ANC stalwart Ben Turok hailed for speaking out
Johannebesburg - ANC Veterans’ League president Snuki Zikalala has hailed late anti-apartheid and ANC veteran Professor Ben Turok for openly confronting the leadership under former president Jacob Zuma whenever it violated the country’s constitutional and democratic values.
Zikala was among ANC senior leaders who spoke during a tribute held for the decorated Struggle veteran and intellectual who died in November aged 92.
Turok, one of the most respected intellectuals within the ANC-led alliance with about 20 published books mainly on the political economy, was among the few remaining drafters of the Freedom Charter.
While he remained steadfastly loyal to the ANC throughout his life, Turok was known as one of the most outspoken and independent minds among the party’s stalwarts.
Zikalala said Turok was among the consistent voices against state capture when it emerged.
“When our glorious movement veered off track, our democratic Constitution undermined, with lies peddled and unscrupulous individuals were protected, when matters relating to the Guptas and Nkandla and unnecessary dismissal of Cabinet members who should have been defended, comrade Turok was not afraid to break the ranks and demand accountability from those in power,” he said.
In 2011, Turok broke party rank as an MP and defied the ANC caucus when he refused to vote in support of the controversial Protection of Information Bill, dubbed the secrecy bill, and instead chose to abstain from voting. Zikalala indicated that while the ANC and its government displayed visible signs of ethical decline, Turok had not abandoned the movement but rather tried his best to use his conscience to boldly highlight wrongs.
“The path we have traversed so far has been not that easy and yet comrade Turok became more vigilant and actively participated in all our democratic structures, raising his voice loudly and fearlessly when and where democratic values that so many had died for were trampled upon by unscrupulous elements who hijacked our movement.”
Zikalala further said that Turok was owed a great depth of gratitude for his contribution and helping draft the economic clause of the Freedom Carter, which said: “The people shall share in the country’s wealth.”
“It is an indictment on us as the Veterans’ League that we have not recorded personal contributions of dedicated and committed cadres of the movement who fought fearlessly for the liberation of SA. We must urgently address this anomaly as wrong and biased history must be corrected,” he said.
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe said Turok was born in Latvia in Eastern Europe and migrated with his family to South Africa in 1934. His commitment to justice was shaped by the intolerances that his family suffered, which forced them to flee his country of birth at a young age.
“It is this family background that taught him to oppose and fight against any injustice, discrimination, oppression and exploitation exercised against any fellow human being anywhere in the world. His involvement in the struggles of the downtrodden and the exploited gave him political and trade union consciousness,” Motlanthe added.
He called on ANC and SACP members to prioritise political education as a tribute to Turok. He said the stalwart had remained in harness to the Struggle all his adult life.