Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils File photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Ronnie Kasrils’s sudden irritation with corruption and amnesia of the abuse of power in the years before Zuma’s reign has raised the ire of many, writes Pinky Khoabane.


Vukani! Sidikiwe! – Wake Up! We are Fed Up! – is former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils’s cry this week as he called upon the electorate to spoil their votes in the May 7 elections.

Calling on citizens to rise up against contemptuous governments is an act for which Kasrils is already in the annals of history. Unlike the majority of fellow white South Africans who revelled in the inhumanity and indignity meted out to blacks by apartheid, he joined the ANC in 1960. He is the founder of the “Not in My Name” campaign, and was a juror on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Like most whites did, Kasrils could have ignored the plight of the black people. As a Jew, he could easily have turned a blind eye to the Palestinian fight for peace and self-determination. He didn’t. As a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe’s high command, he probably would have crossed borders to meet the man who has clearly become an outright enemy, President Jacob Zuma.

And indeed, those who are part of the Sidikiwe campaign have a solid history of having fought for the liberation of the black people of this country. That, however, doesn’t exonerate them from scrutiny.

His Struggle credentials are not an issue, even though those in the PAC will probably be chuckling at the spat between Kasrils and the ANC and feel their mistrust of the role of whites and communists in the liberation movement in the 1950s was vindicated.

In his book, Apartheid: The Story of a Dispossessed People, Dr Motsoko Pheko deals with the influence of the communists over the ANC.

He says Dr Wilson Conco, Chief Luthuli’s deputy in the ANC who chaired the meeting in Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was signed, only saw the document on the day.

“The white reformist Communist Party of South Africa had done all the planning,” Motsoko says.

It is this surrender “to white Communist Party of South Africa leadership” that began the unhappiness which brought about a clear division in the liberation movement which called itself the Africanists.

“The Africanists advocated a policy of militant action against the racist minority government. Finally, on 2 November 1958, the Africanists left the African National Congress; the Pan Africanist Congress was founded on 6 of April 1959,” Motsoko continues.

“We told you so,” the PAC will probably be saying at news that a group led by Kasrils was campaigning for South African citizens to abandon their hard-earned right to vote for a government of their choice but to rather spoil their ballot.

The campaign raises a number of interesting questions, not least of which is its timing.

What is the membership status of these former ministers and ANC veterans? Some critics have asked why they haven’t raised the issues they raise publicly within the structures of the ANC. The question, however, is whether they are even members, and if they are, whether any disciplinary action will be taken against them.

Some reports say Kasrils hasn’t renewed his ANC membership since 2008, which begs the question: why didn’t he start his own political party instead of canvassing for a no-vote against the ANC?

Kasrils and his group have, in effect, taken the easier and cowardly route of canvassing against another party without going through the tough and costly route of starting a political party and registering for the elections.

The former intelligence minister would know very well the mess Cope has become since its formation, which was sparked, mainly, by the ANC’s recall of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Cope seemed the natural choice for many politicians aligned to Mbeki, but the party’s shambolic state perhaps denies them the platform to publicly declare their membership and allegiance.

The campaigners seem to be speaking with a forked tongue; it’s not clear whether they hope to simply dilute the ANC’s power or whether they are advocating an outright removal from power of the party. Are they campaigning for another party in secret? Some in the EFF have not wasted time and are declaring the Vote No as a subliminal endorsement of their party.

It is no secret that there is no love lost between Kasrils and Zuma and it not clear whether this is an anti-Zuma campaign or an outright anti-ANC campaign. On its website, the campaign is said to represent not only disillusioned members of the ANC but the broader public who want an accountable government.

Well, I would imagine that most South Africans want this but when were the principles of democracy upheld here and when did they come to the electorate to seek a mandate to speak on their behalf?

“For those who have served in the ANC and SACP and remain immensely proud of the achievements made, this campaign is an act of tough love, where the ideals of the movement are being upheld over and above an unquestioning loyalty. If the ANC does not take heed, the people will!” the website reads.

The analogy of tough love – often used in the case where parents want to mete out punishment on their children because they want what’s best for them – suggests the campaign is not asking for a removal of the ANC but seeks to teach the ANC in government a lesson.

However, the statement is somewhat confusing – at least to me. Does asking ANC supporters to withhold their vote not go against their earlier overwhelming vote for the current ANC at its congress in Mangaung recently?

Former deputy minister of health Madlala-Routledge, a member of Sidikiwe, took to social media this week: “Those in power fear the Sidikiwe Campaign. They fear the power of the people to unseat them from cushy ministerial positions.The Sidikiwe Campaign is for clean government, free political expression, freedom from hunger and want, a return to people-centred democracy.”

The immediate question is what exactly she means and how the spoilt vote is going to achieve this.

The timing of the campaign, three weeks before elections, is said to have been sparked by the public protector’s report on Zuma’s Nkandla home, on which approximately R250 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent for renovations.

There is no doubt that every right-thinking South African should be angry and fed up. Much could have been done with that money and we are still to hear the outcome of other investigations.

But Kasrils’s sudden irritation with corruption (and here we would assume private sector corruption is in his sights as well) and amnesia of the abuse of power in the years before Zuma’s reign, 14 of which he was involved in various ministerial posts including defence, has raised the ire of many, myself included.

The irony of his amnesia can perhaps be best found in a foreword he penned for a book by Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman, Why Israel? In it, the ANC stalwart (or is it former?) opens with a quote by Eric Hobsbawm: “It is the business of historians to remember what others forget”.

I’m not a historian but the former intelligence minister cannot tell us he has forgotten corruption in the arms deal, which runs into billions of rand and goes back to the start of our democracy.

He was there.


*Khoabane is a writer, author and columnist.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.

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