It was a bright cold day in April, so begins George Orwell’s novel 1984. It goes on to detail how in the fictional country of Oceania, there existed a massive, imposing building of about 3000 rooms. The building housed the Ministry of Truth or MiniTrue in Newspeak, the official language of Oceania. Those who worked inside that building were tasked with one thing, which is to rewrite history and to make history a servant to the transient interests of politicians.
I have seen this culture of 1984ism take hold in our political discourse, wherein we write out of history the contributions of those who we now deem to be our political opponents.
It was a bright, cold day in April when I heard the assertions by Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem that Ace Magashule was never in the liberation Struggle. He went further to claim that Magashule had lied when he said he had struggled alongside Mam’ Winnie and had assisted her to recruit over 100 youths to go into Umkhonto weSizwe camps in exile.
These claims by Bloem are dangerous, even though they are so easy to dismiss by citing archival material available in the public domain, including minutes of meetings which Magashule attended.
There is also an indictment document titled “Tumahole (Parys) 698-714)”, which was drawn up against Tumahole comrades who participated in the mass defiance campaign and also in the UDF’s Million Signatures campaign.
Using anecdotal evidence from comrades, we are also able to positively place Magashule in the trenches. The most recent anecdote being a statement by Fikile Mbalula who recalled an incident where they were running from a police raid on a UDF meeting - he, alongside Magashule and other comrades ran into hostels in Bloemfontein.
A senior commissar of uMkhonto weSizwe remembers meeting Magashule in Botswana, he had come with three others from Tumahole to seek training, and another MK combatant remembers sharing a room with an in-transit Magashule in the Roma residence in Zambia.
There is more than enough evidence to prove that Magashule was indeed in the liberation Struggle not as a planted enemy, but as a freedom fighter. All too often, we tend to want to erase those that we do not like for whatever reason, in a quest to satisfy our hate. However, there’s this new phenomenon that wishes to fashion itself into some sort of culture in the Mass Democratic Movement structures, wherein our Struggle history is treated as if it were written in sand and can easily be deleted by every passing wave of contemporary political alignments.
Ours is a people’s history, one that was written in the blood of Commander Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu, Fort Calata and many others. It is not a history that has a control, alter and delete button. When we write comrades out of the people’s liberation history, we don’t harm only that comrade but we also harm ourselves because the people’s story of resistance will be made poorer by the deletion of acts committed by individuals on instruction and direction of the people’s movement.
When Magashule and other comrades fought the repressive machinery of apartheid, they did not do so out of personal volition, they did so on instruction of and in service to the people’s liberation. Why rob the organisation of hard-fought victories, because a comrade voted for a candidate that was opposed to yours in Nasrec or in Polokwane or whichever conference that is being contested?
It cannot be that we as an organisation are robbed of our history for temporary differences of leadership preferences. This tendency of rewriting history did not begin now with the secretary-general, it also raised its head in the run-up to Nasrec. There were whispers in corners so dark and vicious that lady truth reluctantly ever goes there, that Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa had not contributed to the liberation of this country.
There was an attempt to rewrite history and narrate his uniting and organising of workers in the mining industry into an unfathomable and convoluted narrative that he organised those workers and led the biggest and most crippling mining strike in this country as some kind of service to the mine bosses. This logic is so warped and convoluted that it buckles under the weight of its mountains of lies.
The other presidential candidate, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was completely erased from history and caricatured as no more than an ex-wife to the then sitting president, whereas her history in the Struggle is well documented and goes beyond just her Struggle credentials to place her in cabinets of different administrations as one of the most competent architects of our public administration
I genuinely believe that we are mature enough to contest each other politically and ideologically, we can advance our own political opinions without rewriting history and thereby bankrupting our liberation Struggle. It is unsustainable that when we have a fallout with comrades we are going to go back to 1984, crop comrades out of pictures, rewrite them out of the minutes of NEC meetings, and retrospectively strip them off their contributions.
Sometimes even if we don’t like a person and the truthfulness of their history, let’s respect their place in history because their history is the people’s history. None of us have the right to alter the people’s liberation history, it is not ours to rewrite, it is for the collective memory of the people. Let us not go back to 1984.
* Dlodlo is a former combatant of Umkhonto weSizwe and member of the ANC