Monthly Archives: November 2008

COPE, ANC and the legal wranglings (1)

I must say that all the legal wrangling between Shikota (COPE) and the ANC is more ridiculous and protracted than a soapie these days. After a highly successful National Convention, the new “ANC splinter” party was prevented by the old liberation movement from using the first name proposed: South African National Congress. I can see the logic here somewhat since SANC does look a lot like ANC and it was a lazy name choice in any event. Besides, the ANC-aligned civic organisation is called SANCO, which looks even more like SANC. It therefore makes sense for the ANC to set their lawyers at Shikota for proposed name no 1, since it would cause confusion eventually. However, I am not entirely sure that the voters would confuse the two so much as it would just confuse the general public discourse outside of election season. You don’t believe me? Humour me and keep reading.

Consider all those poor future students (aka learners) sitting in a history class or later a lecture on SA politics. They would have to negotiate their way through African National Congress (ANC), South African National Students Congress (SANSCO) which then became South African Students Congress (SASCO), South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) none of which are supposed to be confused with the non-political player, South African Computer Olympiad (SACO). That makes ANC … SANSCO …. SASCO … SANCO … SACO. This is all well and good for those of us alive today because we can keep track if we are South Africans and SA residents older than 25. Many of us lived this history. But imagine those who are a few months old right now. It would be a right old nightmare to have to remember that SACO and SANC are not “Congress-aligned”.

Having said that, maybe that was part of the point for Shikota. The fact of the matter is that SANC, if that name had been allowed, would have conjured up the very connections to the liberation struggle that SANC/SADC/COPE as names also evoke. In other words, Shikota is not just any new party. It is one formed by people who also have a Congress-alligned past and contribution, among other things. This is why the ANC is so livid and willing to have the Lobe-Shikota express entangled in legal battles until kingdom come. Or some other such.

Yes, the ANC does hog a huge part of the left in this country. The remaining left (PAC and AZAPO) is so splintered that they don’t even contest this hogging of the entire left legacy by the ANC. However, when some of their own (Lyndall-Shope, Ngonyama, Jack, etc) all fortify the Lobe-Shikota express, and do so without letting go of claims to the same anti-apartheid struggle that they gave their lives to, the ANC has a serious contender for the first time. If I were the ANC and trying to secure power, and to ensure that everybody else in the political landscape remained my poorer cousin, I’d also want the new formation to look like a bunch of “reactionaries”. You just cannot let reactionaries use your history and claim your victories, if you are a comrade worth your salt. Legacies are worth defending, comrades.

And therein lies the crunch. Fact of the matter is: the Lobe-Shikota Express is a mass of comrades, so because the reactionary talk (or cockroach or snake talk bandied about) doesn’t stick, you have to try something else. I would bet that very few people even within the newly conservative ANC believe Terror is a counter-reactionary. Zuma, Malema, Nzimande, Vavi and the whole lot can foam at the mouth as much as they want. But Terror Lekota as a counter-revolutionary? Please! This insults the South African public beyond measure. It is as ridiculous as all this war talk targetting those who disagree with Malema’s big brothers coming out of one side of the mouth, while “we are a movement that values debate” comes out of the other. Forked tongue anyone?

Further fact of the matter is: COPE could very well run off with many of the disgruntled ANC voters (and some members). They are a very real threat. They have the same history individually that their new adversaries, former comrades have. And since the ANC clearly does not have a new campaign for the next elections, then they are going to keep on trading on the past and pulling at our heart strings. Now COPE could do the same if they wanted.

Suddenly, for the first time, the ANC vote could be split. No matter what then ANC says, it is fighting for survival and to maintain its dominance in the hearts and voting hands of most South Africans. Legacy goes with language, symbols and names.

So, the new organisation chose another name. Alas, that too was not to be.

The second name choice: South African Democratic Congress (SADEC), was just plain weird to me. Not only does it have the Sadeco connotations, which I would imagine lefties people would very clearly not want to be associated with (given the IFP roots and connections), but it also makes a person think of the bizzare Southern African Development Community (SADC). Believe me, given the mess in the region (Swaziland’s crazy king, Zimbabwe’s dictator, SA’s recalled presidents and bloodhound youth leaders) is the worst possible choice for a new political party. Everybody calls SADC “sah-de-c”. The ANC did not even need to bother contesting that one because people would definitely be confused in conversation about which sah-de-c was in question. There was a lovely hidden gift for the ANC in this second name. In fact, if Dr Ziba Jiyane (ex-chairperson of IFP and founder of Sadeco), and Lekota (ex-chairperson of ANC and founder of COPE) joined forces, the ANC would not need to label Shikota anything. They’d just have to say to most voters: “friends of IFP” and the voters would stay with the ANC or stay away.

