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Dear Jessie Duarte and Mike Hastie: I will not renew my...

South Africa

RESIGNATION LETTER

Dear Jessie Duarte and Mike Hastie, I will not renew my ANC membership; the party is no longer fit to govern

Illustrative image | Sources: Leila Dougan | Flickr/ GCIS | Rawpixel

Dear Jessie Duarte, Deputy Secretary-General and Mike Hastie, Secretary of the Gaby Shapiro Branch of the ANC, I write in great pain. I ask that this letter be made known to the members of my branch and the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress.

I am 86 years old. It is possible that I am the only person surviving who addressed the Congress of the People on 26 June 1955. In fact, I was speaking when the gathering was interrupted by the police. As the years passed I realised the honour bestowed on me, and I now see this matter as also imposing a grave duty. I have to speak out, even if my voice is but a whisper in the thunder of the history of the African National Congress (ANC).

I will not renew my membership of the ANC. The ANC is no longer fit to govern or worthy of my support, exiguous as it has been. I no longer wish to be a member.

My contribution to the struggle has been small, compared to those whom I respect beyond words. There are many men and women who recognised me and who honoured me by calling me “comrade”.

But however trivial my role was, it was consistent and of long standing.

The African National Congress appears to regard its glorious and triumphant history as a reason for it to continue to govern. In its current state and conduct, it is dishonouring and defiling this history.

My late father, known as “Tolly” Bennun, drew me into the struggle and you will find his name in the ANC’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a comrade who died in exile. He designed the first detonators used by uMkhonto weSizwe. He was posthumously honoured in the Eastern Cape.

I was born in 1936, and as a schoolboy in 1951 I joined Joe Slovo, Ruth First and others in Sophiatown selling the Guardian and the titles that followed its banning. As a university student from 1953 I was an activist. I was a member of the Modern Youth Society in Cape Town and of the Congress of Democrats from its start. These formations must not be forgotten.

When I went into exile in 1965 my father and I joined the ANC the moment its ranks were opened to all South Africans and I was an activist in the African National Congress and the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the United Kingdom. When I returned to South Africa in 2000 I ensured that my membership of the African National Congress continued.

Whether or not I discharged myself satisfactorily as an ANC member is for others to say. Now, I join those whose dismay and disappointment at the present state of the movement causes them to step aside from the ANC.

I learned that an honest political activist can and must look critics straight in the eye and meet their comments and criticisms truthfully, proudly and confidently. I loved doing that, whether at dinner tables or when deployed to address meetings or in what I wrote and published. I felt honest and worthwhile, I believed passionately in what I was trying to convey, and I felt that I was trusted.

But I cannot meet this standard when I face current developments. I have no answer to the chilling findings of the Zondo Commission’s indictment of the political morality of the ANC. Daily Maverick summarises my view:

“So many members of the ANC’s NEC are implicated in so much wrongdoing (whether in the Zondo report or elsewhere) that it seems impossible to imagine the body developing a comprehensive response and essentially voting for its own jail term.”

My membership of the ANC gave me strength and dignity. For example, I shall never forget my experience, shortly after Nelson Mandela was released, at the Annual General Meeting of my trade union, the Association of University Teachers. I was deployed by the London office to represent President Mandela when he was awarded Honorary Membership of the AUT. The standing ovation was for all that the ANC and Mandela stood for, not for me, but imagine how I felt when I made my proud report to the London office. Imagine how I felt when I was deployed to address a meeting of Welsh miners, or of a local branch of the Trades Union Congress, or of some other formation which had pledged itself to support our struggle.

The recent reports of corrupt greed and grasping self-interest following the ghastly events in the KwaZulu-Natal floods have sickened me. Daily Maverick described “theft and corruption of disaster relief funding as a crime against humanity, a treason against the people”. I agree with this.

anc fail
Clockwise from bottom left: Acting ANC Secretary-General Jessie Duarte. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Lulama Zenzile) | Deputy President David Mabuza (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo) | ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Business Day / Freddy Mavunda) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Getty Images / Bloomberg / Waldo Swiegers) |  President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Supplied) | Paul Mashatile (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | Suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule (Photo: Supplied)

I choose the adjective deliberately and knowing the law when I ask: How did the African National Congress permit what I believe to be the treasonous conduct of Jacob Zuma and his supporters to flourish? Why did the Zondo Commission become necessary?

The current leadership is impotently divided on fundamental issues. For example, by what ANC principles does Minister Lindiwe Sisulu continue to hold her position? By what principles does Bathabile Dlamini attempt to defend herself? Are these principles different from the statement in the South African Constitution (Sec. 92(2)) that Cabinet Ministers “are accountable collectively and individually to Parliament for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions”? These are individuals who have sworn or affirmed that they would “obey, respect and uphold the Constitution”. Do they contend that they have done so?

