By Gugu Ndima
It’s quite intriguing that the stature of former president Nelson Mandela has been questioned. His integrity and commitment to his people is being cross-examined. Insinuations have been propagated that the former president sold out for self-centred motives and instantaneous fulfilment.
As a member of the ANC, and disciplined member of the ANCYL, the task I’m bestowed with — mammoth as it is — is to bring certain things into context regarding recent comments by Azapo Youth League leader Amukelani Ngobeni that the former president betrayed black people. This is tantamount to saying the ANC as an organisation sold out, placing the national democratic revolution on the altar of imperialists and apartheid abattoirs.
I wish to start with a quote from the iconic leader, Comrade Madiba: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” A profound quote indeed, shedding light on the values and principles Madiba espoused.
We have a dire problem in society today, an obsession with urban legends and fire camp stories, which at times sacrifice truth. The Azapo Youth League has unfortunately fallen for this phenomenon. I wish to make the following points in order to share the little information I have on our history and that of Mandela.
Mandela was a disciplined member of the NEC collective when he was president and therefore any decision taken would have been that of the collective. As president he was naturally expected to act as the political chief representative and communicator of such decisions
The ANC has consistently followed its strategy and tactics. Strategy being our overall objectives and tactics being the modus operandi, which are of course informed of material conditions and balance of forces as we progress towards realising the national democratic revolution. It was only tactical to force the then apartheid government to come to the table.
Apartheid as a system was a Goliath not only for the ANC but for the majority of our people. It presented horrendous challenges for all South Africans. In its dismantlement, it required leaders with sophistication, strategy, but more importantly perseverance. The generation of Mandela have proven they indeed had the aforementioned qualities.
Azapo youth dismally fail to comprehend the intricate and multifarious nature of transitions. They unfortunately required tactical recoils and transitory diversions in order to secure a peaceful transition, which led to the government of national unity. It’s quiet evident that the generation of Madiba understood this reality and the contradictions of that time and were guided by foresight and not abrupt emotion in order to minimise bloodshed and build towards a functional government and economy.
I have no doubt that through times of negotiations the former president and his leadership collective had to make serious decisions and concessions, some unfavourable. However this is the essence of any negotiation, especially one where parties were on extreme opposite ends of the negotiation table.
We should also clarify that the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) under the chairmanship of Judges Michael Corbett, Petrus Shabort and Ismail Mahomed, was not a “tea party session between FW de Klerk and Mandela at Oppeinheimer’s golf estate” as urban legends have it. It was an intense, political process at times disrupted by agent provocateurs causing violent upheavals. A classic example which comes to mind is the AWB’s theatrical storming of the venue while negotiations were taking place.
Codesa consisted of various stakeholders and organisations such as the DP, IFP, SACP, SA Indian Congress, Coloured Labour Party, even Bantustans were represented.
Lest we also forget the violence in the late 80s and early 90s. The Boipatong Massacre, the Bisho Massacre, which happened the same year, and the cold assassination of Chris Hani the following year in April 1993. One can’t begin to imagine the turmoil, mistrust and harsh political climate in which these negotiations took place. At a time when Mandela and his leadership could have ordered masses to take to the streets and retaliate against the government. They went back to the negotiating table, showing leadership, astuteness and foresight
Young people wither away in poverty, unemployment and yes it’s rife. We have glaring socio-economic conditions which you and I must take responsibility for. In times where young people are quick to burn down councillor’s houses and destroy much-needed infrastructure in service-delivery protests, we must lead and give political direction.
In closing I wish to quote Madiba again: “In my youth in the Transkei, I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane, Bambata, Hintsa, Makana, Dalisile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhune were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their struggle.”
As I say this to the Azapo youth, ours is not to blame our predecessors, but to take the baton and advance the struggle of our people. Let’s allow the generation of Madiba to rest and enjoy their twilight years. We need to realise economic freedom in our lifetime, as they recognised political freedom in theirs.
Gugu Ndima is the media and communications officer of the ANC caucus in the Gauteng legislature.