By Carl Niehaus
In 1966 the American politician Robert F. Kennedy (brother of former USA President John F. Kennedy) delivered a speech in Cape Town in which he attacked the apartheid regime. He said: “There is a Chinese curse which says, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also more open to the creative energy of humanity than any other time …”
This week, with Cape Town again as backdrop, the words of Kennedy seemed to be very applicable for the African National Congress, and for South Africa. I have just returned home from Cape Town where I participated in the ANC march In Defence of Democracy, while the no-confidence motion of the opposition parties was being voted on inside the National Assembly.
While the defeat of that 8th no-confidence motion was certain, that this was achieved by secret ballot made the victory even more decisive and sweeter. The Speaker of the National Assembly gave the opposition parties what they have been baying for. Before the vote we were subjected to a lot of propaganda by the opposition that with a secret ballot enough ANC MP’s would vote in favour of the motion for it to succeed. As it turned out this was ever so much hot air, and they left the National Assembly empty handed, having failed to deliver the regime change that they promised their White Monopoly Capitalist handlers they would secure this time round.
These are the facts of the situation, I am not writing in triumph, I am just stating them. Having done so I would now like to make some observations about this watershed event. They are a mixed bag, and bring me back to Kennedy’s quote about the curses and opportunities of ‘interesting times’.
It is evident that the ANC is currently ‘cursed’ with being in the midst of one of the most divided and factional times in our long history. Sadly there are some so-called comrades in the ANC who have personally and materially advanced so well during their past 23 years of having collaborated with the White Monopoly Capitalists, that they no longer want to pursue the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution (NDR). They have a vested interest in maintaining the neo-liberal pro-white monopoly capital economic status quo, and they are prepared to make common cause with their White Monopoly Capitalist sponsors and handlers in order to divide – and if need be – destroy the ANC to achieve their objective. They are the enemies within.
The severe danger that this ‘curse’ represents should not be under estimated by any of us who are committed to ensuring economic justice for all black South Africans (especially Africans). We have seen it again this week manifested in the marches led by the likes of the deceitfully named Save South Africa campaign and their co-conspirators for regime change, such as Afriforum and a host of so-called ‘civil society’ foundations funded by the likes of the George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
Sadly, we have also have seen the likes of COSATU marching on the side of White Monopoly Capital. It is not so long ago that COSATU still declared that they will not make common cause with the white bosses who exploit the workers – but this week they did exactly that. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they have now also been captured by White Monopoly Capital.
The anti-Zuma marches, which were in fact anti-democracy marches in favour of regime change, were littered with cringing stomach turning incidences of white madams turning up with their ‘maids’ all dressed up in domestic servant uniforms, and placards displaying racist attitudes and the most vile and abusive images of President Zuma. By some convoluted logic the so-called ‘comrades’ who participated in these marches found it acceptable to make common cause with these reactionary racists in pursuit of what they have convinced themselves to be the greater ‘common good’ to remove President Zuma from power. They were either very confused thinking that it would have been possible to remove President Zuma (and as an inevitable result his Cabinet), without setting events into motion that would have led to the eventual removal of the ANC from power. Or they were disingenuous and devious, knowing very well that this was the ultimate objective, but presenting it simply as the removal of President Zuma. I am prepared to accept that some of the rank-and-file marchers may have been taken in by the avalanche of anti-Zuma propaganda. However, the leaders of this movement for regime change knew exactly what they were, and still are, up to. They cannot fake innocence, and nor can the 26 ANC MP’s who so treacherously voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.
In dealing with what transpired inside the National Assembly, and in the streets outside, I think the following observations cannot be avoided:
• While it was the prerogative of the Speaker to decide for a secret ballot, as she did, I believe there are still good reasons to be uncomfortable with that decision. The ANC members who are deployed as MP’s in the National Assembly do not find themselves there on their own volition as individuals. They are only in the National Assembly as members of the ANC, and they have been deployed there to carry out the decisions and policies of the ANC. As I have stated before, our democracy is not a constituency based democracy, in our system parties are voted for by the voters, and the parties send their representatives to parliament. Ideally these party representatives should not be allowed to vote in secret. It is wrong to confuse the secret vote that every citizen is entitled to during elections, with the vote of elected party representatives. Clearly citizens are entitled to a secret vote because they speak only for themselves, and therefore their vote is no one’s business, however. elected representatives speak for voters and thus their votes should indeed by everyone’s business.
