UNEMBARGOED: Claim Mandela sold out is easy but ahistorical by Songezo Zibi (BDlive), 07 December 2015
They were severely tortured.
Weapons and fighters were spirited to the former Transkei, where a homeland dictator friendly to the ANC, Bantu Holomisa, provided them with sanctuary and used state resources to sustain them. Of course, this later became inconvenient to mention as the battle for political power within the ANC resulted in the general’s expulsion from the party.
However, if you want to understand the deep affection former MK fighters and ANC leaders have for Holomisa despite being an opposition leader, it is as a result of his willingness to provide for them when their lives were under threat with nowhere else to go.
The ANC wasn’t even sure of the level of support it could secure in an election. Given its dominance at the polls now, it is easy to forget that in 1994, it secured the confidence of just more than 57% of voters. The political landscape, therefore, was different.
As Gigaba realised that night, the narrative that had brought the ANC many latter-day supporters had come back to bite it.
Its victory was always strategic, and depended more on the effectiveness of its diplomats, propaganda and negotiators than any military threat it posed to the apartheid regime.
The streets were ablaze. People were being massacred almost daily.
The apartheid security forces had smashed its remaining underground military offensive. The Soviet Union had collapsed while Sweden, the other major source of ANC funds, wanted a negotiated settlement.
Unfortunately, the narrative in the audience’s mind, which is now entrenched in many young people’s conscience, bears little resemblance to reality. Neither the ANC, nor any other liberation organisation, could simply get whatever it wanted, period.
The outcome we have now is the best anyone could have extracted at the time. It is therefore ahistorical to propose that Nelson Mandela or the ANC "sold out".
Hindsight often makes sages of those who never had to do.
It is entirely legitimate for the youth of today to seek a different formula for economic justice.
However, this demand does not require that we misrepresent the strategic work done under trying circumstances by leaders who can no longer speak for themselves.
Each generation has the responsibility to pursue justice for itself and future generations without using others as a crutch with which to justify its gripe. Just like those before, this generation will soon learn that radicalism is quickly tempered by the objective of sustaining a society that can function after the revolution.
It will also learn, just as the ANC did, that the international environment is as much of a factor domestically as it is elsewhere. No country operates in a vacuum.
In any event, contrary to popular belief, it was not just by "greedy westerners" at Davos that the ANC was warned about nationalisation.
At a seminar between the ANC and USSR officials in February 1989, one of the architects of the theory of "national democratic revolution" that is now part of popular ANCspeak, Rostislav Ulyanovsky, warned the ANC delegation not to be cocky about its future economic policy plans.
He counselled, and was later proven correct, that eventual political and policy outcomes are heavily influenced by "concrete situations" on the ground. On nationalisation specifically, he warned the ANC to learn from other African countries for which this exercise had been a disaster.
I am certain he also had the benefit of the Soviet Union’s collapsed economy to draw from. It is said that his last words were: "Comrades, be careful."
But then we no longer care, do we? About history or political honesty.