African National Congress

2012 JANUARY 8 STATEMENT AND THE HISTORY OF THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE

I don’t want to dwell on whether or not the delivery of ANC President Jacob Zuma’s speech on the occasion of the ANC’s centenary celebration was or wasn’t well delivered. I would rather delve on the contents of the speech.

Zuma began his January 8th statement marking the centenary of the founding of the ANC with a self-contradictory statement which is also controversial. He quoted the preamble of the Freedom Charter which states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. Zuma then said, “in 1913 the Land Act was enacted which dispossessed the Africans of their land”. He didn’t say “all who live in South Africa, black and white were dispossessed of their land”, he said the Africans were dispossessed of their land. How then does South Africa belong to all who live in it, black and white when South Africa was usurped from Africans? The founders of the PAC who were known as the Africanists said it in 1955 when the Freedom Charter reared its ugly head that it didn’t make sense because it was a betrayal of African Nationalism and of the material interests of the African people. They also demanded to know its author whose name was never revealed. In his book Young Mandela first published in 2010, David James Smith reveals that the Freedom Charter was written by a white Communist Party member, Rusty Bernstein. The Freedom Charter is also a repudiation of the African people’s anti-colonialist stance of “Africa for the Africans”.

Zuma also said the Freedom Charter was Professor ZK Matthews’ idea. It’s true that it was his idea which he raised at the regional ANC conference in August 1953 and later drafted a memo to define more clearly his ambition for a dream of freedom for all, a blueprint for a democratic, non-racial South Africa. However, the contraption that Bernstein wrote was not what Professor ZK Matthews envisaged. Zuma and many in the ANC who claim that the idea of the Freedom Charter was Professor ZK Matthews’ invariably fail to mention that he then took no further part in the exercise, never even saw the draft charter that was drawn up and did not attend the conference himself because he felt sidelined and excluded from the process that he had set in motion. The campaign fell into the hands of a National Action Council, which offended the Africanists by being neither exclusively African nor giving sufficient prominence to the ANC.

Bernstein didn’t think anyone ever actually read and agreed to the draft before it went to the press. Professor Matthews was not alone in never seeing the draft. The ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli was never shown a copy either because at the time he was banned and still in Groutville. Former ANC President Dr AB Xuma had written a letter which complained that the new leadership was forgetting its old values and was too quick to join with other races and that the ANC was losing its identity. That new ANC leadership suppressed Dr Xuma’s letter, reading only parts of it. That same leadership had difficulties adopting the Freedom Charter.

MANDELA APPEASES WHITES!!!

The Long Walk to Freedom is an invaluable source of information on the political history of South Africa and the ANC although it is fraught with ethnic and organizational biases. If Mandela is a leader of all people of South Africa, he should transcend these tendencies. For example, those unfamiliar with the South African life may end up thinking that Xhosas and Zulus are the major inhabitants of South Africa, as one reviewer recently did.

The African anthem which translates as God Bless Africa has both the Sesotho version (Morena Boloka Sechaba sa Afrika) and Nguni version but nowhere in the book does Mandela refer to this anthem in its Sesotho name. Mandela himself is an Nguni speaker. In fact, during the raising of South Africa’s new flag, only the Nguni version of this song was sung, followed by the settler colonialists’ anthem Die Stem.

Although the book is an invaluable source of information on some aspects of South African history, it has some historical inaccuracies. For example, Mandela writes that gold was discovered in 1886 on the Witwatersrand (p 55). In fact, South Africa has the earliest gold, iron and copper mines in the world going back to thousands of years.

Mandela claims that the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania is ‘anti-white’ (p 264) and criticizes the Black Consciousness Movement for excluding whites (p 422). Some of the criticism Mandela leveled at the PAC are ridiculous and border on the absurd. For instance he writes: “Their actions were motivated more by a desire to eclipse the ANC than to defeat the enemy” (p 206). Mandela also claims the views and behaviour of the PAC are immature. The philosophy of Black Consciousness according to Mandela is also immature and he also labels one of the greatest African leaders of African descent, Marcus “Mosiah” Garvey as an extremist. Garvey is at the same time described as an African hero.

The forerunner of APLA, POQO is described as “irresponsible” and labeled “terrorists” (p 295). But nowhere does Mandela label the white supremacist terror group Afrikaner Weestandbeweging (AWB). Instead he refers to them as a “militant right-wing” group (p 530).

Mandela writes that he was saddened by the bombing to death in Mozambique of Ruth First, Joe Slovo’s widow but never mentioned anything about Onkgopotse Ramothibi Tiro let alone his tragic bombing by white South African agents in 1974 in Botswana. Tiro, a founding member of the Black Consciousness Movement, was probably the first South African to be parcel bombed and the first martyr of the Black Consciousness Movement. There is also no mention of Bantu Biko or the cruel way in which his life was ended in a South African jail. Biko was one of the founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement.

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