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Remembering Kallie Hanekom — a heartfelt message from the ANC Veterans’ League

Remembering Kallie Hanekom — a heartfelt message from the ANC Veterans’ League
Struggle stalwart Kallie Hanekom. (Photo: Supplied)

Instead of facing a litmus test of renewal in the 2024 elections, it seems easier for the ANC to play the populist games of the majority of the political opposition, preferring to wade in the muck of ethnic mobilisation, xenophobic hatred and wanton accumulation. The slippery slope grows more steep and slippery by the day.

I bring you, celebrants of Comrade Kallie Hanekom’s remarkable life, warm greetings from the ANC Veterans League and also convey greetings from Comrade Popo Molefe on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the memorable founding of the UDF on 20 August 1983. 

I did not have the privilege of knowing Kallie personally. By all accounts, he was a committed democrat, warm and humble, with a most engaging sense of humour.  

Karen Weissenssee, a long-standing friend of Kallie, wrote in her last farewell: “I am sad to not [be able to] drink coffee with him again, as he reorganises the table, engages warmly with the waiters and other regulars and peruses all the papers available, leaping from subject to subject in his talk.”

Karen observes that Kallie’s determination to receive his terminal health care at a state hospital speaks to his commitment to equality. It’s obviously a choice he will have made quite early in his life. I particularly love this cogent observation by Karen: “He used to say that with small children, if you do something three times it becomes a game.”

Upon reading this, musician Sipho Hotstix Mabuse said if he didn’t know Kallie before, he now knew him. I feel the same.

Kallie, I believe, will have insisted that no eulogy for him will be complete without meaningful commentary on the things that mattered to him in our democracy today.

Faithful to that belief, let me begin by quoting the late stalwart and eminent sociologist, Fatima Meer: “We have to be in the process of perpetual revolution to progress and guarantee the rights of people. There can be no peacetime so long as there is poverty and hunger and so long as basic human rights are trodden. 

“The cause of rampant crime in our country is inequality. We are the second most unequal country in the world. More than half the population lives in poverty. Can we call this living in peace? The definition of peace is equity, harmony, not starvation.” 

Having attained the worst Gini coefficient on the planet, the lights all over the country have literally dimmed and the energy that drives the economy has been sapped. With that, many businesses have collapsed, joblessness has skyrocketed and living standards have correspondingly plummeted. Kallie leaves us when criminality rules the roost, having burrowed its way into the innards of the ANC and the government it has formed since 1994.   

Ah, but my generation is at fault! We forgot to tell today’s young people about the moment in history when in 1947 the Three Doctors’ Pact was signed by Drs AB Xuma, President of the ANC; Monty Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress; and Yusuf Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress. The three stood together and formed an epochal pact that defined the liberation Struggle and which endures today among those who hold fast to the founding values of that pact. 

How much do modern chauvinists know about Basil February who died in his boots during the 1967 Wankie (Hwange) Campaign fighting under the MK flag?

Does the ignoramus who, as the former chief spokesperson for the ANC government and in the nonchalant manner of apartheid’s racial engineering, once pointed to an oversupply of our “coloured” compatriots in the Western Cape, know about the Trojan Horse massacre? Can he claim to know that on 15 October, 1985, apartheid forces and the Railway Police shot and killed three protesting students: Jonathan Claasen, 21, Shaun Magmoed, 15, and Michael Miranda,11, while injuring several others?

Does he know of Dulcie September, the ANC representative in Paris assassinated by apartheid’s killers? Increasingly, people who look like her are not readily found in the rarefied echelons of our political edifice.  

Does he know Ruth First, murdered 38 years ago yesterday, or Jeanette Schoon and daughter Katryn — these three women were executed in bomb explosions in Mozambique and Angola, respectively?

These and hundreds of other fellow citizens, like Ahmed Timol and Rick Turner, met the same fate that befell thousands of their darker-hued compatriots at the hands of assassins, monsters who, by the forgiving grace of reconciliation, continue to walk the streets of a liberated South Africa.

O tempora! O mores!

In redressing apartheid-ordained imbalances, it is unconscionable in the democratic era to restrict or limit any individual’s opportunities for advancement in job, business, academic or other pursuits in the sphere of human endeavour, by applying criteria that reinforces apartheid’s racial logic.

The democratic state’s imperative of transformation has neither accelerated adequate redress nor sufficient development, victim to the seemingly rational adoption of apartheid’s system of racial classification and grading, albeit in reverse.

Citizens who are homeless, live in slums and dwell on pavements, who suffer the violence of gangsters and the crime of hunger must be prioritised strictly on the basis of the acuteness of their predicament. 