• The secret ballot as a tactical decision had put the opposition parties firmly in their place with them having been defeated on exactly the playing field that they coveted so much – thus removing an excuse that they certainly would have advanced if it was an open vote that they have only lost. They would no doubt have argued that the ANC MP’s were being ‘intimidated’ and ‘scared’ to vote openly in favour of their motion. So in a sense the victory of the defeat of the no-confidence motion is sweeter because it was achieved through a secret ballot, but it is a bitter-sweet experience because the treachery of the 26 ANC MP’s who voted in favour of the no-confidence motion can now be kept hidden from the 11 million voters who voted for the ANC in the last National Elections, and who are certainly entitled to know how everyone of their representatives voted.
• I remain unconvinced that one can call a vote that had been brought out under the cloak of secrecy a vote of ‘conviction’ and ‘principle’. I grew up in the ANC that is a liberation movement where comrades who joined the liberation struggle did so out of conviction and in the face of the most severe oppression and persecution, openly and with great courage declared their opposition to apartheid and faced the consequences of exile, arrest, torture, imprisonment and often death. To face the consequences of your convictions is principled, to carry out dark deeds in betrayal of the instructions of your party in secrecy is not courageous or principled – it is cowardice. I am on record as having severely criticised Makhosi Khoza and Mondli Gungubele for their undisciplined open defiance of the voting instructions that they have received from the ANC, but at least they had the courage to say openly what they were going to do. I still believe that they should face disciplinary action for their defiance (and it is good that the ANC PEC of KwaZulu-Natal has already charged Dr. Khoza, it is high time that the ANC PEC in Gauteng should follow suit with regards to Gungubele), but at least with them there is the semblance of some courage by committing their betrayal openly.
• The ANC has to accept the secret ballot decision of the Speaker, as well as the consequence of that decision that it is now secret (officially un-known) who the Gang of 26 ANC MP’s are who have betrayed their deployment (accept of course for those who had a bit more backbone to say openly that they had done so). While the ANC as a disciplined organisation, that accepts the rules of a secret ballot. will not officially “out” these MP’S – and thus cannot take disciplinary action against them – I believe that if there was any semblance of principle in their behaviour they should themselves now have the courage of their convictions to come clean on what they had done, and face the consequences. Surely every loyal member of the ANC can at the very least expect from these MP’s to do serious introspection about their conduct. If there is a way forward with them in the ANC it will have to include them having to accept the serious error that they have committed, and they will have to place themselves fully back under the discipline of the ANC. No political party can effectively function without discipline and adherence to its Constitution. I am strongly in favour of unity, and if these errand MP’s can somehow return to the fold that would be my preference. However, it is critically important that discipline within the constitutional organisational structures of the ANC must be accepted by every single member of the ANC – not just some. One thing is certain, no member of the ANC can be allowed to behave with ill-discipline and in defiance of the organisation.
• As a matter of principle we must always remember that the ANC government belongs to the members of the ANC and the over 11 million South Africans who voted for us in the last National Elections. This means that the ANC MP’s who represent us in parliament have no mandate to collapse the ANC government privately and without consulting the members. Obviously no consultation had taken place, and no doubt if there had been any consultation such an outrageous proposal would have been rejected outright with the contempt it deserves. This point is particularly pertinent when we recall that the NEC of the ANC had categorically stated that the motion of no-confidence was “not so much about the removing of the President, but rather dislodging the ANC itself from power”.