And now comes COPE short for Congress of the People, with weird symbols that make sense only when explained. Also COPE is a pretty lame acronym since it makes me think of being overwhelmed and just managing to put one foot infront of the other. Coping is not what we need in this country right now. We need some vibrancy.

But the ANC has served papers on the group again claiming that only it is entitled to claim the legacy of the Congress of the People in Kliptown which came up with the Freedom Charter. The latest saga is so bizzare as to merit its very own post.

Mbeki letter to Zuma in full

Over the last week or so, newspapers and other news avenues have talked incessantly about the letter Mbeki wrote to Zuma, the ways in which it challenged claims made about Mbeki by Malema and Zuma, and how its contents were further misrepresented by Zuma and Mantashe. Some newspapers have screamed “full text” of Mbeki’s letter, only to have extracts on advertised pages. Below is the full text of the letter. I may return to discuss it in a later post today or tomorrow. I am overwhelmed by exam marking at the moment, so blogging is taking a back seat.

I will be back, to comment on the letter, its “controversy” as well as the November Convention, which I am most pleased we had, all the howling from some ANC leaders notwithstanding.

The full text of a controversial letter former president Thabo Mbeki addressed to ANC President Jacob Zuma.

Comrade President, I imagine that these must be especially trying times for you as president of our movement, the ANC, as they are for many of us as ordinary members of our beloved movement, which we have strived to serve loyally for many decades.

I say this to apologise that I impose an additional burden on you by sending you this long letter.

I decided to write this letter after I was informed that two days ago, on October 7, the president of the ANC Youth League and you the following day, October 8, told the country, through the media, that you would require me to campaign for the ANC during the 2009 election campaign.

As you know, neither of you had discussed this with me prior to your announcements. Nobody in the ANC leadership – including you, the presidents of the ANC and ANCYL – has raised this matter with me since then.

To avoid controversy, I have declined all invitations publicly to indicate whether I intended to act as you indicated or otherwise.

In truth your announcements took me by surprise.

This is because earlier you had sent Comrades Kgalema Motlanthe and Gwede Mantashe to inform me that the ANC NEC and our movement in general had lost confidence in me as a cadre of our movement.

They informed me that for this reason you suggested that I should resign my position as president of the Republic, which I did.

I therefore could not understand how the same ANC which was so disenchanted with me could, within a fortnight, consider me such a dependable cadre as could be relied upon to promote the political fortunes of the very same movement, the ANC, which I had betrayed in such a grave and grevious manner as to require that I should be removed from the presidency of the Republic a mere six or seven months before the end of our term, as mandated by the masses of our people!

Your public announcements I have mentioned came exactly at the moment when Comrade Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota and other ANC comrades publicly raised various matters about our movement of concern to them.

I have noted that some in our broad democratic movement have spoken publicly, unfortunately, and wrongly saying that Comrade Terror has acted as they have, driven by their loyalty to me as an individual.

During the decades we have worked together in the ANC, we have had the great fortune that our movement has consistently repudiated the highly noxious phenomenon of the “cult of personality”, which we saw manifested in other countries.

It therefore came as a surprise to me that anybody within our revolutionary democratic movement could so much as suggest, and therefore insult somebody like Terror Lekota that he could act as he has, whether rightly or wrongly, driven by attachment to a personal cult!

In this context, given that I have worked longer with you than I have worked with Terror, I would be interested to know your view of any instance in our movement during which it fell victim to the noxious phenomenon of the personality cult, as a result of which it ceased to think, content to act in the manner of the “anointed personality”, such as the late Kim Il-Sung determined to the people of North Korea!

Personally, I’ve been privileged to interact with such varied titans of our struggle such as Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, ZK Matthews, Yusuf Dadoo, Mark Shope, Leslie Massina, Duma Nokwe, Moses Mabhida, Frances Baard, Steve Dlamini, Lilian Ngoyi, Walter Sisulu, Gertrude Shope, Govan Mbeki, Julius Nyerere, Raymond Mhlaba, Kenneth Kaunda, Helen Joseph, Trevor Huddleston, Agostinho Neto, Robert Resha, Jack Simons, Seretse Khama, Ray Alexander, Ruth Matseoane, Sam Nujoma, Fish Keitsing, Kate Molale, Ahmed Kathrada, Nelson Mandela, Joshua Nkomo, Samora Machel, MB Yengwa, Ruth and Joe Slovo, Robert Mugabe, Mpho Motsamai, Bram and Molly Fischer, Mike Harmel, Brian and Sonia Bunting, Andrew Mlangeni, Liz Abrahams, Joe Modise, Florence Mophosho, Alfred Nzo, Beyers Naude, Albertina Sisulu, Thomas Nkobi, Sophie de Bruyn, Ellen Khuzwayo, Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, Wilton Mkwayi, Alfred Hutchinson, Rusty and Hilda Bernstein, Jack and Rita Hodgson, Cedric Mayson, Thomas Nkobi, Tiny Nokwe, Albert Nolan and many others.

