TNA, GTF join ANC centenary celebration, Sri Lanka boycotts
Delegations from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) are amongst international attendees of the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress (ANC) on Sunday. Sri Lanka has refused to participate at the event in Bloemfontein because of the ANC’s invitation to the GTF, the Sunday Times reports. Dozens of heads of state and representatives of other governments, as well as large numbers of dignitaries from across Africa are joining over 100,000 politicians, members and supporters of the ANC in the historic celebration. In the meantime, a Tamil academic based in Colombo cautioned Eezham Tamils to be aware of the duality of South Africa. While the ruling party has been engaged in a show of solidarity with struggling forces across the world, the South African State has joined hands with anti-people regimes as it did during the 2009 voting at the UNHRC.
Bloemfontein, 400 km south of Johannesburg, is where the ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, was born 100 years ago in a small village church.
The TNA’s delegation includes leader R. Sampanthan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Selvam Adaikalanathan and Suresh Premachandran.
The GTF’s 7-person delegation is lead by its President, Rev (Dr) S J Emmanuel, and includes representatives of its member organisations in the United States, Britain, Australia, Malaysia, and Germany.
The two delegations are to hold talks on the sidelines of the event.
The ANC wrote to the TNA and the member organisations of the GTF inviting them to join its historical celebrations.
Sri Lanka has refused the ANC’s invitation because inviting the GTF thus giving the diaspora organisation official status and placing it on par with a government delegation was not acceptable, an External Affairs Ministry source told the Sri Lankan Sunday Times.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were amongst those who arrived in Bloemfontein Saturday.
They, along with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and forty other national leaders, will join a mass rally to be addresssed on Sunday by South African President Jacob Zuma.
Announcing the centenary celebrations, the ANC said:
“For the ANC this event is important for numerous reasons, but key amongst those is the fact that in the 100 years of its existence we remain relevant to the situation in South Africa, the continent and the world. Secondly, the ANC continues to embody the ideals of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country.”
“The prestige and importance of this event is evident given the international interest it has generated for historic and concurrent roles South Africa plays in the affairs of the region, the continent and the world.”
On Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the ANC as “a beacon for the world in the fight against discrimination and the struggle for freedom from oppression.”
“On behalf of the British people, I want to congratulate you and everyone involved with the African National Congress on this very special anniversary,” he wrote.
“We will stand with you in the ongoing struggle for equality, democracy and prosperity for the people of South Africa, and for justice and freedom from tyranny around the world.”
At the celebrations in Bloemfontein, 86-year-old ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni, who was jailed alongside ANC icon Nelson Mandela, 93, by the Apartheid regime, told reporters: “I’m very happy and proud that we have achieved what we fought for: freedom.”
“People of South Africa today are free and this is what we had been struggling for,” he said.
Throughout decades of struggle against Apartheid, the ANC’s leaders were also deemed international terrorists – the United States only removed Mandela from its terrorist watch list in 2008 – but were undaunted.
"We never saw ourselves as terrorists, we were satisfied in our minds that we were freedom fighters,” said Mac Maharaj, the current presidential spokesman and former head of the ANC’s armed wing, told AFP.
But once in power, the party chose economic liberalism, creating a new generation of "black economic power" that has changed the face of the Africa’s biggest economy – South Africa’s black middle class counts between two and three million people.
"We are the oldest organisation in the continent," President Zuma told a cheering crowd after a walk-about Friday in Botshabelo around 25 miles from Bloemfontein.
"Many organisations have been created, born, established along the way and many have perished, have died, have collapsed. Not the ANC."