Ntate, I hear you, but . . .
Dear Ntate Goldberg and Ntate Mlangeni,
I again greet you in the name of the economic freedom struggle of our people.
I am deeply humbled by you both taking the time to respond, educate and engage. I respectfully absorb your thoughtful replies and will continue to do so.
I shall also meet with Ntate Ahmed Kathrada, who has summoned me to a sitting in person.
This intergenerational dialogue between us is important to have out in the open because it debunks the myth that there are no honest debates between those with a foundational history within our movement. Ntate Goldberg is correct in why I wrote to
your generation of leaders.
My frustration and pain led me to pen those thoughts, not at all oblivious to other societal ills we face. I was just deeply hurt that our own leaders, particularly some within the current regime elected in good faith, abuse power so badly.
In my taking in the ANC with my mother’s milk, the Freedom Charter of 1955 adopted in Kliptown – where I pen this reply to you from – was fed to me as the moral guide of our movement.
In its preamble, it states that “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”.
I have not lost sight of the significant fact that the ANC is democratically elected by the overwhelming majority of our people.
One of my concerns is that your sacrifices as veterans of the struggle were not for a one-party, one-trade union state.
Ntate Mlangeni, you question this statement, highlighting the opposition parties that sit with just more than 30% of the national vote.
My question to you is how else is South Africa supposed to interpret ANC president Jacob Zuma’s May 2008 words, voiced before he was state president, when he said: “Even God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back.”
Where are the democratic principles in those words?
The ANC cannot be turned into a cult. It has a responsibility to deliver and improve all of our lives, most importantly the downtrodden who are born poor, who must be educated and who must be given the tools to determine their own future in a dignified manner, providing for their families.
As the president of the party, Zuma’s official words cannot be dismissed as the ramblings of an individual, but as the position of the ANC in its entirety.
The opportunistic Democratic Alliance has been using the above and other unfortunate remarks as a point-scoring coup ever since. In a discussion document on their website questioning Zuma’s suitability to lead a united South Africa, they state: “Zuma has refused to recognise South Africa’s Constitution as the primary set of values and principles defining our democracy.
He has twice stated he believes the ANC is ‘more important’ than South Africa’s Constitution, indeed that our Constitution only exists ‘to regulate matters’. He has said ‘no one person can be above the ANC’ and threatened that ‘once you begin to feel you are above the ANC, you are in trouble’. He has even asked how a person can live, ‘if not for the ANC’.”
Comrades, how do we explain away these utterances, and how do we look our detractors – who wish for nothing other than ANC failure – in the eye?
In the modern world, a party is not viewed in isolation from its leaders, or a country in isolation from its president. Is voting for parties, versus a system where individuals can be held accountable and removed by the people, not the way forward for South Africa? Surely this is the most logical way for the people to truly govern?
My summary of media reporting is no strange place for the base of my criticism of our leadership.
If I had gone further to step out of the published facts that embarrass us so, and gone as far as to write about the even worse rot that the media does not know about, to which I (and possibly you) are privy to, my letter would have been even more of an embarrassment than I am told it has caused.
One of my sisters, Kwezilomso, pointed out to me that it is such a funny thing when our political families in the broad sense encourage our defiance, yet expect it only be directed outwardly.
You both raise many important issues. My initial focus was not to touch on every ill we face as a nation. My focus was on exemplifying the failure and lack of selflessness in leadership today.
I made general points, while also making specific ones. If I were to truly focus on personalities, I would look at the individual failings in the ministries and portfolios headed by the architects and policy drivers of the issues I raised, such as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and so on.
I would go out of my way to make special mention of Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega as well, and had it been written this week I would have denounced the apartheid-era scenes witnessed the world over as homes in Lenasia were demolished with weeping home-owners being forcefully removed and violently manhandled by the police on the orders of Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, as well as the violent scenes in the De Doorns wage struggle presided over by the failed leadership of Premier Zille that protects the interests of white capital at the expense of black aspirations of a living wage.
Where is trade union federation Cosatu in all of this?
Did you know there are more service delivery protests in the Western Cape than anywhere else in South Africa?
The ANC is not the only disappointment.
I specifically single out the state president as the chief representative of the rot under whom rampant looting befalls our nation and will continue to do so until common sense prevails in our movement and country, and he is recalled.
Ntate Mlangeni, your generation removed Dr JS Moroka from the helm of the ANC in your time due to internal squabbles in the movement. My reasons, and those of others seeking leadership change, are far more urgent ones than personality-driven politicking; they are about returning shared values and sanity to this nation.
The Public Protector is an amazing woman whose work I follow with great admiration, so thank you Ntate Goldberg for singling her out for praise. What you fail to mention is the constant attack on her work and its results, most disappointingly from within the movement and from her own colleagues.
The fact that she is now tasked to investigate the debacle of hundreds of millions of rands in public funds wasted on “security upgrades” for Zuma’s home at Nkandla will possibly be her biggest test yet.
You both ask what my generation is doing to contribute selflessly for a better South Africa. I am encouraged by this question as it challenges us to do more in our little corners to improve the plight of the nation. During the struggle, the ANC set up scholarship programmes with donor funding and some of us benefited from these.
It was implicitly understood our payback for the gift of education was to return home, and contribute with services to the public and private sector on programmes geared towards transformation.
Most of those left within the country had a fate less lucky educationally, although some made it through the sheer will of their families’ hard work as well as the helping hand of the Kagiso Trust and others, funded by the efforts of the ANC in mobilising international support.
Some of us are actively involved in youth development work to bring about change.
It is a responsibility I urge my peers to take up, but also to find other causes close to their hearts that have a sustainable impact.
I am willin
g to make the sacrifices necessary to do whatever possible to truly free the country, even speak truth to power. I will choose South Africa above any party until my dying day.
» Sexwale is a media and communications strategist with an interest in current affairs and post-apartheid experiences