Comrades, Compatriots and Friends,
We gather here to celebrate the 105th birthday of the oldest liberation movement on this continent, the African National Congress.
This tremendous achievement is the result of the dedication, sacrifice and hard work of millions of people – in South Africa and across the world – who acted in unity to ensure that we can live in a free South Africa.
As we celebrate the 105th anniversary of our movement, we gather also to pay tribute to a hero of our people and a true son of this soil.
Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest-serving President of our movement, would have been 100 years old this year.
The National Executive Committee of the ANC has therefore decided to dedicate this year – his centenary – to him.
This is the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo.
This is the year in which we celebrate his extraordinary life and supreme contribution to our freedom.
This is the year in which we honour his memory by pledging to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, to achieve his vision of a free, democratic and united society.
This is the year in which we affirm the statement by former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela when he declared:
“I say that Oliver Tambo has not died, because the ideals for which he sacrificed his life can never die…
“I say that Oliver Tambo has not died because the ideals of freedom, human dignity and a colour-blind respect for every individual cannot perish.
“While the ANC lives, Oliver Tambo cannot die!”?
Today we say that for as long as we keep alive the ideals for which Oliver Tambo lived and sacrificed, the ANC will not die.
For Oliver Tambo, this son of Mbizana, the unity of our people and the integrity of our liberation movement was paramount.
When the ANC sent him to establish the ANC in exile, he understood that he had been entrusted the task of ensuring that the movement survives the brutal onslaught unleashed by the apartheid regime on our people and on the members, leaders and structures of our movement.
But more than that, he had been entrusted with the task of rebuilding a powerful instrument of national liberation.
He understood that no matter the difficulties of the moment, he was to be the glue that would bind our glorious movement together.
Addressing the people on 68th anniversary of the ANC in 1980, he spoke words that are just as true over 30 years later.
“The need for the unity of the patriotic and democratic forces of our country has never been greater than it is today.
“Our unity has to be based on honesty among ourselves, the courage to face reality, adherence to what has been agreed upon, to principle.”
Now, in 2017, in the circumstances of the present, we are bound to acknowledge that the need for the unity of the patriotic and democratic forces of our country has never been greater than it is today.
For although we have made great progress since 1994 in improving the lives of our people, we have not yet overcome poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment, illiteracy and inequality.
We have improved the lives of millions of our people.
But we have not yet achieved the objective of a better life for all.
This January 8th, we are saying that we will not be able to build a better life for our people without a strong, united and capable ANC.
This January 8th, we must have the courage to face the reality that our movement is currently under severe strain.
We must be honest enough to recognise that disunity, mistrust, ideological incoherence and organisational weakness is undermining our ability to address the challenges that confront our people.
Building the unity of the ANC and the Alliance is therefore the most important and urgent task of the moment.
In the January 8th Statement, which the President presented to the nation last week, the ANC National Executive Committee notes that the organisation is confronted by divisive practices.
At all levels of the organisation, in our leagues and even among some components of the Alliance, leadership contests are accompanied by practices such gatekeeping, vote buying, electoral fraud and even violence.
We must face the reality that much of the factionalism in our movement is rooted in a competition for access to resources.
We must acknowledge here that there are instances where internal ANC processes have been infiltrated by individuals and companies seeking preferential access to state business.
Often, people are recruited to the ANC not to build the organisation, but to provide votes to one or another faction.
Like Oliver Tambo did, the leaders of our movement must be disciplined and act at all times to promote unity.
Many of the divisions that currently exist in our movement are divisions among leaders, not divisions among members.
These are divisions not based on ideological or political differences.
They are not based on disagreements over strategy or policy.
These are divisions that are fuelled by a relentless competition for positions, influence and control over resources.
This is the reality that we are determined to change.
We are dedicating this year, 2017, to correcting the many mistakes that we have made, to ending the deviant practices that are slowly destroying our organisation.
We need to make the act of joining the ANC a more meaningful and valued process.
Members of the ANC must feel on their shoulders the burden of responsibility.
Like Oliver Tambo, they must understand that they have been entrusted with the future of the movement and with the successful prosecution of the struggle of our people.
Each one of us must understand ourselves to be the glue that holds this organisation together.
The January 8th Statement provides us with a plan of action to unite and rebuild the movement.
We need to insulate state procurement processes from political interference.
We need to strengthen internal processes for managing potential conflicts of interest and alleged criminal conduct and ethical breaches.
At the same time, we need to embrace the concept of revolutionary discipline as understood and practiced by Oliver Tambo.
He did not understood discipline as primarily a matter of rules, regulations and sanction.
For him, discipline was the product of a deliberate political decision by an individual to dedicate their capabilities, resources and energy to the achievement of the aims of the movement.
For him, discipline was a consequence of the decision of an individual to join the African National Congress.
Discipline does not earn praise. It does not bring personal reward.
