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Surely, if we can forgive the architects and beneficiaries of apartheid, we can forgive one of our own, writes Panyaza Lesufi.
Johannesburg - The current political situation has got me very worried. So worried I found myself asking the question: is it not time, my organisation, the ANC, and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) set aside personality politics and, instead, work together to advance the objectives of the national democratic revolution (NDR), which should, quite correctly, occupy the centre stage in the current conjuncture?
I ask this question because bickering and mudslinging between organisations which should be on the same side of the fence, if left unchecked, could present real obstacles in our quest to achieve a better life for all South Africans.
In a nascent democracy such as ours, the interests of our people and the country should naturally prevail over personal interests.
Sadly our politics are no longer about our constituency and our people. They are increasingly about personalities bordering on, among others, who is more popular and who can throw the best insults.
All this is allowed to happen while we, as a country, are grappling with such matters as the underperformance of our economy, which, no doubt, has an impact on our attempts to deal with the evil triplets of unemployment, grinding poverty as well as inequality.
Almost two decades after 1994 we need a collective effort of these organisations to tackle these challenges with even greater vigour
Who benefits in this chess game of petty fogging, characterised by differences, squabbles and insults? Clearly, not our people. The only people who stand to gain from this are enemies of change, transformation and economic empowerment.
These forces can be found in myriad political formations that have made it their duty to attack our programmes.
The price of going separate ways and staying on the opposite sides is too heavy to pay and has the potential to paralyse the progress we have made since democracy. We made a commitment to work day and night to bring a better life to the millions of our people whose hopes and aspirations we continue to carry on our shoulders.
Remember the poor depend on us to provide leadership rather than to squabble and fight over their votes. In any society, collective wisdom is better than individual wisdom. We need each other, now more than ever before, to advance the interests of our people and country.
If we continue to engage in street fights, will we not unintentionally be contributing to the reversal of the gains to which I have referred particularly in eradicating the legacy of apartheid and “colonialism of a special type”? Keeping our eyes off the ball is the luxury, I want to submit, we cannot afford to contemplate. We have work to do and we must redouble our effort to do it.
The ideological posturing of the ANC and the EFF, bereft of the dictates of nuances and rhetoric, remain essentially the same. We recruit from the same constituency. In fact, we both are struggling to make a dent on the support base of apartheid beneficiaries.
All this is happening when, on the face of it, neo-liberal and conservative forces are seemingly making inroads in our very traditional constituencies while we are engaged in personal and factional clashes.
Quite paradoxically, I want to submit, the ANC still needs a Julius Malema, as much as a Julius Malema cannot survive “outside of the ANC”, an organisation that made him what he is today. So why not talk to each other and build a solid and dynamic movement to advance the NDR and class interests of our people? Mistakes were made in the last few years, but show me a revolution that did not have its own fair share of mistakes.
The conduct and behaviour of comrade Malema was bad, but show me a family without a problem child. With the benefit of hindsight, the expulsion of Malema, however disproportionate it may have been, I still respect.
The dictates of the current balance of forces perhaps, quite paradoxically, leave space for a disciplined and diamond-polished Malema.
I am also convinced that Malema and his comrades miss the home of Nelson Mandela, the real organic parliament of the oppressed and exploited people of our country. Unlike Cope, whose members left the ANC, these comrades were expelled, surely a decision that is within our powers to review?
No single entity, acting on a frolic of its own, can ever advance the economic and social emancipation of our people – whether we like it or not. Conversely, it is wishful thinking to assume that there can be real reconstruction of our country without the active involvement of the ANC.
The mere fact that we managed to hold talks with our oppressors, of a racist regime that lacked credibility, demonstrates that we have it within ourselves to conquer this divisive monster. So what is wrong with sitting down, putting our differences aside and sorting things out?
Surely, if we can forgive the architects and beneficiaries of apartheid, we can forgive one of our own?
It is within this context that I call upon the revolutionary elders of our movement to seize this moment and convene a congress of the left to attend to these challenges, including the concerns of some sections of the Cosatu leadership with regards to the National Development Plan.
Just imagine how powerful our movement could be if, out of this exercise, we emerge stronger and more united and defeat the reactionary forces challenging us in the 2014 national elections. Just imagine how powerful we can be if mining unions Amcu and the NUM can work together to benefit workers, rather than continue with the self-same personality clashes and the issue of who has more members.
Like one popular song that is sung by MK cadres, uTambo anga lila mas’bona sinje, angalila (OR Tambo can cry if he sees us in this situation), just imagine how powerful the combination of the ANC and EFF, Cosatu and Amcu could be in advancing the overall interests of our people.
We will indeed ignite the spirit of Harry Gwala, Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Barney Molokoane, Andrew Zondo and many comrades who died for us to be free. We cannot be reckless with the future of our children and our people.
The impasse we are in now is no longer about ourselves. It is about our people who look to us for guidance and leadership. It pains some of us to see our people protesting against the lack or even non-delivery of basic services.
Who will celebrate the demise of the ANC or EFF? The ANC and EFF need to talk to each other.
We are not making these proposals because the ANC is scared, surely not. The ANC remains very strong and is not a party that will vanish today, tomorrow or soon.
We remain proud warriors to defend the ANC and ensure it remains a party of choice for our people.
Recent developments in by-elections indicate how popular the ANC is, not only for now but also in future, if you take into consideration the wins scored by Sasco in recent SRC elections at various universities, including Wits.
There are those who still believe the ANC is not desperate to talk to Malema, and that if this were to happen it will feed into the misconception that the survival of the ANC depends on personalities. They further claim that Malema has nothing more to offer as he is a monster the ANC created by allowing him to do wrong things, and elevated him to positions that he shouldn’t have been in in the first place.
Let’s keep the battle of ideas alive. This is what has made the ANC one of the oldest and revered liberation movements in the global village. Let the fire of ideas continue to burn within and among us.
History calls for future repositories of the proud traditions of our movement to seize this moment. We have a chance to fashion out and achieve the objectives outlined in the Freedom Charter. The time to talk and build a country of our dream is now. We have the window to do. Let’s capture it.
This 101-year-old movement was given to us by previous generations in one piece; let’s avoid handing it over to future generations in pieces.
Finally, I am raising my hand so we can confront these challenges and focus not on red herrings, but on fundamental issues to achieve the wishes so aptly captured by Mandela, who once said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
* Panyaza Lesufi is a member of the provincial executive committee of the ANC Gauteng. He writes in his personal capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.