ANC 3rd national conference

Central to the purpose and the programme of the Veterans’ League is the renewal and revitalisation of the ANC, the Alliance and the broader democratic movement.



The Veterans’ League is the embodiment of the Values, Mission, Tradition, Culture and Ethos of the ANC.

Address of ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa to the 3rd National Conference of the ANC Veterans’ League

It is a great honour to address this closing session of the 3rd National Conference of the ANC Veterans’ League.

In line with the mandate set forth by the ANC 55th National Conference to unite and renew our movement, the NEC of the ANC pledged to convene successful conferences of all its Leagues to establish proper and functioning structures.

With the conclusion of the conference of the ANC Veterans League and the election of its national leadership, we have concluded an important part of that task. 

I congratulate the SGO, the Task Teams and all the cadres of our movement who worked diligently to make this a reality. 

The Veterans’ League has shown that indeed it is the embodiment of the values, mission, traditions, culture and ethos of the ANC.

This was reflected in both the form and content of your 3rd National Conference.

In form, the Veterans League Conference was conducted with extreme precision and discipline. You completed your entire Agenda of Conference in the allotted time: from Constitutional Amendments to Commissions, to elections of leadership.

The NEC was elected in the true spirit of Through the Eye of a Needle: ensuring the NEC reflects gender, capacity, geographic spread, experience and the national question. 

The consensus manner in which you agreed to this NEC was truly exemplary. In fact, this is what we expect from true veterans of our movement, to place unity, and the character of the ANC, above individual positions. 

Through the deliberations and decisions of this Conference, the veterans of our movement have made a clear and definitive statement of their determination to unite, rebuild and strengthen the African National Congress.

They have also expressed their deep concern that the resolutions of successive ANC Conference on renewal “have not always received serious, systematic and urgent attention from the leadership of the movement”. This is a concern that we, as the ANC NEC, recognise and acknowledge, and that we are working through our programme of action to address. 

The veterans represented here have reaffirmed their commitment to the advancement of the National Democratic Revolution and the realisation of a free, democratic and equal South Africa.

This Conference confirms the role that veterans and stalwarts continue to play within our movement.

We look to our veterans and stalwarts as a vital link to our proud and distinguished history of struggle. In our veterans we see embodied the values and the principles that have defined our movement over many decades.

And yet, while our veterans provide an essential link to our past, they are firmly rooted in the present and their efforts are firmly focused on the future.

The ANC Veterans’ League is, at its core, concerned with the future of the ANC, the future of our country and the direction of the National Democratic Revolution.

This Veterans’ League is not given to nostalgia. It does not dwell on the great victories of the past.

This is a Veterans’ League that is actively engaged with the challenges and the opportunities of the present. 

This is a League of activists who are prepared to work and who are ready to engage.

Central to the purpose and the programme of the Veterans’ League is the renewal and revitalisation of the ANC, the Alliance and the broader democratic movement.

As we prepared for the ANC 55th National Conference in December last year, the Veterans’ League came forward with important proposals on renewing and reorganising the ANC so that it may reconnect with the people.

Many of these proposals find expression in the resolutions of the 55th  National Conference, our programme of action and the ANC Roadmap to 2023.

In describing the actions we need to take to renew the ANC, the Veterans’ League has consistently – and correctly – placed the interests of the people of South Africa at the centre.

They have made the fundamental point that the ANC does not exist for its own sake. It exists to serve the people and to unite all South Africans for the achievement of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country.

I want to emphatically endorse the overall tasks the Veterans’ League set for itself towards and beyond this Conference. 

The Veterans’ League is absolutely correct when it says that it needs to be at the forefront of the renewal of the ANC.

The purpose of renewal is to improve the material conditions of the people. 

And the work that we do as the ANC to improve the lives of South Africans in turn contributes to building and strengthening our movement. 

It is by renewing the ANC that we will be able to better drive the provision of public services and infrastructure, the alleviation of poverty, the creation of jobs and economic opportunities, and improved safety and security.

As we do this work of renewing our movement, as we focus our attention on the needs of the people, as we become more outward-looking in our programmes, we will in turn be building an organisation that is more united, more cohesive and more effective.

That is why the ANC Programme of Action for 2023 positions the ANC as a campaigning organisation that is rooted among the masses and that directs government to change people’s lives for the better.

The Programme of Action gives effect to the 55th National Conference resolutions and the tasks laid out in this year’s January 8th Statement.