It is about working hard and placing the interests of the people above one’s own interests.
It is about fighting factionalism, resisting corruption, safeguarding public resources.
Comrades and friends,
This is the year in which we must make decisive progress in the growth and transformation of our economy.
We know that we will not create the jobs our people seek unless we grow the economy.
That is why we are intensifying our industrial incentive programmes, establishing special economic zones and investing in infrastructure.
Here in the Eastern Cape, for example, these measures are contributing to the sustainability and expansion of the auto industry.
They are resulting in significant new investments in the Coega Industrial Development Zone.
In the next few years, significant investment in this region’s transport and water infrastructure will bring extensive economic benefits.
We know that we will not create the jobs our people seek unless we improve the skills and capabilities of our youth.
We wish to congratulate the Eastern Cape’s 2016 matriculants for having recorded a 2.5% improvement in the overall pass rate.
While there has been progress, we must acknowledge that we are still falling far short of the province’s potential.
We welcome the efforts of the Eastern Cape provincial government to prioritise assistance to struggling schools, improving school management, developing and maintaining school infrastructure, and addressing the shortage of teachers.
In 2017, we need to dedicate resources and energy to the most challenged schools to ensure all learners in the province receive the quality education they deserve.
This province is home to prestigious educational institutions like Lovedale College and the University of Fort Hare, institutions that played a leading role in shaping generations of African leaders.
Today, the various higher education institutions in the province – including this one – are shaping a new generation of African leaders, academics, artisans and professionals.
They are following in the footsteps of Oliver Tambo, a dedicated teacher and a lifelong champion of the value of education.
In honouring his memory, we will work this year to expand access to quality higher education to more South Africans from poor communities.
Through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, government will be funding more than 400,000 students at universities and TVET colleges this year.
We will continue to engage with institutions, students and other stakeholders on how to address the funding challenges in higher education in a sustainable manner.
The January 8th Statement says that it is time to return the land to our people.
Our land reform and land redistribution programmes have shown measurable success.
However, too many of our people continue to suffer from the historic injustice of land dispossession.
This year, we will use the Expropriation of Land Act to pursue land reform and land redistribution with greater speed and urgency.
We call on communities and traditional leaders to work together with government to speedily resolve land claims.
We need to work together to ensure that land is ultimately used for the benefit of communities and to build local economies.
This year, we will continue to work together to promote local economic development, particularly in centres like Mthatha where there is great potential for localisation and empowerment.
We will continue to create opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme, with an emphasis on work experience and skills for women and young people.
Comrades and friends,
We will not be able to build a better life for our people unless we can mobilise society as a whole to tackle the challenges we face.
Oliver Tambo was excellent at building alliances.
It was thanks to his alliance-building efforts that the anti-apartheid movement led one of the largest and most effective global campaigns of the 20th century.
Like him, we must work to mobilise different groupings around common programmes for change and development.
We must build alliances with formations across the length and breadth of South Africa in pursuit of our goal of radical economic transformation.
We must build alliances within communities to advance development.
We must build alliances with fraternal parties and social formations across Africa to pursue the growth and development of our continent.
We must build alliances with other countries, with political parties, with international organisations and leading global figures in our effort to build a better, more just and more equitable world.
In 2017, we must deepen our efforts to build a non-racial and non-sexist society.
Throughout his life, Oliver Tambo fought to tear down the barriers of prejudice, ignorance and injustice.
He was unreservedly committed to the emancipation of women.
He challenged patriarchy in all its forms, both within society and within the liberation movement.
He understood that the achievement of gender equality was a responsibility of both men and women.
Tambo was determined that the ANC should be a truly non-racial organisation.
He sought to create a country where there will be neither whites nor blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity.
We must dedicate ourselves to tackling discrimination and oppression in whatever form it takes, whether in the home, in the workplace, in the institutions of state, or on social media.
We need to ensure that we respect, uphold and restore the dignity of all our people.
Comrades and Friends,
Let me conclude with the words that Madiba spoke as he said farewell to his life-long comrade, Oliver Tambo.
“Go well, my brother and farewell, dear friend.
As you instructed, we will bring peace to our tormented land.
As you directed, we will bring freedom to the oppressed and liberation to the oppressor.
As you strived, we will restore the dignity of the dehumanised.
As you commanded, we will defend the option of a peaceful resolution of our problems.
As you prayed, we will respond to the cries of the wretched of the earth.
As you loved them, we will, always, stretch out a hand of endearment to those who are your flesh and blood.
In all this, we will not fail you.”
As we begin 2017, let us declare here that we will not fail OR Tambo.
Let us declare that we will strive to build the free, just and prosperous society of which he dreamed.
Let us declare that we will unite, restore and renew the glorious movement to which he dedicated his life.
Let us work to ensure that ANC lives and the ANC leads.
I thank you.