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.
In his January 8th statement Zuma repeated the blatant lie that of the 134 political prisoners executed at Pretoria Central Prison between 1961 and 1989 the majority were from MK. He does not even understand elementary arithmatic that if more than 100 out of 134 executed politica prisoners belonged to POQO, the erstwhile military wing of the PAC and forerunners of APLA, then the remainder are the minority who belonged to other organisations such as MK, including one white man who belonged to ARM. If the media is worth its salt it should take on Zuma on this issue to explain why he deliberately keeps on lying to the public that the majority of those hanged belonged to MK. I think the PAC leadership should also take up the matter and thereafter call a media conference to explain to the nation the exact facts about how many POQO cadres were hanged and how many MK cadres were hanged and put this issue to rest once and for all.
Zuma mentioned that the 21 March, 1960 anti-pass campaign which culminated in the shooting of peaceful protesters in Sharpeville without saying who organised it and what for. He then jumped to state that the ANC and PAC were banned after the Sharpeville massacre. He said after the banning of the ANC and PAC the MK embarked on armed struggle. He didn’t say both MK and POQO embarked on armed struggle because that’s exactly what happened. POQO was formed on 11 September 1961 three months before MK and they celebrated their 50th anniversary last September. Zuma also mentioned the Sobukwe Clause but didn’t mention who Sobukwe was and which organisation he belonged to. Those who don’t know perhaps thought he was a member of the ANC.
Just like Sharpeville, Zuma obfuscated the issues of the PAC and its founding President Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. The Apartheid government feared and respected Sobukwe. Now the ANC government also fears and grudgingly respects him.
By Sam Ditshego
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- Glance at history of African National Congress (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- As ANC Celebrates Centennial, Some in South Africa See Betrayal of Its Ideals (ibtimes.com)
- African National Congress: timeline (guardian.co.uk)
- South Africa’s troubled ANC facing criticism on 100th anniversary (news.nationalpost.com)
- South Africa’s ANC Party Celebrates 100 Years (foxnews.com)
- ANC accused of airbrushing allies and rivals out of anti-apartheid struggle (guardian.co.uk)
- Zuma warns on ANC divisions in 100-year bash (nation.com.pk)
- South Africa President criticizes UN over Libya (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- South Africa’s ANC party celebrates 100 years (seattletimes.nwsource.com)