By Greg Alexander Mashaba
Back in the mid 1980s, one of my favourite videos of ANC leaders was that of Cde Thabo Mbeki wherein he spoke at length about the nature of apartheid ideology and how apartheid leaders could never convincingly advance and defend the legitimacy of this crude ideology whose sole purpose was to justify the oppression of one race by another. In order to emphasise this point, Cde Thabo quoted the statement by the great Xhosa king , Hinsa who , in criticising one of the British colonial administrators said to him:
“…wena omlomo ontshuntshu , ofanele ukusuza ..”
Roughly translated into English this would more or less be:
“ ..you with the mouth which is shaped like a spout as though it can only be good for farting …”
Indeed that is the only way one can describe the apologists of colonialism, imperialism as well as those of White Monopoly Capital in present day South Africa. Simply put, all that emanates from their mouths and the content of the biased news bulletins, which perpetuates their propaganda is nothing but hot and foul-smelling air: umsuzo.
On Friday night I tuned into SABC 4 after I was alerted to the broadcast of the Oliver Tambo Centenary celebration in Sandton, Johannesburg. When I saw that the keynote speaker was Cde Thabo Mbeki, my instinct was to switch to other channels for, given the occasion, one could guess line by line what Cde Thabo was going to say. Indeed I only watched and listened for about five minutes or so. The speech itself has been posted in its entirety by Cde Pinky Khoabane in today’s issue of “Uncensored Opinion”.
I personally do not have a problem with Cde Thabo’s analysis of the serious crisis confronting the ANC and its Alliance Partners. Indeed there is consensus within the ANC and the Alliance that we, as a movement, are facing a crisis on a scale which has never heretofore been seen. However what I find issue with is Cde Mbeki’s apparent failure or refusal to acknowledge that he is as guilty as all of us for failing to provide mature and principled leadership during the most difficult history of our movement. Cde Mbeki purports to place himself outside of the ANC during its time of crisis when the very seeds of that crisis were sown under his tenure as leader of the ANC and the Republic.
The use of state institutions in ANC factional battles developed under Cde Mbeki’s watch. The revelations of the manipulation of the investigative and prosecutorial institutions in support of Cde Mbeki’s ill-informed desire to run for a third term as ANC president is one case in point.
Cde Mbeki’s policy of HIV/AIDS denialism not only made South Africa a pariah state in the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS but it resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300,000 South Africans, thereby creating the new and tragic social phenomenon known as a “child-headed family”. It also served to rob our country of much needed human resources for among many of those who succumbed to this dreaded but controllable disease there were nurse, teachers, engineers, accountants, etc.
His failure to heed counsel of engineers at ESKOM led to the near total collapse of our electricity infrastructure and ushered in the notorious period of “load shedding”, which was characterised by daily interruption of the supply of electricity, a factor which compounded the effects on South Africa of the international recession . A painful legacy of Cde Mbeki’s apparent arrogance and failure and refusal to heed the advice of technical experts is that today the cost of bringing our electricity infrastructure to the level required to sustain our economy and to keep our homes warm is borne by the working class and other vulnerable sections of communities through seemingly never-ending applications by ESKOM to raise their tariffs.
The emergence of a very rich black middle class which largely seems to be indifferent and unsympathetic to the plight of their compatriots in the squatter camps took hold under Cde Mbeki’s watch. So did the flow of cadres from the public sector to the private sector where they used their connections and networks within government to serve their own personal needs and to advance the interests of White Monopoly Capital. It is these former cadres turned industrialists who have become hypocrites in purporting to fight corruption in the public sector. If you are not sure what I am trying to say, a glance in the direction of the offices of Anglo-Ashante might be a useful clue.
He mocks the presentations of our Secretary General to loud applause and laughter from his supporters in the gallery. True to his style following his humiliating loss of power in Polokwane in 2007, Cde Mbeki speaks of the initiatives of our current leaders in disparaging terms and in a manner which seeks to ridicule and insult our elected leaders (Leaders if I may add, against whom he sought to stand in democratic elections against the advice of many and to whom he lost by a landslide). Perhaps it is this humiliating loss in Polokwane in 2007 which continuously informs Cde Mbeki’s tirades against our current leadership. While not claiming to be beyond reproach, these current leaders of the ANC sought to remain within the structures of the organisation and to rebuild it in the face of immense difficulties. They did not join the exodus of those, who having lost in a democratic process, sought to bolster the ranks of the opposition led by our previous racist and colonial oppressors in the DA. Nor did they join the ranks of those who have thrown in their lot with the non governmental organisations which raise funding from the private sector and from abroad in order to launch a colour revolution whose strategic aim is to further the interests of White Monopoly Capital .
Cde Mbeki has strong liberation struggle credentials. He was a brilliant political theorist and a great diplomat of the ANC. Together with President OR Tambo , Alfred Nzo , Johnny Makhathini and Stanley Mabizela, they were the architects of the ANC’s international relations policy, an international relations policy which was second to none among the policies of liberation movements. He also played a pivotal role in creating an environment conducive to the unbanning of the liberation movements and the opening of the route to a negotiated transition from the tyranny of apartheid to a free non –racial democracy. In that regard, countless generations of South Africans must hold him in the highest regard as a hero of the liberation struggle. To do otherwise would be to sink to the same low as that of those who fail to acknowledge the role and sacrifice played by our comrades in the liberation of our people simply because they no longer subscribe to the same political viewpoint . Therefore while I do not agree with COPE leader Terror Lekota’s current political stance, I still hold him in high regard as a hero of our struggle. Failure to do so would amount to a crude and a very cruel distortion of the history of our liberation struggle. My criticism of Cde Mbeki’s continuous tirades against the ANC must be seen within this context.
You might be wondering why I refer to King Hinsa’s remark in my opening statement. Both my cultural beliefs and religious background dictate that I refrain from resorting to insults when addressing or talking about elders and leaders of society. Therefore while on the face of it there would be nothing wrong in employing the same statement when referring to Cde Thabo’s periodic insults against our elected leaders, in this particular case I lack iniquity to do me service. Were it not for the fact that Cde Mbeki is a hero of our struggle in his own right, I would not have hesitated to put such a remark against his name.
Greg Alexander Mashaba Is An Additional Bec Member Of The Anc Branch , Ward 23 , Ekurhuleni. He Writes In His Personal Capacity.