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S.Africa’s ANC to spend $12 mln on centenary party

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will splash out more than $12 million on a three-day celebration of its 100th anniversary in January, party chairwoman Baleka Mbete said Tuesday.

More than 120,000 people are expected to celebrate the ANC centenary in Bloemfontein in the central Free State with animal sacrifices, a gala dinner, a religious service, a public rally, a concert and a golf tournament, she said.

“If something is to happen in South Africa next year, it will be the centennial of the ANC,” Mbete told a news conference.

“We expect nothing less from 120,000 to 150,000 people to arrive from outside the Free State to attend the ceremony,” she said.

Asked if Nelson Mandela would be among them, Mbete said: “Yes, we do expect him, but whether he will be able to attend is another question.”

At age 93, South Africa’s first black president has retired to his rural home and is rarely seen in public.

But the ANC has also invited heads of state from around the continent, leaders of India’s Congress party, “our comrades from Cuba”, and leaders of different anti-apartheid movements, Mbete said.

The cost of the celebrations has already come under scrutiny, with the party increasingly chastised for lavish spending in a country where residents of shantytowns regularly protest to demand electricity and running water.

“It’s definitely not less than 100 million rands ($12 million, nine million euros). It is not cheap,” Mbete said. “Younger generations need to know where we come from. It’s worth it.”

“Friends of the ANC” will help finance the event, she said.

Aside from the party, the ANC also plans to open a documentation centre on the history of the anti-apartheid struggle for racial equality in South Africa.

Each month of 2012 will be dedicated to a former ANC president, with commemorations moving from province to province.

December 2012 will be dedicated to current president Jacob Zuma, who will return to Bloemfontein for the ANC’s leadership conference — where he will seek to reconcile factions within the party to back him for a second term in office.