ANC steps into 27th year of tokenism and rhetoric
I spent a good part of the imposed so-called festive period devotedly immersed in the literature recounting the brave adventures of liberation Struggle heroes and heroines. I read and agonized about the daring and self-sacrificial actions of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla) and the Azanian National Liberation Army (Azanla).
I am saying the “un-festive” period was imposed on us essentially as a “Christmas period” to cement a colonial imprint on our psyche and spirituality. The missionaries played a big part in this foreign or Eurocentric spiritual, cultural and epistemological infrastructure.
It is from this perspective that I consider the fundamental role of the liberation Struggle as an act of reversal of the dominance, oppression and exploitation of the African people by their colonial and apartheid oppressors.
It is from this vantage point that I understand what would have been the rationale of the freedom fighters to put their lives on the line by engaging in the liberation project as launched by the MK, Apla and Azanla.
Anything other than this reasoning will therefore fall to be squashed as irrational and reckless.
The gallant actions of the freedom fighters only indicate a commitment to the cause, and the resolve to pay the ultimate price for the liberation of all of us in the occupied Azania. Unfortunately, in my view, this was not realised as the 1994 event was the formalistic changeover of political office from white hands to black hands.
For the purposes of my thesis, I will focus on the activities of the MK more especially, because the ANC leadership has been in political office since 1994.
It is in this context that we need to assess the sacrifices made vis-à-vis the state of (un)freedom that the post-1994 dispensation has been.
What confronts one at this stage is the sombre imagination of what was going on in the minds of those very first combatants who crossed the Zambezi River as part of the Luthuli Detachment in 1967.
I really want to know how they would have felt when looking at the profile and performance of the ANC in government for 27 years now. The un-liberation event of 1994 came at a huge cost to our people, as a lot of blood was shed.
One of the most depressing, deadly and scary elements in this regard was the notion of “askarism”, in terms of which the apartheid security forces used to kidnap freedom fighters and turned them into their own instruments to work against and actually kill their former comrades and anyone in the oppressed communities seen actively pursuing the agenda of the freedom Struggle.
My submission is that it must have been a very down-pressing experience to have to engage in a project that serves to murder or eliminate the very same people one was meant to liberate. One really must have had a dead conscience in order to operate as an “askari”.
This line of thought led me to the re-interpretation of this phenomenon (askarism) in relation to the post-1994 political arrangement.
Basically, it is my contention that this arrangement has spectacularly worked against the oppressed people to the benefit of the former oppressors and a few black elites co-opted in the system.
Yes, it is my belief! Noting that an “askari” has lost his/her own conscience, moral compass and commitment to the liberation project, and actively aids an agenda serving the interests of the enemy, one is tempted to symbolically assess the conduct of the post-1994 leadership along these lines.
My contention in this regard is premised on the basic questions:
What was the Struggle about? What are/were the ideals of the freedom Struggle? From the perspective of the ANC, the implementation of the Freedom Charter would be a fair indication of the extent to which these ideals would have been realised. In other words, failure to implement the Freedom Charter after 27 years of political office effectively means 27 years of sustaining the social injustice which the freedom fighters fought against.
Without making too much noise about the Charter’s unfortunate clause that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it”, the post-1994 government should be judged at least in terms of addressing the land question, nationalisation of the banks and other strategic sectors of the economy, provision of free and compulsory education, nationalisation of the mines and so forth, as pronounced by that document.
These have barely been addressed despite the rainbow government being led by the party that birthed the very same Freedom Charter almost 66 years ago.
On Friday, the ANC turned 109 years old, and is still at the helm of a government that has failed to implement the ideals it committed to in 1955 (after drifting away from the Afrikanist values upon which it was founded).
The question that needs to be boldly asked in this instance is: what is the problem that handicaps the radical reversal? This question needs to be located in the matrix that it is fundamentally black people that are antagonized by the system. This is a hard fact and a sad reality.
It will be exactly 27 years of ANC rule on April 27, and sadly there are still no signs that we will witness an attempt at the reversal of the apartheid calamity visited on the Afrikan people.
With the party dogged by internal self-inflicted problems of infighting, factionalism, grand-scale corruption and proxy-ism at the highest level and downright abuse of power, all these in the debilitating milieu of Covid-19 pandemic, the prospects of a true liberation agenda are seriously handicapped.
The common discourse of the proxy dominance (or capture?) of the ruling party by a Stellenbosch business grouping, loosely known as White Monopoly Capital (WMC), further sends a very compromising message. If this is true (and I hope it is not), then symbolically a heartbreaking picture reminiscent of “askarism” is unavoidably painted.
As an aside, I am told that Stellenbosch is, historically, the fountain of the Broederbond.
The instance of some of our people working for the oppressors at the expense of the Afrikan masses has been Afrika’s problem since colonial times and the early years of independence. During colonial times the colonial powers “employed” locals as soldiers in their colonial armies.
This is how the term “askari” originally came to be understood.
In the early years of independence, the former colonial powers (imperialists) used some in the Afrikan communities to destablise the Afrikan governments.
This is how the likes of Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Patrice Lumumba (Congo) and Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) were eliminated. Other post-independence Afrikan countries such as Angola, Mozambique, and recently Libya were also similarly destabilised. It would appear that the oppressors and colonizers have mastered the art of sustaining their power and influence, and thus perpetuating black suffering and their exploitative and oppressive agenda through a select black elite and so forth.
Like “askarism”, this proxy project by extension uses some within the oppressed people to work for the oppressor by working against the collective of the oppressed masses.
However, for me, what is heartbreaking is the undermining and desecration of the efforts and sacrificial contributions of all those who were in the trenches of the liberation Struggle.
My mind cannot move away from that brave lot of the 1967 mission, that included Chris Hani, Graham Morodi, Lawrence Phokanoka, Mongameli Tshali and many others.
Looking at the trends in the country consumed by careerist electoral politics, and revolved organisational culture in the ruling party, coupled with countless shenanigans therein, two questions arise: “Is there a chance that the post-1994 project can atone for its anti-black record?”, and secondly, the tired question of: “What is to be done?”
Given the scenario painted herein and the factors pointed out on the mutated organisational culture, these questions might not easily be addressed. Nevertheless, my view, which is admittedly rather idealistic, is to advocate for a conscientised black solidarity to change this violent system which is cloaked under the robe of tokenism and rainbow rhetoric.
The fact is black people remain the oppressed, the exploited, the disadvantaged and the marginalised in the land of their forefathers and foremothers.
It is about time that the people stand up to this white supremacist dispensation in order to determine their collective future. Electoral politics has proven over the last 27 years that they thrive on an anti-Afrikan project which merely elevates a few black elites into political office, only to serve a predominantly white agenda and their own stomachs.
Thomas Sankara advised many moons ago that, “when the people stand up, imperialism trembles”.
Black disunity has over the years been the undoing of all Afrikans on the continent and the diaspora.
We need to return to a “liberation movement” mentality, ethos and approach in this political space if we really need to capture real power (as opposed to mere political office) from the oppressors who have weaved their way into our erstwhile liberation movements and are pulling the strings in their proxy rule.
In this the 109th year of the ANC’s existence and in its 27th year of political office occupancy, can or will it retrospect and unflinchingly confront the real issues on behalf of the Afrikan masses? I doubt.
* David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and law academic.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.