‘Vote No’ not against ANC, but for it

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IOL ca p19 Kasrils DONE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and Ronnie Kasrils at the media launch of the Vukani! Sidikiwe! Vote No! campaign. Picture: Antoine de Ras

The drive must be taken to its proper conclusion, which is to restore the ruling party to its place of honour, writes Mervyn E Bennun.

The Vukani! Sidikiwe! Vote No! declaration – which calls on voters to not give their votes to the ANC – opens with the words: “We... who played a part in the struggle against apartheid and who have contributed to the building of a democratic South Africa... want a just, fair and egalitarian society as promised in the Freedom Charter and clarified in the constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

It goes on: “Corruption, cronyism, control over the public debate have spread like a cancer through the ANC and, because of this, through the government and state institutions” and notes that “legitimate criticism and protest are too often met by intolerance and repression, and we have blights on the national conscience; such as Nkandla, the killing of Andries Tatane and the Marikana massacre, all of which are eroding our hard-won parliamentary democracy”.

It has been signed by – among others – Ronnie Kasrils.

The response from the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Veterans Association seems designed to confirm every word of the problems referred to. MKVA calls Kasrils an “enemy of the people” who is trying to destroy the ANC because he “has an issue with President Jacob Zuma”. The MKVA makes it clear that it does not recognise that the problems referred to even exist.

In her Nkandla report – which describes spending on Zuma’s house as “unconscionable, excessive, and (the cause of) a misappropriation of public funds” – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela writes of her interview with the architect: “When asked, during the inspection in loco, why a cattle culvert and chicken run, Makhanya said ‘this is how they do it in England’.”

She noted the difference between the Nklanda kraal and the one at Qunu, the rural residence of Nelson Mandela.

It would be a strange hen which laid her eggs in Nkandla’s so-called “chicken run”, or anyone who tries to collect eggs for breakfast from it. If that’s the architect’s idea of a chicken run, then I would not trust him to design a belfry for my bats. It’s a dovecote for ornamental pigeons and doves – like those in many old stately homes in England.

The Nkandla project has become emblematic of what the Vukani! (Wake up!) Sidikiwe! (We are fed up!) campaign is aimed at. It clearly does not bother the MKVA that the kraal and so-called chicken run were found by the public protector to have no security purpose. The MKVA demonstrates precisely the point made by the campaign.

This is truly a great sadness. The MK veterans were brave and dedicated soldiers in the armed struggle, but this personal attack on one of their own comrades is both vicious and proclaims their ignorance.

They knew that they were fighting against apartheid, but they reveal now that they did not – and still do not – know what they were fighting for. They are heroes without a horizon, content to go nowhere, and beaten in victory for they lack the dignity and courage to defend South Africa when they are needed most.

Instead, the flag they have chosen to march under is the picture of a chicken run that is a dovecote. They fear the very constitution that they helped to bring into being, for when one of their own comrades draws attention to corruption and rot, to greed and self-interest which are revealed by the law and processes of that constitution, all the former heroes of the MKVA can do is cry “foul... you are enemy of the people”!

Senior members of the ANC who have expressed the same alarm as Kasrils and others have, at the same time, disagreed about whether the Vukani! Sidikiwe! campaign is the right response, and done so in a reasoned manner – the loyalty of both sides to the ANC is never put in doubt and with them it is possible to have a serious debate: Essop Pahad, and Pallo Jordan are examples. The latter has even engaged me personally in writing to persuade me not to support the campaign (which he failed to do). His courteous and comradely, but firm, manner is a compliment; he makes me feel my personal worth has not been diminished despite our disagreement.

As with the MKVA, so it is with the ANC Youth League (“Kasrils should get psychological counselling”), the SACP (Kasrils and others who support the campaign are “factory faults”), and the ANC itself (“Ronne Kasrils’s historical adventurism, ill-discipline and recklessness” ).

For them, the offence is in reacting to the corruption, not the corruption itself. Their abusive and extreme language merits no further comment.

The Nkandla project is political pornography. While some are attempting to justify and to defend Nkandla, a six-year-old drowned in excrement when the rotting pit toilet he was trying to use collapsed under him at his school in Mpumalanga. Everyone who needed to know about the state of the toilets at that school knew everything there was to know, and yet the positive decision was taken to do nothing about it. Where is the response to this nightmare from those who attack the Vukani! Sidikiwe! campaign by directing the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel of invective at those who support it?

Why are they more concerned to protect Jacob Zuma than to express outrage that after 20 years of democracy the state of our schools is still such an obscene blot on our pride and dignity?

It is against this background that I support the Vukani! Sidikiwe! Vote No! campaign.

I am 78; I supported the ANC from my days as a schoolboy, and I joined the ANC as soon as I could when I went into exile in 1965. I am an ordinary rank-and-file member and learned early on that I needed the ANC and its leadership more than the ANC needed me or any other individual. Now, the ANC needs me as a rank and filer to speak out and I have nothing to gain by doing so.

No one but ANC members can change our organisation, and I believe passionately that there is no other political organisation than the ANC that can take South Africa forward into the sort of society we want. I will certainly not vote for any other party.

Voters have the right to expect political parties to demonstrate that they deserve their votes, for we are not mere voting fodder and we do not exist for the convenience of the government or any party. Those who would be leaders must prove that they deserve the honour. The only weapon we have to show our discontent is the vote. Every South African voter must go to the polls in the election and do there what they think will best show their dissatisfaction.

We need to take the Vukani! Sidikiwe! campaign to its proper conclusion and restore the ANC to its place of honour and one where all South Africans would wish to be.

I cannot vote for the rottenness and corruption which has taken hold at the top of the movement which I joined because of the honesty, courage and dignity it showed in our struggle. The fight is not against the ANC, but for it.

* Mervyn E Bennun is a retired law academic.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus



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