The Mangaung Metro wants the Wesleyan Church in Waaihoek, Bloemfontein, to be declared an international heritage site. It is here that the South African Native National Congress, now the African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912.
The Wesleyan Church hosted the historic gathering which gave birth to Africa’s oldest liberation movement. The South African Native National Congress was founded here on the 8th of January in 1912.
It was renamed the ANC in 1923. The four-day meeting, which was convened by 30-year-old Pixley ka Isaka Seme, was attended by more than 60 delegates from across the country.
Delegates comprised traditional leaders or their representatives, and political leaders. John Langalibalele Dube was elected as the founding president in absentia. Four vice presidents were also elected at the inaugural conference.
Oupa Khoabane is the Spokesperson of the ANC in the Free State. “This is where the ANC was born and with the programme of renewal. This is an appropriate time for the ANC to have such celebrations in this place. This is the city of congresses; this is the city that was hosting major political activities.”
The Wesleyan Church building was turned into a panel beating shop, but the Free State government took it back and renovated it in time for the ANC’s centenary celebrations in January 2012.
It was declared a national heritage site in February 2018. The metro wants the venue to receive international recognition.
Mangaung Metro Spokesperson, Qondile Khedama says, “Even when it was established you remember that Waaihoek was one of the churches that used with the leadership of your late Thomas Mapikela, you know the house he built 12 roomed house and he built it himself and he was trained as a carpenter.”
The exclusion of Africans from meaningful political participation in the negotiations leading up to the Union of South Africa in 1910, galvanised different African political formations.
They forged a unified political movement that would challenge the exclusion of Black people. This led to the historic Wesleyan Church meeting in Waaihoek over a century ago.
Free State ANC spokesperson, Oupa Khoabane says factions and leadership squabbles are not new phenomena in the party.
“This is not a new thing in the history of the ANC, in 1930 in the conference which was held here in Bloemfontein the ANC had two major groups. Those that were for socialism and those that were nationalists, still after that the ANC came out strong and united.”
The 111th anniversary celebrations come at a time when the ANC is at war with itself in the Free State. Party leaders say the movement has been able to overcome internal divisions.
Video: Mangaung Metro forges ahead with plans to have Waaihoek Wesleyan Church declared World Heritage Site