100 years of ANC: Has South Africa come full circle?

South African war veterans stand guard in front a poster bearing pictures of former South Africa presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, as well as current President Jacob Zuma.

A black bull bellows and snorts in its death throes, sacrificed with a ceremonial spear in an age-old African cleansing ritual to ward off evil spirits and appease the souls of ancestors.

South African President Jacob Zuma led the purification ceremony over the weekend at the site where the ruling party he leads, the African National Congress, was born 100 years ago. The birth launched decades of exile, protest and armed struggle that finally ended apartheid white-minority rule in 1994, when elections ushered in a multiracial democracy.

As the ANC celebrated its 100th birthday yesterday — in a $12.3 million commemoration that included a huge banquet for invited heads of state and guests, a splurge of celebrity music shows and even a golf tournament — many were clamoring for the party itself to clean up its act after nearly 18 years at the head of Africa’s most powerful economy.

Under such legendary leaders as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, who endured persecution and imprisonment, the ANC gained near-mythical status. Once the yoke of apartheid was thrown off, it began ruling South Africa in a blaze of international goodwill that viewed it as a moral beacon for a troubled continent and world.

Close to two decades later, this image has dimmed as critics inside and outside the country and movement accuse ANC leaders of indulging in the spoils of office, squandering and raping mineral resources and engaging in vicious power struggles.


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