By Petunia Mpoza

I wake up to the beep of my phone, signalling messages from friends and comrades alike, ensuring departure centres and time. It is at this moment that I realise that it is more than simply individuals from all walks of life who congregate in African National Congress regalia. It is not simply the ‘hype’ of belonging or participating in ANC events. Rather, it is a common call for those in love with the organisation, for those who are sceptical, for those who hold dear the idea of freedom, for those who still question this freedom and for those who are seeking answers.

Warmly dressed in my school blazer covered in badges of various shapes and sizes, I am taken back by how active I was at school, and how I was rewarded for it, not forgetting “inquisitive” and “talkative”, which were always inked on my report.

With the same inquisitive attitude I made my way to Naledi Hall, accompanied by my little brother who is a purposeful symbol of the hard-earned freedom, born April 27 1994, having his own form of modern badges forcefully pinned on him: ‘Freedom child’, ‘Born Frees’, ‘Amstel youth’ and, of late, ‘the Ultramelz’.

We arrive at Morris Isaacson High School. Various organisations are noted, and branding is the order of the day. Some of the kids around the area seem less fazed by the hype or buses encircling the school, and instead find some joy in car sounds playing local tunes, dancing in rhythm while flying ANC flags in tune.

This is the same tune resonating throughout the country, partly witnessed in Soweto where the ANC centenary flame moves accordingly, in union with the symbolic day of June 16.

What is the connection between the 100 years of ANC and the hundreds of young people that died on that day?

It is the common thread of liberation that sews together the different individuals all over South Africa, strategically and tactically moving towards a common goal of unity in diversity. This is the same drive that leads the diversified grouping of young people to the streets.

We arrive at the Hector Pieterson memorial site, and the streets are covered with black, green and gold. The ambience is motivating, drawn from the unity experienced and the respect for fellow man. Families stand outside their homes; young and old, mothers ululating, strong fists in the air accompanied by a firm Amandla! slogan, not shying away from the bellowing sounds made by those passing by. It is a very warming feeling, one I wish would never end.

A loud siren made by metro police cars, followed by sturdy bikers, alerts us to the arrival of the flame. According to information from the ANC website, the centenary flame symbolises progression and acknowledgement of strides made from colonial oppression and apartheid rule. The symbolism of the flame strives to inspire hope and prosperity for all.

The ANC has symbolically ensured continuation of hope towards another historical century, ensued along the captured memories of resistance demonstrated by the people of South Africa during the liberation struggle.

The flame, dubbed “Umlilo or Mmolo wa ANC”, is ushered by flame bearers proudly dressed in military gear. They are steadily followed by the SAPS, private cars, and a fleet of buses carrying masses to Ntate Motsoaledi’s, Mama Lilian Ngoyi’s and Ntate Kotane’s homes.

There is a time-out at Diepkloof Park before marching to Walter Sisulu square in Kliptown, Baba Bongani Khumalo’s house in Dlamini, followed by a visit to Holy Rosary Church in Phiri, continuing to General Masondo’s residence in Molapo and finally Regina Mundi Church. With every chant and proceeding convoy, love for the ANC is felt as numbers increase behind the centenary flame.

This is evidence that the organisation is 100 times stronger in spite of various reports about its demise. Soweto masses prove yet again that the ANC lives and thus the ANC leads.

Streets are packed with supporters, some making their way into various venues. The June centenary event clearly serves as a platform for the organisation to deepen political understanding by mobilising the diverse communities behind our history. The African culture of collectivism and values enshrined in ubuntu renews its strength.

As we call an end to the day, with the centenary flame still burning, the weekend buzz of Soweto continues. A Big Nuz-inspired chorus, “umlilo we ANC, uyashisa, ungaw’ lokothi…”, is remixed by the ‘Ayoba’ generation that have turned fists of “Viva!” into a clap and click. The youth are not shy to say “Amandla!”.

I am glad to have braved the cold and taken the plunge that earned me some weekend edification.

Petunia is a 2010 scholar. She is Free Burma’s South African ambassador and a Free the Cuban Five activist. She is a representative for the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) as one of the “2011 Pioneers”.


  • Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members of The Mandela Rhodes Community. The Mandela Rhodes Community was started by recipients of the scholarship, and is a growing network of young African leaders in different sectors. The Mandela Rhodes Community is comprised of students and professionals from various backgrounds, fields of study and areas of interest. Their commonality is the set of guiding principles instilled through The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship program: education, leadership, reconciliation, and social entrepreneurship. All members of The Mandela Rhodes Community have displayed some form of involvement in each of these domains. The Community has the purpose of mobilising its members and partners to collaborate in establishing a growing network of engaged and active leaders through dialogue and project support [The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is open to all African students and allows for postgraduate studies at any institution in South Africa. See The Mandela Rhodes Foundation for further details.]


Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members...

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