 - The Year of Umkhonto Wesizwe - the People's Army
January 8th, 1987 - Year of Advance to People`s Power
January 8th, 1988 - The Year of United Action for People`s Power
January 8th, 1989 - The Year of Mass Action for People`s Power
After Nelson Mandela succeeded Tambo as the party’s president, the January 8th statements from 1993 to 1996 echoed the state of a country in its early days of democracy.
January 8th, 1993 - The Year of Votes for All
January 8th, 1994 - The Year of Liberation for all South Africans
January 8th, 1995 - A Year to Consolidate and Deepen Democracy
January 8th, 1996 - Statement of the National Executive Committee on the occasion of the 84th Anniversary of the ANC
December 1997 saw Thabo Mbeki ascend to the Presidency of the ANC.
The tone of the statements began to talk to a party gaining confidence as a ruling party.
January 8th, 1998 - The Year of the Popular Mobilisation for the Consolidation of People's Power
January 8th, 1999 - Year of Mass Mobilisation for the Renewal of the Democratic Mandate
From the year 2000, the statement would reflect a party that was not only a “leader of society” as the ANC refers to itself, but a governing party of a country that was positioning itself as a leader in the development of the African continent.
January 8th, 2000 - The Year of the Dawn of the African Century
January 8th, 2001 - The Year of the African Century - for Democracy, Peace and Development
The 2004 election would mark the year that the party soared in electoral support, obtaining a two-thirds majority with 66.35%.
2007 marked the year that Jacob Zuma emerged as the new President of the ANC.
In subsequent years, the themes would include speeding up effective service delivery, advancing economic freedom and deepening unity in the year of OR Tambo.
Ramaphosa will deliver his inaugural January 8th statement on behalf of the NEC this year.
What the theme of this statement will be, remains to be seen.
This year’s statement comes from a party that is dogged by controversy, tainted by corruption, divisions and factionalism.
With diminishing electoral support and loss of traditional strongholds to opposition parties, the ANC is desperate to restore voter confidence.