All these, and many others I have not mentioned, were and are true heroines and heroes of our struggle.

I have omitted to mention others among these such as Albert Luthuli because I cannot claim truthfully that I have interacted with them in the context of the struggle.

I have mentioned the people I have to make essential and crucial points, central to the value system of our movement and struggle, that none of these heroes or heroines ever sought adulation in any manner that would turn them into cult figures.

They never did anything, nor did we act in any way as we grew up in the liberation movement, which would result in our movement being enslaved in the cult of the individual.

In this regard there were exceptional circumstances attached to Comrade Nelson Mandela, which were not of his making or will.

In the context of the global struggle for the release of political prisoners in our country, our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of these prisoners, and therefore to use his personal political biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present to the world and the South African community the brutality of the apartheid system.

The beginning and the end of this particular discourse is that both of us have grown up in a political atmosphere that we fully respected and honoured our leaders, heroes and heroines without reservation.

However, for me personally, at no point did this translate into “hero worship” and therefore the progression to the phenomenon of the “cult of personality”.

I know this as a matter of fact that all the heroes and heroines I have mentioned would have opposed the emergence of such a cult with every fibre in their revolutionary bones!

For this reason I find it strange in the extreme that today cadres of our movement attach the label of a “cult of personality” to me, and indeed publicly declare a determination “to kill” to defend your own cause, the personal interests of “the personality”, Jacob Zuma!

When we last met, on September 19 2008, at the Denel buildings adjacent to the Oliver Tambo International Airport, I restated to you the incontrovertible fact that you knew that our engagement in the struggle for the liberation of our people had never been informed by a striving for personal power, status or benefit.

In this context I told you that should the ANC NEC, which was meeting from that day, decide that I should no longer serve as president of the Republic, having been the ANC presidential candidate presented to the Second and Third democratic parliament in 2004, I would respect this decision and therefore resign.

I have been informed informally that you reported this to the ANC NEC at the conclusion of the discussion about this particular matter. I take this opportunity sincerely to thank you for communicating my views to the NEC in this regard.

I mention all this in the light of what I cited earlier – the statements made first by the president of the ANC Youth League and later yourself, concerning the role I would play in the forthcoming 2009 election campaign, which has not been discussed with me.

For some years now our movement has had to manage an immensely challenging and unprecedented situation, occasioned by the criminal charges preferred against you by the National Prosecuting Authority, and related matters.

I state this as a matter of fact with no comment about the merits or demerits of what may have been said and done by anybody or institution in this regard.

I also mention this fact in this letter because, despite our best efforts, many in our movement and our population at large have refused to believe the sincere message both of us strived to communicate, that there were and are no divisions between us, and that nobody should use our names to incite or perpetuate division in the ANC and the country.

When the December 2007 Polokwane ANC National Conference elected you president of the ANC, and responding to Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe’s suggestion, I walked with you to the platform, publicly to demonstrate my acceptance of that outcome, as did other Comrades who had been defeated in the electoral process.

When, more recently, the ANC NEC decided that it no longer had confidence in me to serve as its preferred cadre to occupy the position of president of the Republic, I made it a point not to contest this decision, and therefore resigned.

When I addressed the nation on September 21 2008, announcing that I had tendered my resignation as president of the Republic, to the National Assembly as the elective body, I said that I have been a member of the ANC for 52 years.

There is absolutely nothing I have done through this half-a-century of struggle of which I am ashamed. Above all, I know of nothing I have done which, to my knowledge, constitutes a betrayal of the interests of the masses of our people and their confidence in the ANC.

Despite all this, I have taken note of the campaign that some in our ranks, supported by some in our media, have waged for many years focused on discrediting me in particular, given the senior positions I have occupied in the ANC, and the ANC in general.

I have constantly been acutely aware of the fact that this campaign has been based on outright lies and deliberate and malicious distortions.

For many years I have refused to stoop to a public debate driven by these fabrications, which would demean and destroy the dignity of the ANC, its leadership and me personally.

I must admit that this posture might have produced results we never intended, specifically as it might have suggested that we could not contest the lies that have been told.

