Shandu KaNdaba argues that the ANC MPs who voted with the opposition in the attempt to have President Jacob Zuma impeached are worse than Askaris. She says Askaris were tortured and brutalised before they turned against their comrades.
Joe Mamasela, Apartheid’s Askari, Remorseless Killer
I write this piece in response to Tiisetso “Afrika” Makhele’s open letter to ANC MPs who voted against President Jacob Zuma in last week’s motion of no confidence http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/open-letter-dear-modern-day-askaris/. Makhele refers to the MPs as modern-day Askaris.
The word Askari means “soldier” or “police” in Kiswahili, Arabic, Turkish and a number of other languages. Colonial powers in many parts of eastern, central and southern Africa used the term widely to refer to the African soldiers who fought in their armies in Africa.
In the South African context during the struggle Askaris, were a particular breed of policemen and paramilitary personnel. They were former MK combatants who firstly turned traitor, sang their secrets for the apartheid regime and were then turned. Once turned they got handsomely paid to dish out torture, humiliation and death to their former comrades. According to author Jacob Dlamini, in his book, Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle, Askaris were “ANC and Pan Africanist Congress members who, through voluntary defection or torture, had switched sides to fight against their former comrades as part of a counterinsurgency campaign.” Askaris, for the most part did not hide who they were.
To call the Members of Parliament who voted against the defeated motion of no confidence Askaris invokes strong emotions. I hesitate to use the term because it carriers a particular history and meaning. Naming matters not only for ideological reasons, naming matters because names carry truth and they have power. In my view those Members of Parliament who voted for the motion of no confidence are collaborators who cooperated very willingly and secretly with the opposition parties to defeat their own party.
There was no question of coercion in their choice to vote with the opposition. With Askaris, whilst they always in the end made a personal choice to put on the mantle of Askari, they were often tortured and brutalised to do so. The ANC parliamentarians who voted with the opposition to were not tortured to betray the party that gave them their seat in parliament. They cast their treacherous votes willingly. I suspect given some of their utterances the defense of this treachery will be based on some delusion of moral superiority. They will claim their motives were pure in making the choice to collaborate with the opposition. These MPs will choose to forget that they made an individual choice they were not entitled to make as it was neither their name nor their face on the ballot in the last general election – it was the banner and the logo of the ANC on the ballot. It is the organisation that voters voted into power. Collaborating with opposition parties against your own is in my view inexcusable in a system of government that does not elect individuals. Your conscious should always be the party line for you are in parliament SOLELY on the back of the party being voted in. It’s astonishing that these law makers do not understand the distinction between proportional representation and majority election systems.
These Members of parliament are full of a delusional appreciation of their own righteousness. They congratulate themselves on being unsusceptible to wrongdoing knowing that the South African mainstream media is not known for its great investigative prowess where those they like are in question.
Make no mistake these collaborators are narcissists who are concerned only with the self. Last week, they arrogantly and strongly reacted to the limitations imposed on them by the party that elected them to Parliament and whose votes they represent. Their moral superiority was sacrificed for what I am sure they think is “righteous” betrayal. Betrayal can never be anything but perfidious.
The African National Congress is at a crossroads. When the party was unbanned it absorbed within its structures many internal movements amongst them the Anglo American funded United Democratic Front (UDF) and beneficiaries of the Oppenheimer & Rupert conceived Urban Foundation. It was taken for granted that these groups held the same values as the ANC. I believe many did and still do. It was when Monopoly Capital was finally threatened and the Economic Liberation of our people put on the table for discussion and implementation that those who are personally beholden to White Monopoly Capital proved they would rather see the movement destroyed rather than lose their proximity to white supremacy.
The ANC has some work to do in finding and expelling collaborators. Then there is deep organisational work that needs to be done to align all ANC members and office bearers to the values and principles of democratic centralism and radical economic transformation.