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Tables turned against resistance to change

Pretoria News
Reporting on the goings-on at the 24th commemoration of Chris Hani’s death, The Huffingtonpost’s screaming headline Hani Memorial: SACP Booed, Zuma Praised, And Limpho Hani Takes A Swipe At Anti-Zuma Protesters on April 10 said it all.

The report went further to note that “If Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial events were used to campaign against Zuma, the Hani event was used to do the opposite.” But this is half the story.

The Ahmed Kathrada Memorial in Durban, which took place the day before commemoration of Hani in Ekurhuleni was not any different.

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Jacob Zuma

Pravin Gordhan who was already accustomed to being hero-worshipped, got a rude awakening when he got a hostile reception from the assembled crowd.

The difference between the leafy suburbs and the township couldn’t have been sharp. What separates the group is its material and class location.

Gordhan had assumed messianic celebrity (status) among the historically privileged and the upper class. In the township setting he became a symbol of resistance to radical economic transformation.

Indeed, the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal made it clear that it welcomed his removal from cabinet.

At the commemoration of her husband, Limpho Hani made common cause with the downtrodden. Taking a swipe at the anti-Zuma zealots, she pointed out; “I do not belong to a faction. I’m a member of the ANC and there’s only one ANC. I refuse to play into the hands of those who say, ‘What would Chris say?’ What I know is, Chris was a loyal and disciplined cadre.”

For Limpho, the hypocrisy of SAVE SA is there in the open. Where black lives are involved, the campaign doesn’t give a hoot. It registered no outrage when news broke of black women being gang-raped, she reminded the audience.

No outrage greets the daily exploitation of workers asking for decent wages. If anything, their demands for a living wage are met with disdain. Neither was there a protest when more than 100 lives were lost at the Life Esidimeni facilities in Gauteng.

Instead of seeking white and media approval, Limpho spoke of, and to the experience of those for whom poverty and exploitation are not a theoretical construct but a lived reality.

For his part, President Jacob Zuma did not disappoint. In his characteristic measured tone, he reminded the country that “in their actions, the killers of Chris Hani sought to sow division among the people of South Africa so that they could protect minority interests”.

The president urged the assembly that “in his [Hani] memory we must fight racism wherever it rears its ugly head there is a resurgence of racism in our country. It is also clear that racists have become more emboldened.

Perhaps picking on Cosatu’s press statement that the real enemy is minority white capital, Zuma noted that “the leadership of President Nelson Mandela rose to the occasion and called on all of us not to allow minority interests and the actions of disrupters to shift our focus.”

For Zuma the focus is radical economic transformation that both the SAVE SA and minority interests want to suppress. Interestingly so, this is the very mantra that got former president Thabo Mbeki into trouble when he reminded all and sundry that South Africa remained a country of two nations. On May 29 1998 Mbeki noted: “We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled. This reality of two nations, underwritten by the perpetuation of the racial, gender and spatial disparities born of a very long period of colonial and apartheid white minority domination, constitutes the material base which reinforces the notion that, indeed, we are not one nation, but two nations.”

Perhaps unbeknown to him, Mbeki was prophetic in noting that “neither are we becoming one nation. Consequently, also, the objective of national reconciliation is not being realised.”

Zuma was to return to this theme 19 years later. In his 2017 State of the Nation Address he observed: “Twenty two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered. They are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation. The gap between the annual average household incomes of African-headed households and their white counterparts remains shockingly huge. White households earn at least five times more than black households, according to Statistics SA.

The situation with regards to the ownership of the economy also mirrors that of household incomes. Only 10% of the top 100 companies on the JSE are owned by black South Africans, directly-achieved principally, through the black empowerment codes, according to the National Empowerment Fund.”

The articulation of this reality is at the core of Zuma’s challenges. It is worth reminding ourselves that before his two nations speech, Mbeki was the darling of the whites who he’d dazzled with his penchant for quoting dead English writers. Following the now infamous “two nations speech”, Mbeki became a source of derision. Unfortunately, his misguided policies on HIV did not help. Zuma was not so lucky. He was disliked from the onset. He shared little, if any, cultural affinity with beneficiaries of apartheid. Never doubting his Africanness and remaining unapologetic about his African tradition. Nothing invites hatred than this bold assertion of one’s humanity. Evidently, Zuma’s restatement of the racial economic inequality has taken the hatred to the stratosphere. It is therefore ironic that the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have teamed up with incorrigible racist outfits like the FW de Klerk Foundation.

Indeed times are changing.

The ganging up by the foundations against Zuma could arguably be attributed to the fact that their founders are a relic of the past. Some cannot come to terms with the fact that they are historic rejects that cannot come to terms with loss of political power.

One only hopes that Zuma’s closing remarks will jolt the SACP to sober up. Indeed, there is something politically unsavoury when so-called communists find common cause with imperialists and ultra-racists. If we thought the political struggle was hard, we must brace ourselves for even a bigger struggle. The challenge for economic and cultural hegemony is likely to be intense. For now the tables have turned against the forces of resistance to transformation.

* Faith Muthambi is the Minister of Public Service and Administration.

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