The ANC has committed itself to strengthening and deepening democracy. But an ANC member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has been suspended as an MP by the ANC because he asked President Ramaphosa to explain what he had said in a meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee about the misuse of public funds to campaign for leadership positions in the ANC. By what ANC policy is this correct?

This incident reveals further that someone who seeks a leadership position must expect to spend money to succeed. This cannot be what I thought is the political morality of the African National Congress.

Why does South African policy towards the Palestinians ignore the facts of their situation? The “two-state” policy has been rejected by them, yet is supported by the government. Why is no effort made to block South Africans from serving in the Israeli army? Why are Israelis admitted without visas, but Palestinians not?

A symbol of the ANC’s failure is the so-called “men by the side of the road”. The reference hides the bitter status of women in South Africa, who continue to suffer the triple oppression of being black, women, and impoverished. That the ANC leadership does not unite in outrage at this public shame has made me lose confidence in the ANC’s capacity to lead reconstruction. There is so much to be done, so many hands available and desperate to do it, and yet the ruling party appears to be impotent to address the issue.

One consequence of this failure is that the South African educational system has created its own obscene image: a school learner drowning in faeces in a collapsed toilet. We now have a school education system which is a disgrace when viewed against a Constitution which empowers a governing party to establish one which would be an enviable model and an inspiration across the world — certainly, at least in Africa.

The state of the public health service in South Africa is a nightmare. As the governing party, the African National Congress must be held responsible. As with the educational system, after the defeat of apartheid the time and resources have been enough to do better. So dreadful is the public health service that often those who resort to it endanger themselves by doing so.

The condition of the State-Owned Enterprises can be correctly attributed to State Capture, corruption and incompetence. But these factors took place under the eyes of the African National Congress government, which must bear responsibility.

Responsibility for these and other failures lies in the hands of the African National Congress. Who would join it with its present reputation and in its present condition? As a member, I have no confidence that it is fit to govern. As I am unable to respond with honesty, confidence and dignity to criticisms, I feel that I have no choice but to resign my membership.

If my presence and participation at the Congress of the People mean anything, then that terrible moment in my life has come when I must accuse the African National Congress of betraying what I hoped was the future for my country.

Yours faithfully,
Mervyn Bennun

DM

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All Comments 60

  • The sadness of this letter and the sadness I have heard from other veterans of the ANC speaks of the betrayal by the ANC. There were so many possibilities; there was hope for a South Africa where people would be cared for, would be respected, where people would be able to be proud to be part of a country that has lived up to its constitution. Instead the ANC descended into criminality and applauded thuggish behaviour. People were lauded and protected for stealing from the poorest. So, so many lost opportunities.

    • Ey just absolutely spot-on with this succinct summary. Jacob Zuma had an opportunity to do incredible things for his country. To go down as a potential hero, as all presidents have the potential to do. Instead, he chose the path of corruption, enrichment and destruction, and was gleefully supported in that endeavour by THIS anc. Cyril was an enabler and his misguided ideas of “unity” have only continued the rot. In the same way that Zuma betrayed his potential, Cyril has done the same. A charlatan and a coward.

  • With al due respect sir, your article or cancellation of membership from the ANC are 25 years to late. That is the problem with all the struggle veterans you speak or react to late of the rot in your orgenisation.

    • Do you think there are maybe a few people here that waited a little too long to stop apartheid?

      Introspect a little people: for someone who has been involved so deeply, to turn your back firmly and formally on something you’ve fought so hard for is a really big thing.

      Ask anyone who loves their partner and discovers they are cheating on them and they will tell you walking away isn’t easy. One always wants to believe the best first.

  • Too little too late, why wait till now to say something, this rot didn’t start at the Zondo commission, it started more than 14 years ago open for everyone to see, that is if you only read what was already available at that time to read about the rot setting in, and yet you wait till now to pen this letter it out is around a decade late so please spare us your crocodile tears.

    • Do you think there are maybe people that waited a little late to stop apartheid?

      Please can people stop being so judgemental and destructive – this is a positive thing.

    • 100% agree. Even the blindest person could have seen this a decade ago, and even the most patient person with the most optimistic outlook would have spoken up at least 6 years ago. Trying to distance oneself now? Zero sympathy, and I consider you Mervyn, part of the rot.

      It’s all nice to wax lyrical about how exciting it was for you in the past, but now to speak up? Almost as cowardly as Cyril Ramaphosa. Sure, better late than never, but still why even bother. Hinsight is 20/20.

