South Africa's ruling ANC on Saturday honoured its founding leaders in celebrations to mark the centenary of the movement that paved the way for Nelson Mandela's rainbow nation.
African drums and the ritual slaughter of a bull featured in the second day of celebrations commemorating a hundred years of the African National Congress, attended by several African heads of state and former leaders.
President Jacob Zuma took the leading role, thrusting a spear at the bull, as wisps of smoke rose from a burning traditional herb.
"Today our leaders, traditional leaders and traditional healers, had to perform certain rituals before we get into serious business of celebration," Zuma said later at the church site where the ANC was founded in 1912.
"In other words, to remember our ancestors, to remember our own gods in a traditional way."
Later Saturday, he hosted a gala dinner attended by several African leaders, past and present, where speakers paid tribute to the continent's oldest liberation movement and its foreign supporters.
"When we talk about ANC, it is part of Africa, in particular southern Africa," said Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.
"What you did made us proud of being Africans," he added.
Conspicuous by his absence however, was Mandela himself, who engineered the peaceful transition to post-Apartheid government and led the heady early days of all-race democracy.
Now 93, he has retired to his rural home and not been seen in public since July 2010.
But his absence is keenly felt at a time when the ANC's anti-apartheid legacy has been tarnished by the scandals it had attracted since winning power.
South Africans are increasingly frustrated over allegations of corruption and the government's failure to spread the benefits of their political victory more broadly: 38 percent of the nation still living in poverty.
"We have not done everything that we should do for the people of South Africa, but our government is trying to do its best," 86-year-old ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni, conceded.
But Mlangeni, who was jailed alongside Mandela and has been an ANC member for 60 years, added: "I'm very happy and proud that we have achieved what we fought for: freedom.
"People of South Africa today are free and this is what we had been struggling for."
On midnight on Saturday supporters will light an anniversary flame and on Sunday 100,000 people are expected to attend a rally at Bloemfontein, where Zuma will set out the way forward for the party.
It was here that the party was founded on January 8, 1912, as the South African Native National Congress. The country's apartheid rulers banned it in 1960, jailing its leaders four years later.
Nearly 30 years later, the crumbling, internationally and isolated apartheid regime released Mandela, who oversaw the peaceful transition.
It has dominated the political scene ever since, enjoying huge wins in every election: but its very political dominance -- the absence of an effective opposition -- has raised concerns.
Zuma himself had to fight off allegations of corruption shortly before assuming power in 2009. Cleared of the charges, he is now struggling to rein in feuding factions inside the party.
The flamboyant lifestyle of some members of the new power elite has also come in for criticism, especially when set against allegations of wasteful public spending.
Economically, the party has drawn praise for its economic management, rolling out new electricity and water supplies, as well as housing, and inspiring a new black middle class.
But it has failed to give the poor the benefits of the post-apartheid boom.
Critics say too many people have been left to make do with shoddy public hospitals and schools, a dangerously high joblessness rate of 25 percent, violent crime and a grim life in the shantytowns.