Dropping the land reform question from the government's agenda would be betraying the ANC's history, the party's general secretary Gwede Mantashe said on Monday.
Transformation should be an ongoing topic as it was of historic importance to the liberation movement, he said in Johannesburg at the launch of a book on the ANC's centenary, Unity in Diversity: 100 Years of ANC Leadership.
"If we remove the land question from the centre of the ANC's agenda, we will be betraying what was the immediate challenge after the formation of the African National Congress. The dialogue must continue. It is happening and is catching fire every day."
The issue should not only be entertained by "a monopoly of sections of society".
Mantashe recalled how Sol Plaatjie — founder member and first general secretary of the South African Native National Congress, which would later become the ANC — emphasised the land question.
"On 20 September 1913, he was very particular when he said a native became worse than a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth. What that means is that a native became something unwanted in a land of birth. That's is very fundamental," said Mantashe.
This was confirmed by the ANC's second president, Sefako Makgatho, who he quoted as saying: "We ask for no special favours from the government. This is the land of our fathers."
Mantashe said these statements helped force the movement to "refuse to remove the land question out of the agenda for transformation".
Mantashe said the party's year-long centenary celebrations helped South Africans to "re-engage" in dialogue.
He said Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder was trying to rewrite history by suggesting in Parliament last week that black "Bantu-speaking" people had no historical claim to 40 percent of the country. Mantashe said the first war of resistance was fought in 1659 by the Koi and the San people.
"He (Mulder) believes the genocide that followed that war left no Koi and San people... He believes there were no people left."
Mantashe emphasised the importance of the ANC centenary in re-educating South Africans, saying "a nation that doesn't know its history is like a tree without roots because it doesn't blossom".
He hailed former ANC leaders for instilling the importance of education in black people by establishing education institutions.
"They played a role of providing Africans with intellectual capacity. I can see and feel it in the history of the ANC."
He said the party's centenary should be "a year long remembrance". He described it as a struggle of South Africans against colonial oppression and urged people to buy the book, at R250 a copy, as it was an important "historical tool". ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa handed the first copy to former president Nelson Mandela last month.
Phosa said the book was intended to honour the 12 "brave" leaders of ANC.
"Freedom and entitlement are two words opposed... We celebrate 12 wise men that led us through 100 years."
Phosa said the leadership values the ANC's former presidents possessed should be a daily guide for the party's next 100 years.
The event was attended by ministers, deputy ministers, businessmen and ambassadors.