Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu was born at Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape, on 18 May 1912. This was a mere four months after the birth of the African National Congress (ANC) on 8 January. This venerated and first full-time Secretary General (SG) of the ANC was to spend virtually his entire life fighting – and at one point almost being hanged – for the achievement of the ideals of his beloved organisation. Such was his persona and integrity that numerous established leaders, among them Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, acknowledged him as their mentor and; in many instances, their role model, too.
On 18 May 2019, at the premises of the Waaihoek Methodist Church in Mangaung, Ace Magashule, SG of the ANC, delivered a memorial lecture ostensibly dedicated to the honour of Walter Sisulu. In the event, the occasion was reduced to the mouthing of fatuous factional platitudes. By indulging in that crass act, the little people involved managed to desecrate the memory of the ANC’s pre-eminent unifier and national builder.
Whoever carries the title of SG ought to be reminded that the pantheon of past ANC secretaries-general features the distinguished names of Sol Plaatje, the Rev James Calata, Oliver Tambo, Advocate Duma Nokwe, others of course – and Walter Sisulu.
Anyone with a modicum of respect for these greats, and for the ANC that they so painstakingly built in their time, would never want to be party to the egregious violation that was perpetrated last Saturday, courtesy of some blockheads who ensconced themselves on the podium that was mounted in the hallowed grounds where the ANC was born. That should not have been done, not in the name of Walter Sisulu.
These exalted airheads took turns rubbishing the Zondo and other commissions into State Capture; denouncing white monopoly capital, and other such populist slogans. In their myopia, they forgot that it was their revered President Jacob Zuma who appointed the Zondo commission, albeit against his will.
A video clip currently doing the rounds in WhatsApp chatrooms has Zuma making derisive references to the commissions set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to probe the rampant levels of corruption, the abiding legacy of his administration. He asks rhetorically: where on earth have you ever seen a government inviting outsiders to come and expose its wrongdoings to the public? Every government, he states knowledgeably, has its skeletons but no government ever asks outsiders to come and expose these. Cheerio transparency! How much more can one president do to undermine the efforts of a successor in office, from the same political party for that matter?
Says Shakespeare: “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind; the thief doth fear (that) each bush (is) an officer.” If one is guilty, the odds are that they are afraid that anyone and everyone they have to deal with is out to screw them.
The ANC no doubt deserves the leaders it elects. Riddled with poisonous factions, it gave Magashule its thumbs-up for the SG position; this, despite the baggage he was already carrying in corruption allegations. Magashule has a mission: he wants all and sundry to know that his loyalty lies not with Ramaphosa but first and foremost with Jacob Zuma. He took the first available opportunity after the December 2017 Nasrec conference to let his supporters in Pietermaritzburg know that the Ramaphosa Presidency would last but a short five years and that “the real ANC would be back after five years”. “It’s just a matter of five years. So, let us focus. Let’s work hard. Mayibuye iANC that we know.”
In September 2018 Magashule was on his disruptive trail again as part of a clandestine group, involving Zuma, Supra Mahumapelo, former North West premier; Meogko Matuba, ANC Women’s League SG; and Thanduxolo Sabelo of the KZN ANC Youth League, who met at the Maharani Beach hotel. And so he has continued despite pitiful claims of working for a united ANC.
Magashule used the occasion of the Sisulu memorial lecture to proclaim the inalterability of the ANC candidate lists that were submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission for the national assembly and provincial legislatures. If the SG of the organisation is genuinely incapable of distinguishing between criminality and integrity, Cry the Beloved ANC!
Perhaps next time he muses on these matters he will use the opportunity to explain why the ANC, in the first instance, established Integrity Commissions, now available in some provinces as well. What is their role if the decisions of the branches or of any other structure, for that matter, are sacrosanct, as he maintains?
As SG he surely must know that the decision to set up an Integrity Commission was taken in Mangaung in 2012 in the face of increasing manifestations of corruption among ANC members. “More urgent steps,” the Mangaung Statement said, “should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society, by ensuring, among others, that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct.”
This SG, unlike others before him, must be informed that delegates at both the 53rd conference, held in Polokwane in 2007, and the Nasrec conference delegates felt even strongly about the escalation of corruption. They passed resolutions aimed at combating the malaise and safeguarding the integrity and image of the ANC.
If ever there were prime candidates for referral to the Integrity Commission, it is the members who have been implicated in horrific allegations of fraud, embezzlement and sheer malfeasance that have emerged from the corruption-investigating commissions. Isn’t this so obvious, SG? As they say, there are none so blind as those who will not see.
It does not bode well for the ANC if its SG either does not understand some of the organisation’s cardinal policies or, perish the thought, he has an incurable aversion to issues that pertain to honesty, integrity and morality.
Books imputing scandal are written about our SG; his former office as premier is raided by the Hawks in search of evidence that might disclose acts of corruption; like the immediate past-President, he is a self-confessed friend of the Gupta brothers, the nemesis of every decent South African; the list continues ad nauseum. One day our SG will take the long-threatened legal action to clear his name of these odious blights. But then, again, maybe he won’t. He, at least, has not indicated that he would like to have his day in court.
To bring down the curtain on last week’s Sisulu memorial event, I would advise Elinor Sisulu not to worry too much about who presented the accolades in honour of her father-in-law. An understanding man with a deep understanding of human foibles, Walter Sisulu, wherever he may be, will have accepted the tributes with magnanimity. DM
"Those who will not reason are bigots; those who cannot are fools; and those who dare not are slaves." ~ George Gordon Byron