By Tiisetso ‘Afrika’ Makhele
These people didn’t give you the mandate to vote with opposition against ANC
My leaders, you will forgive me dearly for I am unable to address you by names due to the fact that when you voted together with the opposition, it was through a secret ballot. Had I known your names and identities, I would have addressed you as such. I was unable to find any other term that would best describe you, except for one of modern-day Askaris. I apologise in advance if you may feel aggrieved by this term. I will use it anyway.
The re-emergence of Askaris
During the early days of my activism, when I was active in the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), some senior comrades narrated to me the stories of Askaris. I was informed that these were (mostly) ANC activists who had betrayed their comrades and worked as spies and assassins for the Apartheid regime. Joe Mamasela, one of those Askaris, has admitted to have taken part in the killing of almost 40 activists during the 1980’s.
Your actions, individually and collectively, clearly fits those of an Askari. Firstly, you defied the directive of the African National Congress NEC, the highest decision making body between conference, which instructed all ANC Members of Parliament to vote against the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma, which was tabled by the opposition parties. You may not have killed activists like Apartheid-era Askaris, but your actions, modus operandi and tactics are equal to those of Askaris.
In its intelligence, the NEC argued that such a motion had to be rejected by the ANC as it was ultimately intended to remove the ANC from power. You decided to selfishly represent your own interests, thereby betraying the ANC and its voters. This character is tantamount to that of the Askari.
Secondly, you convinced yourselves that your grounds to defy the party line were superior to the mandate given to yourselves by the ANC, the party that deployed you. This behaviour, where paranoia is used to create an opportunistic justification to betray the ANC, is exactly the one used by Apartheid-era Askaris like Joe Mamasela. The latter claimed that he was tortured so hard that he became submissive to the Apartheid security forces. He uses torture as an undue justification for his betrayal of his party and people.
If you felt strongly about the reasons that led to this betrayal, and you felt that your convictions and the mandate of the ANC were irreconcilable, you were supposed to have resigned en masse. I am sure there are millions of ANC members and supporters who are simply waiting to serve the ANC in whatever platform. Having resigned, you could have had ample opportunity to raise your frustrations, internally in the ANC or, if those are exhausted, rather than simply betray the ANC. I am disappointed in you.
Lastly, like all Askaris, you prefer to conduct your operations in the cover of night, or behind secret ballots. This is the worst form of cowardice and I regret to know that I have been having such representatives in Parliament. I thought that I had voted for people who are able to articulate their convictions under the sun, without fear of any consequences. I see that I was lying. Not all people representing me are as courageous as I thought. It will be difficult for me to trust all our public representatives.
A dangerous precedence
Your actions in Parliament are the beginning of a painful process in the movement. I will not be surprised when, in the near future, there are secret ballots in our provincial legislatures and, for factional and other reasons, ANC members vote with the opposition. This shall definitely lead to a collapse not only of governance, but of the political and ideological standing of the ANC as we know it.
A betrayal of my valued vote
When I cast my vote in the National and Provincial Elections on 7 May 2014, I was not voting for any of you, nor other members of Parliament. I cast my vote for the ANC; the party I love with every iota of my soul.
The ANC then took a decision to deploy you to Parliament. I have no problem with that process because I understand the principle of democratic centralism. I thought that, as deployees of the ANC, you will be in the legislature to advance the mandate of the African National Congress, in totality. So on Tuesday, when you decided to vote against a party mandate, I felt betrayed by you. If the ANC does not feel betrayed by your actions, I feel betrayed, both as a member of the ANC, and as a citizen who voted for the ANC in 2014. Like Askaris, I feel that you have qualified as traitors both to the party and to millions of its members and voters.
Are there grounds to be modern-day Askaris?
If the reasons for voting with the oppositions are that you have issues with President Zuma, then you had a revolutionary duty to lobby the NEC to recall him. After all, the NEC is the one that deploys and has the power to recall. It is wrong to act in cahoots with the enemy to deal with issues that must be dealt with in the organisation. I am sure you have failed to show exemplary revolutionary character here.
I have issues with many leaders of the movement, both in government and in the party. For example, I am not comfortable with some of the children of President Zuma, some of whom do not even participate in the structures and activities of the movement, but feel they are entitled to involve themselves in organisational matters of the ANC. I am even worried that the President is yet to rebuke such actions in public. I am also not happy with how the Nkandla upgrades matter was handled. I have even raised such in proper platforms of the ANC.
I also have issues with the fact that the Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande, has moved slowly regarding the transformation of the higher education sector in the country. This is despite the fact that this Department was established with the purpose of attaining, amongst others, free education for the poor, as well as to ensure that our higher education system is rid of its Western elements. I have previously written about the extent to which the Ministry of Finance, through its successive ministers, have failed to accelerate economic transformation. But despite all these and other matters, I shall NEVER vote with the opposition against any of our cadres.
If you argue that you voted with the opposition because you felt the need to represent the masses, I feel it is important that you indicate how the masses gave you such a mandate. If these people gave you a mandate, where and how was this mandate given, and why was I, a member of the ANC and of society, not invited to make inputs? Your grounds to vote with the opposition do not, unfortunately, have enough foundation. You have, according to me, erred in your judgements.
If, for some reason, the ANC, an organisation I love dearly, may decide to reprimand me for calling you Askaris, or traitors, or for decrying your actions, I would be both aggrieved and puzzled. I would ask myself; “what is of more grave concern: betraying the party line, or calling someone who has betrayed the party line a traitor?”
I hope that you will one day find it necessary to come to us, members and voters of the ANC, and to explain why you acted the way you did. I also hope that, in that platform, you will indicate to us who gave you the mandate to act the way you did. Lastly, I also hope that you will give us an explanation as to why you decided to become modern-day Askaris.
Makhele is an ANC member in Bram Fischer Branch, Mangaung Region, Free State. He writes in his personal capacity