This programme focuses on building the organisation and driving its renewal through our branches and members. It is only through political work in communities that we will be able to build a strong organisation, develop our cadreship and restore our standing in society.

As we have done in the past, we need to use the 2024 election campaign to build our structures, to engage our members in campaign work and to be in constant contact with the people.

Our programme of action also includes engagements with organisations, groupings and stakeholders across society. As the Veterans’ League has said, the ANC should take the initiative of learning from our past mistakes and affirm that it recognises and respects the autonomy and independence of civil society organisations.

Proceeding from this understanding, we should work to ensure that these engagements lead to cooperation on practical issues of social transformation. 

As the ANC and as the Alliance, we need to work closely with other formations that share the goal of social and economic change, that seek to improve the lives of South Africans, and that seek to strengthen our democracy and advance the rights of all people.

We will not agree on all matters, nor will we necessarily share the same ideological perspectives, but we are united by a common desire to transform our society and improve the material conditions of its people.

In just a few weeks from now, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the formation of the United Democratic Front.

In recalling this seminal moment in our struggle for democracy, we should draw lessons from the experience of the UDF as a broad front for liberation. 

The UDF mobilised a remarkable range of formations from across society to confront the might of the apartheid state and to forge the path towards a united and democratic society.

As we reflect on that history, we should avoid the temptation to bemoan, by comparison, our current organisational state. Instead, we should use the lessons of the UDF to revive the activism and vibrancy of our structures. 

We should be inspired by the UDF example to empower and enable our cadres, and to forge a broad front to drive social and economic transformation.

To undertake this work, we need to fix the problems in the ANC. We need to correct our mistakes and address our weaknesses.

Over the course of several years, the veterans and stalwarts of our movement have led the call to confront and defeat corruption, patronage and other tendencies within the ANC. 

They have said that unless we do so, the very survival of our movement is at stake and the progress of the National Democratic Revolution is under threat.

This concern is echoed in resolution on Strategy and Tactics that we adopted at the 54th National Conference, where we said: 

“It cannot altogether be ruled out that the liberation movement itself can be so corrupted – in terms of its objectives, policies, value system, as well as composition and conduct of leadership – that it becomes a bed of counter-revolutionary infestation.”

That is why our 55th National Conference strongly reaffirmed our positions on the sustained renewal of the ANC “to regain the moral, intellectual and political high-ground as the leader of society.” 

The Conference said: 

“There is no turning back on the fundamental renewal of the ANC and radical socio-economic transformation of South Africa. Conference delegates share a common commitment to arrest any negative tendencies and decisively correct errors that threaten to overshadow and reverse the gains of our democracy.”

In the end, we will not stop corruption within our ranks unless we deepen the ethical consciousness of our members and leaders.

When we joined the ANC, we each made a solemn declaration that we were joining the organisation without motives of material advantage or personal gain. Yet there are some among us who have clearly forgotten their oath. 

Those who see the ANC as a path to wealth, to power, to influence or status must know that they do not belong in our movement. They must change their ways or they must leave.

If we are to rebuild the ANC as an ethical movement that enjoys the confidence of the people, then we need cadres of integrity, honesty and commitment.

Part of renewing our movement, is revitalising, energising and establishing credible and legitimate branch structures of the ANC. There has been a tendency in our movement for our structures to only become active during elections and towards conferences. 

Active ANC structures, grounded in all facets of community life and leading community campaigns, must be the touchstone of our organisation. 

We therefore welcome the resolve of all our Leagues to also rebuild their structures as part of our drive to renew and unite the movement. 

The Veterans’ League has also set a target for itself to participate actively in resolving local issues, including through participation in ANC branches, community structures and other forms of active citizenry. 

We encourage the League to sustain this campaign and link it more closely to the ANC’s revived Letsema-campaign and seek partnerships with Alliance, MDM and other progressive community structures. 

Making local government function more effectively and serving communities better is crucial to creating a better life for all. ANC structures must work to make local government effective and efficient. 

The 55th National Conference was clear that our members and leadership should undergo political, ideological and theoretical training. The Veterans’ League’s resolve to be actively involved in every aspect of political education is therefore vital to preserving the culture and traditions of our movement. 

The OR Tambo School of Leadership has demonstrated that our members have great appetite for training. The participation of young people in this training is an indication of the great potential there is to build a new cadre.