    • Dear Mervyn, I blame you as well. Correct, too little too late. With your infinate wisdom and experience, you should have know better. I am much younger than you, yet I even knew that Culture ALWAYS trumps strategy. How the hell did you miss that? Or did you?

  • So sad at so many levels. But Mr Bennum, if there is sugar on this bitter pill it is that your letter has power to change – and letters like it are invaluable to our country. Stand up South Africans everywhere! Vote for accountability. Vote for justice. Vote for healing.

    Vote for our collective future.

  • Dear Mervyn Bennun,
    Why did it take you so long to write this letter? How naive can one be, believing the idealistic, moral high ground that the ANC and AAM adopted, despite the record of African governments since the 60s? Your father designed detonators for explosive devices that killed innocent citizens – noble, virtuous? Innocent people dying horrible deaths with tyres filled with petrol around their necks – justifiable struggle action? Why were you quiet then?
    Your naiveté is astounding.
    There were, and are noble and good people in the ANC, but they all stood by and watched the plundering without a murmur, or organising resistance. It is not an organisation which SA citizens can trust to given our country in the best interests of all.

  • It says a lot about him if his main complaint is about Israel. But you have to feel sorry for these veteran white communists ( including for instance Albie Sachs) who sacrificed so much for the fraudulent “struggle”. Now this one is forced to face his deluded wasted life but why it took so long is a mystery.

  • In short Sir, you wasted your life like so many priests, missionries etc who came to Africa to “save” these people? You cannot save a hyena from being a hyena – that is what you hopefully will take from this before you die!

    • This response is inappropriate and I wonder how it was reviewed in. “Priests, missionaries etc came to Africa to “save” these people”, (the Africans), hyena’s who cannot be saved from hyenas”. I suppose Apartheid was meant to keep hyenas where they belonged after others had failed to save them. It is racist bigotry that should not compete with the decent views expressed here.

  • All respect to you – but imagine if people had given up ANC membership ten or twenty years ago, when corruption was already rampant.

  • Your long standing blind support of tyrannical communism is noted.

    PS. If you arrived back in the country in 2000, surely the news of the Arms Deal was known to you but yet it took over 20 years for the penny to drop?

  • I honor your service and commitment but have to ask, “why did it take so long?”. The information and behavior you refer to, has been evident since nkandla, if not before.

    • To all these holier-than-thou detractors of this honourable old veteran of the good struggle: What are your credentials, what have you achieved over and above couch criticism? Mr Bennun, thank you for standing up and speaking truth and honour to power and greed. I salute you, sir.

      • One does not require ‘credentials’ to be able to speak with authority on the failures of public service because the evidence is plain for everyone to see. One requires only common sense.

      • You ask my credentials? I ask why Mr Bennun chose to rest on the laurels of his credentials for so long that he is now powerless to stop the collapse of his party. Thank and honour him all you want – all I see are the ruins caused by his inaction. A belated resignation is not going to absolve him from that and miraculously restore his credibility. He chose the ANC, and the ANC chose ruin. We judge him by the company he keeps, not his credentials.

  • Too little , too late. This is analogous to the Pascal Wager death-bed conversion of a lifelong atheist to Christianity. The time to renounce the ANC was during Mbeki’s term when between 300,00 and 400,000 people dies of HIV/AIDS due to the ANC ideology-driven denialism on “Western” science and treatments.

  • Too little , too late. This is analogous to the Pascal’s Wager death-bed conversion of a lifelong atheist to Christianity. The time to renounce the ANC was during Mbeki’s term when between 300,00 and 400,000 people died of HIV/AIDS due to the ANC ideology-driven denialism on “Western” science and treatments.

  • Things started going seriously sideways in 2012, it took you 10 years to finally realise you are part of a criminal organisation, well done Comrade.

  • Ten years ago – when you were 76 – your credentials and critique may have been impressive and taken seriously, now they are almost superfluous. Nonetheless I acknowledge you.

  • Sir, you are about 15 years too late. There have been warnings about the ANC’s direction for at least that long, if you cared to listen. But you didn’t, and now you write a belated letter out of regret. I reject your resignation. You could have said something sooner. Please retain your ANC membership and go down with the ship you never bothered to fix.

  • YOUR disappointment is shared, Mervyn Bennun.

    By me and hundreds of thousands of others.

    Can there still be any doubt that the ANC and what it stands for has been betrayed by the few in leadership of untarnished character and those who do have a modicum of decency.

    For they have and continue to allow crooks, criminals and individuals of dubious character to hold high office and in the process must take collective responsibility for cancerously destroy the party from within.