• The last point that needs to be made relates to the huge ANC crowd that participated outside Parliament in the march In Defence of Democracy. Their support for the President and for the ANC government was unequivocal and heart-warming. These were the rank-and-file members of the ANC branches making sure that their voices were heard. In contrast to their enthusiasm and commitment to the ANC, stood the open hostility of the mainstream media who covered the march. This was not only evident in the biased and hostile reporting, but also the hostility that was on display in the posture and body language of the journalists of the mainstream media (many of them white) to the people in the crowd. I was amazed about how these journalists seemed to have thrown any semblance of objective reporting to the wind, and were unashamedly advocates for promoting anti-Zuma administration sentiments, and defined themselves as the foot soldiers of White Monopoly Capitalist interests. They also seemed to have no understanding of the history of the ANC, nor of our structures and related organisations. So for instance the significance of the decision of the Members of Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) to participate in the march dressed in full Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) uniforms, totally went over their heads. Instead of understanding that this was a deliberate statement by MKMVA about the central role that MK played in the liberation struggle, and that these liberation soldiers always were the disciplined back-bone of the ANC in exile during the long and difficult years of the liberation struggle, these fickle journalists insulted the uniform of MK that every genuine ANC member holds in the highest regard, and called it in reports and tweets “Pep Store security guard outfits”. In the process they insulted dedicated liberation fighters, not understanding that the message that those MK uniforms were delivering to every ANC MP was that they should not for one moment forget the MK history of struggle and sacrifice without which they would not have been in Parliament at all. That I personally – as a long standing white member of MK, and National Executive Committee member of MKMVA – was singled out for abusive comments, comparing me wearing the MK uniform to resembling the Boeremag, was not only shocking for its open racism, but also deeply insulting to every MK liberation soldier (of all races) who fought against apartheid. It became clear that one cannot expect anything but vicious anti-ANC propaganda from people like these. They are an insult to what should be the proud profession of journalism.
From these observations it is evident that the current situation is fraught with danger, and that the progressive agenda for Radical Socio-economic Transformation is under threat. However, it is exactly in this being so blatantly exposed in our faces that there is also a great opportunity for us. No-one who is committed to the implementation of the Second Phase of the NDR through Radical Socio-economic Transformation can any longer be fooled about how White Monopoly Capital operates, and how they use the mainstream media in order to manufacture and constantly strengthen public consent against the advancement of true economic change and empowerment.
The vile and personal attacks on President Zuma have never been so much about personal dislike for him, but because the fundamental transformation of the power relations in the South African economy that the President supports are feared. Clearly White Monopoly Capital has decided that the implementation of the Twelve Point Plan for Radical Socio-economic Transformation that President Zuma had announced earlier this year in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) had to be stopped at all costs.
With the no-confidence motion defeated and behind us, it is critical to now grab the opportunity of the next five months to engage specifically with the grass roots ANC members who were in their thousands out there in Plein Street in Cape Town, and who represent the branches of the ANC.
It is critical that a strong policy driven programme for Radical Socio-economic Transformation must now be presented to the branches and eventually adopted by them to take to the National Elective Conference of the ANC. As a bare minimum the 12 Point Plan that President Zuma advanced in his SONA should be pushed for urgent implementation. This should be accompanied by clear policy resolutions for land restitution without compensation, as well as the transformation of White Monopoly Capital financial institutions to be forced through legislation to provide government with advantageous and preferred interest on capital that is required for developmental projects that will create jobs. Furthermore it must be ensured that the Reserve Bank is not allowed to be independent from government, but that it should be aligned to support government economic transformation policy.
Whether the White Monopoly Capitalists and their embedded mainstream journalists like it or not they can be assured that the members of MKMVA – as the historical progressive revolutionary backbone of the ANC – will if so required in full MK uniform be out in full force engaging with all our branches to ensure that policy resolutions for comprehensive Radical Socio-economic Transformation will be adopted at the National Elective Conference. With the experience of what happened in parliament on Tuesday – keeping in mind the betrayal of some of our MP’s and NEC members – we will work tirelessly to ensure that truly disciplined and committed ANC members will be elected to the new NEC at the National Elective Conference with a clear mandate from the branches to implement the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution.
We now have the benefit of hindsight in having experienced how far White Monopoly Capital and their agents are prepared to go. We have also experienced the betrayal of some whom we have trusted to truly care for our National Democratic Revolution. The most positive outcome of these ‘curses’ that we had to face, is that we will not allow this situation to repeat itself again. We will now mobilise wisely and differently. We will build disciplined unity with the resolve and understanding that it is a case of Radical Socio-economic Transformation – Now or Never!
Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and an NEC member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA)
All Carl’s articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www.carlniehaus.co.za