In 1963 Bram Fischer stood before a court and said “the defence … will show that the ANC is a broad national movement, embracing all classes of Africans within its ranks, and having the aim of achieving equal political rights for all South Africans”. Fischer was the lead defence counsel in the well-known Rivonia Trial where Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1965 Fischer was charged with furthering communism and conspiracy to overthrow the government. In 1966 he gave his seminal “What I did was right” speech from the dock in Pretoria, where he said: “When the laws themselves become immoral and require the citizen to take part in an organised system of oppression – if only by his silence or apathy – then I believe that a higher duty arises. This compels one to refuse to recognise such laws.”
The African National Congress, its aides and associates witnessed first-hand the unfathomable agony of oppression. ANC members and leaders (most of who are now in government) endured torture, prison sentences and saw their friends and cadres fall in numbers fighting for freedom. One expects that the ANC would possess the foresight to see instances of oppression being dressed up as law.
Yet the media reports that the ANC, a “revolutionary party” and home to struggle heroes like Nelson Mandela, has reiterated its unconditional support for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF in the upcoming elections.
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza boldly declared that: “Zanu-PF has been governing Zimbabwe since 1980 and we feel they have gained the necessary experience and wealth of knowledge over that time to benefit the people of that country and govern again … the people of Zimbabwe will decide who governs them, but if called on to assist, we won’t hesitate in coming to their assistance to ensure they are successful.”
The ANC’s position surfaced in 2011 when party general secretary Gwede Mantashe expressed the ANC’s commitment to assist Zanu-PF with election materials and strategies. Amid criticism that support for Zanu-PF compromises the political process and legitimises Mugabe’s violent grip to power, the ANC has sought to rely on its historical ties with Zanu-PF.
Zanu-PF’s Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and his rule has been marred by violence and human-rights abuses. The scourge of violence includes the infamous Gukurahundi; the violation of human rights during the land-reform project and the election violence in 2007-2008 which saw opposition’s representatives being captured and assaulted by police. Over a million Zimbabweans scattered all over southern Africa to escape violence and economic collapse.
International human-rights organisations have persistently decried serious human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Human Rights Watch says that “more than four years after Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential election … [N]either the Zanu-PF-controlled security forces nor others responsible for torture and killings during the 2008 election have been brought to justice. This, combined with the lack of progress on institutional and legal reforms, means that many Zimbabweans fear a renewed cycle of violence in 2013, when elections are due to take place”.
Further “since December 2012, the Zanu-PF-controlled police have carried out an apparent campaign of politically motivated abuses against civil-society activists and organisations.”
The arrest of leading human-rights lawyer and activist Beatrice Mtetwa is a stark example of the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. Mtetwa was arrested for allegedly “shouting at police” who were conducting a search at a house of one of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s aides. Mtetwa’s sin was attempting to assist her client by demanding that the police produce a warrant. A magistrate denied her bail on the grounds that “… commotion and shouting can hinder the police in carrying out their investigations accordingly”.
This is notwithstanding Section 50(4) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which obliges police “upon demand of any person whose rights in respect of any search or article seized under the warrant have been affected, hand to him a copy of the warrant”. Section 34(2) provides the same in relation to arrests.
Why then does the ANC slap its power behind a violent oppressive regime? The answer is twofold.
Firstly the ANC’s principles have changed. It is no longer a bulwark for freedom and human rights. The ANC has lost foundational values and currently drifts in any direction the winds of power blow.
An organisation cannot be gauged by its subscribing members but by the values that shape its membership. In this respect the ANC has become a sandcastle, without any firm foundation of values. The rot in values explains how President Jacob Zuma could do a sudden double back from his position in 2008 when he said “in Africa we have some political leaders who refuse to bow out and try to change the constitution to accommodate themselves as in neighbouring Zimbabwe”.
Like all “revolutionary governments” the ANC seeks to protect a myopic construction of future interests. The ANC supports Mugabe only to appease some asinine leftists who exalt Mugabe because of the corrupted indigenisation project.
The ANC’s support for a tyrant interferes with the peace project in Zimbabwe. The ANC retorts to criticism by drawing a farcical distinction between the party and the government. In South Africa the executive, which speaks on behalf of and represents the state, is represented almost exclusively by members of the ruling party, thus the distinction between the state, the government and the party is artificial. ANC policies invariably become government policy.
The question then is if the ANC is willing to openly support a tyrant to appease a constituency, how far would it got to hold on to power in South Africa?