    The time is up. It is too late to salvage the ANC. No right minded person will wish to be associated with the ANC any longer.

  • A letter written in pain and from the heart, and sadly not going to make the least difference to the way the ANC conducts itself as a party or government. Ramaphosa’s mealy-mouthed comments about doing away with corruption are not believed – even by him I suspect. The ANC is impervious to criticism and will only face reality when they are voted out. And even then there is some doubt.

  • Committed ANC members should rather get other (decent) supporters to join a branch and take back control of the ANC. At present 1.2 million members (many doubts over the fraud in the lists) decide who represents the party all the way through regions and provinces into the NEC and leadership. That is the structure that gives us the zuptas and magashules in positions of power. 1.2m decide who is appointed in government and SOE. Take back your party. Leaving will just accelerate the rot and empower the corruption.

  • It is tragic to hear you make these statements, Mervyn, given your position in the history of the movement. They are undoubtedly true and represent a sadly low point. I resigned my membership soon after Jacob Zuma took office.

  • It is insightful and meaningful when a person with a long and dedicated history as a supporter or member of a political movement or political party indicates to the effect that the point of no return has been breached by the current leadership.
    I agree with Mervyn Bennun when he describes the state of the nation, which is reflective of the current reality and based on the historical post-apartheid performance of the ruling party. Our national leader may be implicated in dubious dealings, on that topic we probably should refrain from forming firm opinions at this point. What I am prepared to speak about is the most recent SONA address made the president. It appears to mainly paint a rosy picture of selected achievements by the government and then basically commits to improvement when going forward (forward in time, perhaps). In short, promises. It is good to identify challenges, but then a game plan should be followed or actioned … Is it fair to say that Mr. Ramaphosa may deserve a badge as a businessman and as a diplomat, but not necessarily as a fearless leader for whom principles are more important than preservation of the party?
    Just entertain Raymond Zondo’s opinion (not verbatim) for a moment: “Let the people vote for their president of choice.” I agree fully. I would vote for the former public protector who would (probably, if not definitely) rule with dedication and with a morally defensible approach. Wouldn’t that be liberating.

  • The rot set in when the ANC swept in to power on the coattails of international revulsion of apartheid, literally from Mandela’s first cabinet. Modise and the arms deal, Bengu and outcomes based education, closure of training colleges, etc, etc. Camp Quatro airbrushed from the glorious history of the “liberators”. Meanwhile the pigs were snuffling at the trough almost immediately. Do you not remember Smuts Ngonyama’s “I did not join the struggle to be poor”? Then there was the Mbeki era of AIDS denialism, the Zuma era of State Capture, the Ramaphosa era of internecine warfare. And now we sit literally in the dark with our youth uneducated and unemployed, millions dependent on pitiful social grants (that will hopefully arrive one day), failed municipalities, dams running dry. I can only agree with other commentators that this piece is a pitiful whimper. Far too little, far too late!

  • What an amazing letter from someone who has experienced all the hardships of The Struggle. As several people have said, maybe a few years late, but those concerned should hang their heads in shame. But will they? I doubt it.
    I hope many other veterans speak out.

  • Wide-eyed useful idiot (to borrow from Lenin) finally wakes up to the reality of this organisation. The wonder is that it took this long in the face of all the evidence that has been piling up.

    • Remind me – how long did apartheid run for before people realised it was bad?

      Oops, no one ever did – until they were forced to.

      That’s one high horse you’re sitting on amigo – try not to fall now.

  • ANC members who waited so many years to cancel their membership are as responsible as the rabble now doing so much damage to SA. A well written article, but too late the poor people cry.

  • I didnt read that you are taking any blame for the gangers you supported all these years? Why? I stopped supporting the ANC when they stole money from us whilst MP’s in parliament in the Travelgate scam, not one ANC thieving ANC MP was arrested, they continued to serve and steal just on a bigger scale. The last straw was when Mantashe said the ANC would not persue the stolen money or press charges as it was administratively to expensive!

    • Rats deserting a sinking ship!

      It started to sink in the time of Mandela. Bengu was about the first to get the rot going. He made something like 6000 teachers, White and Coloured), redundant, why?! Because he could!

      And the rats waited until now to jump ship! Why?! Because they could!

  • To all the critics who claim it is ‘too late’ … should have regard for the saying “better late than never ” ! Wisdom and insight sometimes takes a circuitous route ! I admire your courage in finally admitting to the current failures … which were not always as evident … especially given the commitment you made to the organisation.

