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Julius Malema says the takeover of mines, banks and monopoly industries is embodied in the Freedom Charter.
Pretoria - Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest humans in the history of humanity, due to his resilience, fearlessness, tact, stature, and relevance. Many factors influenced and gave momentum to the struggle for political freedom, but Mandela’s individual and subjective contribution to the struggle for liberation cannot be underestimated.
As a young activist, Mandela was part of the ANC Youth League’s founding generation that declared “Freedom in Our Lifetime” and developed practical, organisational, political, and ideological tools and means to realise such freedom in their lifetime.
They did so because the ANC of their generation had somewhat accepted that the best they could achieve in South Africa was mere inclusion of educated black men into spheres of white colonial, supremacist and racist establishments that had excluded the black majority from meaningful economic and political participation. This generation of Freedom Fighters realised political freedom in their lifetime because it was their generational mission to do so.
Mandela was part of this generation, which injected energy and radicalism into mainstream ANC politics.
Post 1949, Mandela, as national organiser of the ANC, led the Defiance Campaign against the apartheid system, defying all racial discriminatory laws and therefore internalising within activists, the reality that the struggle for liberation will include being arrested, tortured or even killed by the apartheid regime.
This new culture of the struggle was a radical departure from the ANC of the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and most of the 1940s which over these periods was an organisation of gentlemen who believed that appealing to the moral authority of the oppressors will bring about meaningful change.
The qualitative and quantitative impact of this Defiance Campaign was profound. Membership grew from about 4 000 to 100 000 and a new theatre of struggle was set.
It was during the Defiance Campaign when Mandela started to think about the possibility of an armed struggle – there was no Communist influence over him during that period because he despised South African Communists as agents whose aim was to misdirect the struggle for national liberation.
Mandela started speaking about a violent overthrow of the apartheid regime in 1953, an idea and strategy he says he first discussed with Walter Sisulu in 1952. When addressing a crowd resisting the Sophiatown removals and evictions in 1953, Mandela spoke about the idea of abandoning non-violence as a weapon of struggle for national liberation.
In his biography, Long Walk To Freedom, he says the following concerning his address to Sophiatown residents in 1953, “as I condemned the government for its ruthlessness and lawlessness, I overstepped the line: I said that the time for passive resistance had ended, that non-violence was a useless strategy and could never overturn a white minority regime bent on retaining its power at any cost. I said, violence was the only weapon that would destroy apartheid and we must be prepared in the near future, to use that weapon”.
Mandela played an important role in persuading the ANC to adopt the Freedom Charter, against the wishes of his peers whose mission to radicalise the ANC was common, particularly Robert Sobukwe and Ashby Peter Mda. He did so fully aware that the Freedom Charter calls for nationalisation of mines, banks and monopoly industries.
Writing about the Freedom Charter in the article published in the Journal Liberation titled In Our Lifetime, and even before the ANC adopted the document as official policy in 1956, Mandela said “never before has any document or conference been so widely acclaimed and discussed by the democratic movement in South Africa”.
“Never before has any document or conference constituted such a serious and formidable challenge to the racial and anti-popular policies of the country”.
This is the Mandela who took practical steps to mobilise for an armed struggle, visited parts of the world to canvass the idea of an armed struggle and even received training in Algeria as a soldier for national liberation.
When the ANC meeting approved the idea of (Umkhonto we Sizwe) MK as an independent military wing, and with Mandela as its commander in chief , he had already covered ground doing work for MK.
This reveals Mandela as a freedom fighter, who was willing to do everything in his power to destroy apartheid. Of course, Mandela would associate with anybody who approved of this route to struggle, particularly after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, where the apartheid regime killed defenceless people for protesting against the pass laws.
This is the Mandela the apartheid regime feared and hated so much. This is the Mandela who changed the nature and character of the struggle for national liberation. When he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, Mandela was almost practically the only leader of the liberation movement who had the energy, determination, passion and commitment to physically and through armed struggle fight against the regime.
This explains why MK did not gain the necessary impetus and energy outside the guidance of Mandela, and the reason why so many concessions were made at the negotiation table because there was no military power to resort to as a means to fight the regime.
When he came out of prison, Mandela stood firm on the principle of nationalisation of mines and banks and said in his first address that “nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is ANC policy, and any change to this policy is inconceivable”.
So the policy of nationalisation of mines, banks and monopoly industries is correct because as Mandela said in 1956, “such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Freedom Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people”.
Post Mandela, the ANC failed to skilfully use political power to attain economic freedom and emancipation.
The current crop of leadership is headed towards an opposite direction and it will take our country to deeper levels of starvation, underemployment, poverty, unemployment and inequalities.
In the relay race for South Africa’s political, economic and social emancipation, Mandela took the baton from those who fought the wars of resistance, from those who fought for the recognition of Africans as humans in their own land, and skilfully ran the race and delivered the baton to the next generation.
Those who took the baton from Mandela, took it and ran in the opposite direction and will not reach the destination of a South Africa free from total economic oppression.
The Mandela we celebrate and cherish is the Mandela who brought us political freedom and we will be inspired by his commitment, determination, fearlessness, and courage to fight for economic freedom in our lifetime.
* Julius Malema is Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.