Cape Town - As the ANC holds a celebration for the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Mitchell’s Plain on Sunday, former UDF patron Allan Boesak says he regrets having “buckled under pressure” and seeing it closed down.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Argus a few hours before the launch of his new book in Cape Town, Boesak said the UDF helped the country to avoid a bloodbath in transitioning to democracy.
“To my eternal shame I buckled under pressure to close down the UDF. I am ashamed of that. It should have never happened”, Boesak said.
He described the UDF’s role at the time as a unifying broad-based movement of different organisations with the sole purpose of defeating apartheid and characterised by openness, the spirit of sacrifice, togetherness, consultation, and respect for people.
“There was unity of purpose whether one was in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng or even the Platteland. There was an acceptance of youth leadership. And that is missing today,” he said.
In celebrating the UDF’s anniversary, the ANC should therefore celebrate all that characterised the UDF and what it achieved, he said.
“If you celebrate the UDF you celebrate people’s desires, not what people need but what they deserve. People need government but what they deserve is a government that understands justice,” he added.
Boesak, who recently retuned to South Africa after five years in the US, said vital conversations needed to be held in the country to move it forward as people on the ground were asking questions regarding the integrity of the liberation as they were not experiencing its achievements.
He said most people were living through the worst of times, they were experiencing poverty, and the effects of the current political leadership.
“If there’s an agreement that we are in a quagmire, then we need to have these discussions. The ANC must also have a conversation within itself. If it had made serious mistakes, why had it not been able to face the consequences for itself and for the people, why is it that it persisted in making wrong decisions?”
The former ANC member said he was no longer part of the organisation but advised that if there was no genuine debate within the party, it would “not last long”. Already, concerns were being raised by the majority of people about the reconciliation process and whether it achieved anything meaningful.
Boesak noted that these people were experiencing alienation from the process as they did not see the impact they were supposed to have on their lives.
He said had the country embarked on “genuine” reconciliation, it would not be faced with the wide gap between the rich and the poor, and would have addressed the question of restitution and land.
His book, Pharaohs On Both Sides of the Blood-red Waters, carries conversations Boesak had with young people in South Africa, the US and Palestine over the past five years.
These young people who were still fighting for justice, equality and dignity just like those in 1976, were clear about what they wanted and how to articulate their concerns.
Although Boesak did not see himself in politics again, he would look at “how I can join my concerns with other concerns in civil society”.