I know that now there are some in our country and elsewhere in the world who appear on television programmes or contribute newspaper opinion columns as “experts” or “analysts”, simply on the basis of their readiness to abandon all ethical considerations and self-respect, to propagate entirely fabricated and negative notions about what our national democratic revolution means to our country and people.

Because of the services some of these have rendered to the opponents of the national democratic revolution, the “experts” and “analysts” and others who market themselves as “intellectuals/academics” have been handsomely rewarded with material possessions as embedded opponents of the national democratic revolution.

Yet such is the malaise that has entrenched itself in our democracy, including our movement, that we do not ask the obvious question – how can such “intellectuals/academics” have come to accumulate such wealth?

Bearing in mind everything I have said, let me then address the immediate matters on the national agenda, which relate directly to me.

(1) Comrade Lekota and others have not engaged me in any of the actions they have taken, to secure my approval or otherwise.

(2) The ANC leadership has not engaged me in any of the responses it has taken in this regard, to secure my approval or otherwise.

(3) Informally, I have communicated my view to both these contending groups, members of the ANC, that they should address all matters that might be in contention.

(4) In my President’s Political Report to the Polokwane 52nd National Conference of the ANC, presented as prescribed by the ANC constitution, I warned of the grave challenges our movement was facing. I suggested that the conference should discuss these. This was not done. Ten months after this report was presented, I still stand by what it said.

Following the developments of December 2007 and September 2008, relating to tasks I had been given by the ANC, I have considered carefully what I should do as a private South African and African citizen.

Currently I am working as speedily as I can to elaborate the substance of this work, which will ensure that whatever I do in no way involves me in the internal politics of the ANC or the functioning of the government of South Africa.

As the saying goes, I refuse absolutely to rule from the grave. History will judge whether what I did during my political life, until September 25 2008, is worth anything.

Given the December 2007 and September 2008 outcomes to which I have referred, I trust that you will take the necessary measures to:
• Remind all comrades that everything we have done since 1994, to advance the national democratic revolution, has been based on collective decisions of our movement, without exceptions;
• Encourage all Comrades honestly to confront the real problems, challenges and opportunities that the ANC, the broad democratic movement and our country face; and,
• Convince these Comrades to desist from abandoning their revolutionary democratic obligations by falsely and dishonestly pretending that the goals of the national democratic revolution have been frustrated, if they have been, through the actions of one individual – Thabo Mbeki.

I would like to believe that you and I have devoted out adult lives to the victory of the national democratic revolution, and nothing else.

Similarly, I would like to believe that we have always understood that this revolution has as its principal focus the upliftment and empowerment of the millions of our working people, including women, who constitute the overwhelming majority of our people.

Accordingly, we have understood that this revolution has absolutely nothing to do with the personal fortunes of those who might, by virtue of historical accident, be its leaders at any particular moment.
I would like to believe that in this context we agree that the strategic and historic task facing the tried-and-tested leaders and cadres of our movement is to determine what needs to be done, next, to advance the goals of the national democratic revolution, focused on advancing the interests of the millions of the working masses.

In my view, with which you are free to disagree, the revolutionary tasks we confront are to:
• Recognise the various factors that have militated against the achievement of the unity and cohesion of the ANC in the recent past;
• Defeat the actions prevalent in our governance system, especially the provinces and municipalities, to remove from their positions Comrades who are perceived as belonging to factions different from those which currently serve as elected leaders in the current elected ANC structures;
• Renew the democratic movement on the basis of:
• opposition to the cult of personality
• the defeat of careerism and opportunism;
• the defeat of the use of violence in the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement to impose particular leadership cliques interested in winning government tenders for themselves and their friends;
• the defeat of bureaucratic parasitic tendency leading to the abuse of state power for self-enrichment;
• the rejection of the phenomenon of the emergence of a black compradore bourgeosie which, in the context of BBBEE, is ready to front both for the domestic white and international capitalists;
• commitment to the implementation of a socio-economic programme focused on economic growth and development, the restructuring and development of our economy, reducing unemployment and poverty, and sharing the wealth of our country in terms of our national, class and gender categories.

Nobody, and I believe the leadership of the ANC above all others, can ignore the conclusion that today our country stands at a particular crossroad.

This means that the decisions we take today will impact on our country and the masses of our people for a considerable number of years.

I am confident that the decisions the leadership of the ANC will take in this regard, with you at its head, will indeed advance the goals of the national democratic revolution to which so many of us, led by the veterans of our movement, have dedicated our lives.

As a small plea in this regard, I appeal that nobody should abuse or cite my name falsely to promote their partisan cause, including how the 2009 ANC election campaign will be conducted.

Amandla! Matla!

Thabo Mbeki