Cape Town - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has expressed disappointment at recent statements by Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota and SACP Second Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila.
On Wednesday Lekota accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of selling out Struggle leaders to the Special Branch during the 1970s. He made the remarks as part of his speech during the debate on Ramaphosa's State of the Nation address.
At an event at Lileasleaf Farm commemorating the Rivonia trialists earlier this week, Mapaila suggested that PAC leader Robert Sobukwe received preferential treatment on Robben Island and alluded to him colluding with the apartheid regime.
“It’s astonishing that historical distortions of this nature can be perpetuated. The comments by both Lekota and Mapaila are unwarranted and come across as being malicious. They are a distraction from the core issues besetting the country currently,” Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton said.
He also questioned why Lekota waited 40 years before making the claims against Ramaphosa and pointed out that he had supported the president when the latter was the ANC's secretary general.
“Lekota’s claims stand in stark contrast to his support for Ramaphosa as the secretary general of the ANC in the early 1990s. Why was he unable to raise this issue when Ramaphosa was appointed to lead the drafting of the country’s Constitution, or when Lekota himself was still a member of the ANC and a senior one at that?
“If Lekota is making these claims now, then the onus rests on him to provide evidence. It is important to note though, that others, like Saths Cooper – involved in the same trial as Lekota and similarly sentenced to jail on Robben Island – have no knowledge of the allegations now being made by the Cope leader.
“After Lekota’s own recent association with right-wing elements in the country, his comments ring hollow. Instead of using his allocated time to critically engage with the SONA, and put forth concrete proposals to solve the numerous problems that this country faces, he instead opted to employ character assassination tactics to detract from the core issues," Balton said.
“We are facing serious socio-economic challenges, we’re trying to untangle the web of state capture, and we’re trying lift this country out of the political quagmire of the last few years – this should be the focus of members of Parliament, not bandying about yet unsubstantiated claims about apartheid collaboration.”
Balton has also called on Mapaila to apologise for his comments, saying that Rivonia trialist Ahmed Kathrada had on several visits to Robben Island where he was incarcerated spoken about the cruel conditions under which Sobukwe was imprisoned.
He pointed out that Sobukwe would have had no say about the conditions of his detention, nor would he have been able to negotiate with his captors to ease them.
“What should be understood from both the Lekota and Mapaila incidents, is to remember that the apartheid regime would do everything within its power to sow division within the ranks of the oppressed. Whether it was done by keeping some prisoners in isolation under certain conditions, or by creating and perpetuating rumours about certain individuals, the apartheid state used divisive tactics to entrench its rule. What we cannot do, is allow this to detract us from the core work of building our democracy and facing the numerous problems that require urgent attention today.”