To: Terressa Mthembu
ANC Veterans League November, 2008.
Thank you for the invitation to attend the inaugural 1st Provincial Conference of the KZN African National Congress Veterans’ League on 22nd November.
I am 67 years old and I was recruited into the South African Communist Party in Cape Town in 1962. I formally joined the ANC in 1969after the Morogoro Conference opened membership to non-Africans.
After all these decades, I regret that the situation that has arisen compels me to resign from the ANC and the SACP. Over several years and from my position on the PWC of the KZN SACP until 2006 I watched and
listened with increasing dismay as discussion, debate and Party work, were replaced by a systematic campaign of vilification that became increasingly strident in stirring up hatred toward the NDR in general, and the ANC/State President in particular.
We all know how people both inside and outside the Movement took up this divisive rhetoric that had as its parallel the increasing adulation of an individual, comrade Jacob Zuma.
I did raise my concern that the NDR and President Thabo Mbeki and his government who were our allies, were being promoted as the primary enemy. Within that government were many seasoned former and current members of the Central Committee and veterans of uMkhonto we Sizwe. All of them were treated with disdain, both inside the Party and publicly. Only those willing to underwrite the Zuma project escaped the mounting hate speech. I felt that some comrades who had given everything to the struggle, were hounded out of the SACP, even those who did not choose to leave in 1990 as others, including comrade Zuma, did.
We all saw how rapidly this populist rhetoric was taken up in the streets, in ANC meetings and wherever comrade Zuma appeared. T-shirts with the image of the then ANC State President were publicly burned, slogans and songs were heard that were not only insulting to the ANC government and leadership at the time but that encouraged a complete lack of respect for many tried and tested cadres of the Movement.
Particularly distressing was the horrifyingly crass rudeness meted out in this way also to one of the longest serving Communists in the country, 90 year old comrade Epainette Mbeki. The walk-out when the then ANC and State president rose to speak at the memorial for comrade Moses Mabhida at the Harry Gwala stadium has remained undisciplined. The extreme disrespect to the memory of comrade Mabhida was appalling.
Early on in this build-up of the Zuma project, when comrade Zuma himself started the culture of singing “Mshini Wam”, I heard someone phoning in to the radio and saying “Comrade Zuma must just give us the word, we have our AKs buried and can retrieve them.” I did not understand the recklessness of insisting on this particular song. This same theme was later reflected in the Youth League leadership when Julius Malema declared on national TV “We will take up arms and kill to defend Zuma”.
The rhetoric became directed, both by leadership in meetings and on the streets, to anyone who raised the smallest doubt about what Comrade Vavi, perhaps correctly, depicted as a tsunami to ensure Jacob Zuma’s presidency of South Africa.
Trade Union leaders, public intellectuals, State Ministers, judges, the courts, journalists, the media – no one was spared. Populist insult replaced any notion of discussion.
Meetings were frequently overwhelmed by the latest perceived affront to the Zuma project. I could not understand by what revolutionary thinking an individual was earmarked to be a future president no matter what the conditions.
The language became increasingly violent and divisive with huge displays of triumphalism when there were “victories” over “the enemy” such as at the 2005 National General Council and following the not-guilty verdict at Comrade Zuma’s rape trial. I felt that the SACP and ANC I had grown up in would have brought its membership into discussions around the serious gender issues that arose from the rape trial and the issues of personal patronage that arose from the corruption charges against comrade Zuma. Instead there was a sort of tit for tat point scoring of whispered and completely unsubstantiated “counter-charges” particularly impugning the then President of the ANC and of the country. We have all seen the images of triumph and retribution outside the courts where Comrade Zuma appeared. We all saw the burning of Thabo Mbeki ANC t-shirts, we all heard the “Burn the Bitch” slogans.
Not once, did I hear comrade Blade Nzimande, nor comrade Zuma, caution members or those outside creating an increasingly worrying climate of division and hatred, setting comrade against comrade.
The entryist project of a coterie of SACP leaders, led by Blade Nzimande, was well on its way long before Polokwane. The unprecedented scenes of anarchy and disrespect at the ANC Polokwane Conference could have come as no surprise to anyone in this country. As we know, subsequently this violent and anarchic culture affected small and large meetings of the Movement, those that caught the media attention and others – comrades attacking comrades verbally and physically.
The public call for unity from comrade Baleka Mbete the day after Polokwane, rang hollow and opportunistic. Post-Polokwane, under the new Zuma leadership, the situation deteriorated alarmingly.
We know that in Branches, Regions and PECs, in Parliamentary structures, the SABC and other state organs, violent behaviour was fanned by the post-Polokwane leadership’s drive which continues unabated, to oust anyone perceived to be unenthusiastic about the Zuma project.
The question has to be raised – what interests have been served by the ascendancy of the Zuma leadership at Polokwane that has closed down hard fought for democratic space and threatens peace and stability.The vindictive rhetoric against the justice system, individual judges and the courts assumed more threat as leading comrades talked of “blood on the court room floor” and even from comrade Gwede Mantashe,Chairperson of the SACP and now also Secretary-General of the ANC.
In an arrogant disregard for peace and security, leaders including Julius Malema and Zwelinzima Vavi threatened they would “Kill for Zuma”. If the leadership discussed this with them as they claim, it was done in such whispers that neither they nor anyone else heard. No one can be surprised that soon songs emerged, now bringing comrades Lekota and Shilowa into the frame. In Orange Farm, people wearing ANC and SACP t-shirts and including very young people, “our future”, chanted ” Kill Lekota, Kill Shilowa” with complete impunity, indeed taking their cue from the leadership.
Still a silence from comrade Zuma and other leaders, only to be broken by calling erstwhile comrades dogs and snakes. Chillingly – at the Jabulani Stadium, at the end of Comrade Zuma leading the singing of “Mshini Wami”, a comrade dressed in ANC t-shirt and colours was asked by ETV what he thought of the National Convention taking place at Sandton. He replied without any reservation “They are cockroaches – we kill cockroaches. Whether you use a wooden spoon or doom, whatever weapon you use, you kill cockroaches.”
The leaders including leading Communists who took over the ANC at Polokwane have demonstrated that they are a dangerous leadership apparently intent on plunging our country into violence and thuggery and a clear threat to our democracy and to peace. The reckless overnight sacking of the state president and SADC mediator at the very moment that there was the first hard-won break-through in Zimbabwe seemed unbelievable in its reckless disregard for South Africa’s national interests. Images of Rwanda, east DRC, Kenya and Zimbabwe loom large. Zanufication seems well underway.
My political beliefs and values were forged and tempered by stalwarts of the struggle who are no longer alive. This Party, that has taken control of the ANC, is not the Party of Joe Slovo, Alex la Guma, Yusuf Dadoo or Chris Hani.
I am proud of our achievements in bringing about the end of apartheid and of the gains made over the past 15 years laying the foundation for freedom. I believe there are many good comrades, including young comrades, who remain in the ranks of the ANC and SACPbut who are not willing to sacrifice our heritage for power, position, patronage and financial gain. No doubt many comrades, like me, find it difficult to turn our backs on the devotion we feel for the Movement which sacrificed much in the struggle for the liberation of our country and its people. I hope comrades will look objectively at the concrete situation and regroup in the newly formed Congress of the People which has promised a return to the values necessary for taking our country forward.
Cc. Provincial Secretary ANC
Provincial Secretary SACP