The African National Congress’ (ANC) top leadership went all out celebrating the party’s 107th anniversary in all its regions in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday. The message is clear – the party needs to be united ahead of the upcoming general elections.

The ANC prides itself for managing to pull off the party’s anniversary celebrations in all the regions in KwaZulu-Natal.

Various leaders from top structures teamed up with local leaders and went onto the streets, painting them black, green and gold. They made their presence felt even in small towns.

ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule says unity is crucial among party members and leaders. Speaking in uMzimkhulu in southern KwaZulu-Natal about killings that have plagued the region, Magashule says they regret losing so many people.

“While we are happy, we are moving forward, we just regret and we will forever regret those killings here and anywhere in the country. The ANC is a very peaceful organisation. We want peace amongst our communities; amongst our people; amongst our comrades. This is why the ANC exists. That is the reason we are a very peaceful organisation. we believe and we trust that. These numbers, the ANC is coming together.”

Meanwhile, Magashule says they are working with the troubled Moses Mabhida region and have made progress.

“A hundred and seven years of ANC, we are happy that the ANC is uniting through, across the country. Unity is a process, it takes time. Our comrades are slowly and slowly understanding that things will be fine and we are happy and they are also celebrating. We will be going there because there is no way we cannot go to our people. Whether they are angry, whether they fight, the must live and be amongst them.”

Ordinary people who were part of the celebrations, raised their issues with the ANC leaders.

“Sports activities can groom us also if we can have training and rehabilitation centres where we can receive assistance that can also decrease the number of whoonga victims who must also be taken to school in order to better our country. We plead to the Deputy President for housing projects and improved sanitation systems, and for job opportunities.”

ANC Deputy President David Mabuza has urged all members to accept all party leaders.

“Unity within the ANC is crucially important at all times in order to continue with our struggle, ANC is a caring organisation so please understand if I am speaking about the ANC I am speaking about you too it means it you are the caring people, renew hat ability to be caring let your hearts accept all leaders, let us unite and continue in harmony leading the country.”

Earlier President Cyril Ramaphosa dismissed suggestions that relations are tense between himself and former President Jacob Zuma. He was addressing scores of party members and supporters in Inanda north of Durban.

Both Ramaphosa and Zuma arrived at the venue walking side by side. The January 8th statement is when the ANC takes stock of its performance, while also outlining its future plans. While admitting some gaps, Ramaphosa says he is pleased with the ANC-led government’s achievements.

There was a resounding welcome for both Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma as they arrived in Inanda at the grave of the ANC’s first President John Langalibalele Dube as well as the anniversary rally in Inanda.

In the morning, Ramaphosa accompanied by party provincial Chairperson Sihle Zikalala and other National Executive Committee members interacted with people at a taxi rank in Pinetown. He later attended a church service in Durban.

Addressing scores of party members and supporters at the rally, Ramaphosa dismissed suggestions that there is a rift between himself and Zuma. He also dismissed media reports that suggest that he wants to use a planned meeting with Zuma to rebuke him about his recent public statements.

Ramaphosa says many people are speculating that he wants to call to order Zuma, but he said he does not know that and that those rumours are not true.

The President spent a large part of his speech talking about the achievements of the ANC-led government since 1994. These covered access to education, housing, health care and economic stability.

While he admits that there has been an uphill battle to deal with high unemployment levels and the struggling economy, Ramaphosa says the economy has managed to create jobs. He lamented the high levels of abuse that women and children are subjected to. The President described abuse of women and children as a national crisis.

“But we must hang our head in shame that even as we make progress in forging a non-sexist society, women in our country continue to be confronted with unprecedented levels of abuse, violence and murder often by those closest to them. This is a national crisis.”

However, the family of the late John Dube, the first ANC President says it is unfortunate that indigenous people of South Africa are still at the receiving end when it comes to economic opportunities. Dube’s grandson, Langa, says while great strides have been achieved by the ANC-led government to bring black people on board, the gap between the rich and the poor is still wide.

“What they have already committed to do they still need to pursue the idea of people getting decent housing, all basic services. That people need to be given opportunities to advance themselves – because South Africa is the only country where you find that the indigenous people are the ones who are back benchers they are not actually in charge of the businesses at whatever level you can think of.”

Meanwhile, the ANC’s top leadership will continue to criss-cross the province, interacting and mobilising communities to attend the launch of the party’s election manifesto at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

– Nonkululeko Hlophe and Vusi Makhosini