This is a pillar of our organisational renewal in which the veterans have a particularly important role to play. They have the experience, the knowledge, the political consciousness and the ideological clarity we need to train and mentor new generations of activists.

Alongside the work we must undertake to renew and rebuild the ANC, we must decisively address what are perhaps the most challenging social and economic circumstances since the advent of our democracy.

We are still grappling with the effects of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the loss of more than 6 million lives across the globe and more than 100,000 in our own country. 

The pandemic triggered as one of the worst job crises since the Great Depression. South Africa alone lost some 2 million jobs.

International instability, turmoil in the global economy and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is fuelling higher fuel and food prices, increasing the cost of living for millions of South Africans. On top of this, we are in the grip of an energy crisis that has been many years in the making.

In responding to this grave challenge, our most pressing priority must be the creation of employment, especially for young people. This means the economy needs to grow faster, it needs to be more inclusive and it needs to attract far greater levels of investment.

In line with the resolutions of the 55th National Conference, we are intensifying our investment drive and taking steps to improve the investment climate.

The ANC government has therefore taken steps to restore policy certainty and consistency, root out corruption in state-owned enterprises, strengthen law enforcement agencies and affirm the rule of law.

We have worked to remove unnecessary regulatory impediments to investment, reform our immigration regime to encourage an inflow of skills and tourists, and develop our ports, railways and roads.

National Conference identified the construction of infrastructure as one of the most effective drivers of economic activity, growth and employment. We have placed particular emphasis on supporting small businesses, cooperatives and businesses in the informal sector.

All of the work we are doing to stimulate investment and create jobs is being hampered by the severe electricity crisis. Despite the current levels of load shedding, the reality is that we have made important progress over the last five years to fix the deep-seated problems in our electricity system.

Over the next few days, government will be releasing a one-year review of the implementation of the Energy Action Plan. It will show the work that has been done to restore and rebuild Eskom, to improve the performance of its power plants, to unlock massive investment in new generation capacity, and to manage demand.

As we have said before, we will not end load shedding overnight. But we have a clear path out of the electricity crisis that will create the conditions for energy security for all South Africans into the future.

The well-being of our people, the progress of our society and the development of our economy requires that we overcome crime and violence.

We are strengthening the police to prevent crime and improving the capacity of the National Prosecuting Authority and courts to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

Government has been working closely with civil society to intensify the fight against gender-based violence and femicide. The ANC and Alliance, and particularly the ANC Women’s League, have been active in this work.

Ultimately, we will only end gender-based violence if all of society is mobilised in a concerted and consistent campaign to change behaviour and transform gender relations.

As instructed by the 55th National Conference, the ANC government is making progress in the fight against corruption.

We have done much to dismantle the state capture networks in state-owned companies, law enforcement agencies and other entities. And we have made significant progress in rebuilding all these institutions and restoring their integrity.

There is almost no part of the state or society that is not affected by corruption. Yet it is the government led by the ANC that has put in place the instruments to tackle corruption. Progress is being made. People are being prosecuted and funds are being recovered.

We have often said that our progress as a nation cannot be separated from the progress of the African continent as a whole.

To drive the growth, diversification and development of African economies, the ANC is working with our counterparts elsewhere on the continent to strengthen the African Union and ensure that the African Continental Free Trade Area is effectively implemented. 

Our foreign policy stance is informed by the understanding that multilateralism and respect for international law are key to global political and economic stability. We continue to work for the fundamental reform of multilateral institutions to more effectively respond to the needs of the Global South.

There have been concerted efforts to draw South Africa into a broader geopolitical contest. Yet, we have consistently maintained our non-aligned stance, our respect for the UN Charter and our support for the peaceful resolution of conflict through dialogue.

Our non-aligned position exists alongside our active support for the struggles of the oppressed and marginalised in different parts of the world. 

Just as we benefited from international solidarity, the ANC pledges solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine and Western Sahara in their respective struggles for freedom, justice and democracy. 

These are among the priorities and tasks identified in our January 8th Statement. They have also been the subject of deliberations and decisions at this National Conference of the ANC Veteran’s League.

This Conference has done much to further enrich our approach to renewal, to sharpen our analysis of the key challenges of the moment and to provide further momentum to the rebuilding of our movement.

I commend all the members of the ANC Veterans’ League on a successful and productive National Conference.

As the ANC National Executive Committee, we look forward to working with the Veterans’ League to rebuild the ANC, serve the South African people more effectively and ensure the advance of the National Democratic Revolution.