A mass rally was held in Bloemfontein on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress.
President Jacob Zuma said the occasion was a joyous celebration for all the people of South Africa, not just for the ANC and its members.
He added that it had been a long road since 1652 when settlers first arrived in South Africa.
Looking back at the development of the ANC, Mr Zuma said it now stood for the democratic values of equality. He quoted the preamble to the ANC's freedom charter:
''South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.''
Mr Zuma paid tribute to the many people and organisations who worked together to bring about a non-racial South Africa, saying the ANC was a broad church that was home to all.
One of the biggest strengths of the movement, he said, was the fact that its supporters were "nationalists, Marxists, Africanists, workers, capitalists, women, men, youth, rural and urban, rich and poor''.
Mr Zuma also announced the ANC now has 1,027,389 members, thus achieving a 1942 resolution that the movement should have one million members by its centenary.
He began a year of celebrations on Saturday by leading the ritual slaughter of a black bull to remember, he said, "our ancestors, to remember our own gods in a traditional way".