  • A very well written letter summing up how a lot of us feel about the current government. However, it is unlikely that even 1 ANC politician will give a damn. They are too busy scheming up another plan to loot.

  • Ai…what a mess. The USA is in a total decline; you only have to look at the shenanigans of their former president and his motley gang and the three recent rulings of their Supreme Court. A murderer on the loose in Europe trying to land grab regardless of human suffering. Climate change being ignored by most nations in a position to really change the game. A disheveled dishonest British prime minister hopping from one disaster to another, the wrecking ball called Xi the loose hell bent on changing world order along with his pal Putin and a spineless, gutless South African government who slime up to Putin regardless of his crimes; would it not have been something to have a strong South Africa that at least was on the right path morally? What are you Nelson Mandela?

  • The inexperienced ANC’s headlong and overnight rush to power had all the elements of a disaster waiting to happen. After so many years of frustration no amount of reason either was going to hold the ANC back from its time to eat. The sad state of decline SA has experienced under the ANC is just another paragraph in the tomes of history that everything decays only to be resurrected, Phoenix-like again. This is no excuse for the numbers of vile criminals parading around in the governing party but it is a somewhat pathetically sad observation thst human society never seems to make permanent progress. There’s always an ANC somewhere waiting in the wings to wreck it.

  • Dear Mr Bennun
    Thank you for writing this letter. It moved me to tears. Our beautiful country and so many optimistic and hope-filled people have been betrayed by the ANC. As a nation I believe we are at a significant point in history as we prepare for the next elections. Please would you use whatever influence you have left to bring about change in the interests of South Africa.
    Thank you for speaking out now.
    Please speak out more! Stand up! Help educate our voters and political supporters so they understand the power they have to decide our future. Encourage people to stand for honor and fight for the rights of the vulnerable. Reject leaders who enrich themselves.

    I share the wish, expressed by others, that you had written this years ago. But every step in the right direction DOES make a difference. I wish many loyal supporters of the ANC had distanced themselves when there were early signals of corruption. But perhaps you and many others remained loyal with optimistic hope. This continued to empower the ANC. Please help others learn from your decisions. Help lead a better future now.
    “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”-Gwen Goodnight

    Your father made a difference in his day. You have stood and received public honour for standing against apartheid. Please stand now and show the way for other duped ANC members towards a future where we can build South Africa together.

  • We need an ANC government to save the ANC government.
    We were saved from apartheid previously. I was a child growing up in the bantustan land of Bophuthatswana. I didn’t know or realise the racism of the area other than judgmental comments from my own parent’s mouths.
    I was in grade 3, I think, when suddenly there was a burst of colour in the classrooms. Everything changed and there appeared to be more freedom in the air.
    The ANC were handed the government of South Africa.
    I did not know what this meant at the time however these days almost thirty years later I am of the awareness that that entitlement was fought for.
    Nowadays that the “war” of thirty years ago is won, we launder on our victory like fat and lazy kings.
    We need someone with balls, big confidence, enough to stand up and take away that which is being disrespectfully abused.
    The ANC used to be that party. Can it save itself from itself?

  • It took courage to pen this letter. And, yes, my first reaction was to think that it was 15 years too late. I am sorry I was so quick to judge and condemn. But after reading closely I note that you did question the status quo from within an organisation that actively campaigned for the end if Apartheid. I want to focus on the anguish that our elder so eloquently communicates. Mervyn, your membership of the ANC was not in vain as the ANC kept up the resistance against Apartheid even when characters like Thatcher were calling Mandela a terrorist. Thank you for your contribution. You belittle it, but the collective significance is enormous. It at least gave our country a chance. Yes, the chance is being squandered. Everyone who commented here is torn apart by what we see. The anger in the comments is a collective scream of anger, which in the bigger picture unites your resignation letter and the comments. We are all angry. But I am not sure how to channel that anger. Perhaps an elder such as your self can give some guidance.

  • We have to agree that for most of us, the current regime is better than Apartheid. Instead of one minority race appropriating all the country’s resources to itself and suppressing the majority in all manners possible (politically, economically, socially and culturally) you have a regime that has allowed white privilege to flourish but also allowed other races to fill in other spaces of privilege. It is the competition of the privileged in the political and economic space that has sown the seeds of massive corruption. We must be grateful that South Africans still have choices. The fact that the ANC is still in power after six successive elections means that South Africans have the government they deserve because they want it – they are yet to find an alternative. Unlike in other countries, no one stops them from voting whom they want. Where else do we have a public protector who can bring down a president and a court of law that can send him to prison? South Africa has a world class constitution and only requires its people to have the necessary insight to choose decent people to lead them, and once those decent people show up, that time will have arrived.

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