ANC at 100: South Africa celebrations begin with golf

A ceremony is held in Bloemfontein to mark 100 years of the ANC

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Celebrations to mark the centenary of South Africa's ruling African National Congress have begun with a golf tournament.

More than 100,000 people are expected over the weekend in the central city of Bloemfontein.

Other events include a candle-lit vigil at the church where the ANC was formed and a major political rally on Sunday, the 100th anniversary.

The ANC was founded to fight white minority rule, which ended in 1994.

ANC party secretary general Gwede Mantashe says Nelson Mandela, who led the party to power after the end of apartheid, will not be attending the ANC celebrations. The 93 year old has not attended any public engagements since the start of the 2010 World Cup.

"He is not coming and we are not expecting him to come," Mr Gwede told public radio SABC. "He is in good spirits but very, very old."

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko in Bloemfontein told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the normally sleepy town is now wide awake.

The gold, green and black colours of the ANC flags are on virtually every street corner and many people are looking forward to the traditional ceremony on Saturday morning when cows will be slaughtered, she said.

'Golf is good'

On Saturday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will attend a service at the Wesleyan Church in Mangaung, just outside Bloemfontein, where chiefs, church leaders and other prominent people gathered on 8 January 1912 to create the liberation movement, Africa's oldest.

Veteran ANC activist Albertina Luthuli discusses the party's centenary

The opposition has criticised the amount of money being spent on the year-long ANC centenary celebrations - a total of $12m (£8m).

Andrew Mlangeni, who joined the party in 1951 and spent years in prison on Robben Island with Mr Mandela, took the opening shot in the golf tournament that teed off the festivities.

This has also been criticised by commentators, who see it as a sign of growing elitism in the ruling party.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu dismissed these charges.

"[Golf] might have been elite before, during apartheid when it was a whites-only sport that we weren't allowed to play. Now the ANC is embracing all sporting codes," he told the South African Press Association.

"Golf is a good sport. We should have golf courses everywhere, just like we have soccer fields," he said.

However, our reporter says the ANC's reputation is being tarnished by corruption scandals, political infighting and reports of officials leading flashy lifestyles - and many South Africans believe the party has not done enough to improve the lives of the poor.

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