Thabo Mbeki: Our struggle is the struggle of all black people

From a speech given by the President of South Africa in Durban to mark the 90th anniversary of the African National Congress
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Together they have travelled a long road to be where we are today. Ahead of us lies a decade during which we must continue to act together to advance towards the land of promise for Africa and Africans foreseen by our forebears when they established the ANC on 8 January 1912.

This glorious future was foretold by Pixley ka Isaka Seme, one of the ANC's founders, when he spoke at New York's Columbia University in 1906: "The brighter day is rising upon Africa. The regeneration of Africa means a new and unique civilisation is soon to be added to the world."

Even as Seme spoke these words, a dark future awaited our people and the peoples of the rest of our Continent. The brighter day did not rise. The darkest night of colonial oppression continued to envelop Africa. It was to change this condition and transform a dream into reality that the ANC was established 90 years ago.

The African was defined and treated as being of a lesser human species than even the lowliest among the colonisers. Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United States, as the 19th century was coming to a close, the Governor of Alabama, William C Oates, spoke frankly at the famous Tuskegee Institute of the African-American educator, Booker T Washington, and said to his black audience: "I want to give you niggers a few words of plain talk and advice. You might as well understand that this is a white man's country, as far as the South is concerned, and we are going to make you keep your place. Understand that."

As the ANC was born, everywhere, wherever black people lived, except in Haiti, Ethiopia and Liberia, was "a white man's country" and the nigger, the inferior race, was in his place.

The struggle for the liberation of South Africa became the struggle for the restoration of the dignity of black people everywhere. Our movement had to lead a struggle against the most stubborn representatives of white minority rule on our Continent. It had to lead the masses of our people to defeat the most naked racism ever experienced by the peoples of Africa, systematically codified, sanctified and ruthlessly implemented as apartheid.

During this year, when we observe the 90th anniversary of the ANC, we will also celebrate the eighth anniversary of our liberation from apartheid tyranny. On this historic and indelible victory of our movement and people rest our hopes and conviction that the dream dreamt by Pixley Seme will come to its fruition.

We have used that victory to transform ours into a democratic country. We have used it to begin the process towards the restoration of the dignity of all our people. We have begun to unleash the talents and creativity that reside in our people. We have striven to begin to offload the burden of poverty, hunger, disease, ignorance and underdevelopment that continue to afflict millions of our people. We have given a new impetus to our economy so that it grows and addresses the needs of all in a more equitable manner.

These interrelated struggles for real equality, and not merely the proclamation of a right, stand at the heart of our effort to create a new people-centred society. They dictate that we should eradicate the legacy of a racist and patriarchal society, which resulted in a situation of repugnant contempt, domination and discrimination for the overwhelming majority of our people. We must pay sustained attention to the issue of health among all our people, with particular attention to infectious diseases, including Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Each year, we must set ourselves various targets consistent with this perspective to ensure that we achieve real movement forward towards the objective of the eradication of the legacy of racism, sexism, colonialism and apartheid.

To all our people and all our brothers and sisters throughout Africa, we say: Africa's time is now! Long live the African National Congress!

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