There is an area, though, where we face absolutely no risk of committing a discriminatory injustice. This is in fast-tracking the exorcising of gender-based prejudices. Too numerous to list here, they stubbornly persist in all cultures, even among privileged classes.

Testosterone may have played a vital role in providing primordial-era security when males used muscle power to defend families and communities from invaders and for the performance of chores necessary for group survival. Human progression in the 21st century is singularly dependent on a well-calibrated brain, and infinitely less on brawn. Time is thus long overdue for paternalism to make room for the new order.    

Now to the resurgent xenophobic frenzy that is threatening to engulf the nation; that seeks to blame the ills currently afflicting our country on immigrants, especially those from the African continent. Most of them are in the country legally, while many are undocumented and live here illegally.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Xenophobia in SA stems ‘from government’s inability to deal with poverty, unemployment and inequality’

What we fail to recognise is that were it not for the fact that our public service system is riddled with corruption, there would be no holders of falsified identity documents, birth and marriage certificates, illegally issued driving licences, misallocated houses, business licences, the lot.

The reactionary violence against migrants is contrary to this democracy’s founding principles, but, for as long as the political authorities implicitly and explicitly continue to scapegoat foreign nationals for their own failings, SA will reflect the migration quandaries of the US southern border, or even the shocking extremes of migrant lives being claimed by the dark and deep waters of the Mediterranean.

There is huge scope for regional economic and industrial cooperation in both SADC and Africa. Working towards the creation of job opportunities in migrant-supplier countries and promoting and expanding intra-African trade are some of the measures that have to be seriously examined.

Fixing the borders, reducing the corruption among public servants and investing in our neighbours to encourage local growth and political openness would appear to be necessary components of a rational solution.

Instead, the bizarre proposition reportedly under consideration, to have SA withdraw from global conventions on refugees and immigrants, rewrite our legislation to provide for severe discrimination against them and then rejoin the conventions on those terms like the worst of despotic nations, is beyond the pale.

Of course, no analysis of the modern South African condition can ignore the corruption that has ensnared our state. Ably facilitated by the amoral henchmen of corporate greed, like Bain, McKinsey, KPMG and others, grand corruption has laid low our world-class state utilities like, among others, Eskom, Transnet and Prasa, plundered and broken by the grip of State Capture and depriving the people of the necessary instruments for their development.

Read more in Daily Maverick: State Capture 2.0: The corruption warning lights are flashing on the SA political patronage system

The recently announced Multiparty Charter entered into by opposition parties to “unseat the ANC” invites comment, mainly because they, too, remain victims of the simplistic binaries of power that shape the dispiriting governance of our country.

They cannot conceive of an innate and original strength independent of the ANC, perhaps because they have none, or, more likely, can only conceive of political relevance through the ANC’s weakness. Oliver Tambo is often cited as having observed that no political party could defeat the ANC, except the ANC itself. The parties in this pact would do well, for themselves and the people of the country, if they took heed.

Yet, and yet. An ANC leadership that is not averse to cohabiting with the venal and depraved may yet hand this march to the past a pass. Ironically, the withering findings of the Zondo Commission report have given the ANC an invaluable reprieve, if it grabs it. The commission recommended that some 50-plus ANC members should be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecution, others for further investigation by the police.

If, even at this late hour, the National Executive Committee of the ANC were to decide that no one, but no one, on this list will be eligible for election in the 2024 national and provincial elections, the electorate would by a respectable majority give the ANC’s fielded but untainted candidates a chance to properly govern the country.

Indeed, this is the litmus test of the renewal of the ANC, but it seems easier to play the populist games of the majority of the political opposition, preferring to wade in the muck of ethnic mobilisation, xenophobic hatred and wanton accumulation. The slippery slope grows more steep and slippery by the day.

The ANC is the party to which many people assembled here today belong. It’s the party under whose banner I was born and under which I have walked for 65 years of my life. The prescience of my forebear in crafting the Freedom Charter helped them look past the artifice of skin pigmentation to find and embrace the democrats among us.

South Africans of goodwill and understanding yearn for an enlightened and honest government, formed by a party or parties that can withstand moral examination and ethical scrutiny.

For that to happen, they must refuse to be clients of the powerful and the silver-tongued who, by increasing measure, daily demonstrate their lack of fitness to hold office in the executive or the people’s Parliament.  

Please do accept my apologies for holding forth on these matters, but these truths do not receive the exposure they deserve. Kallie departs when the situation in the country has worsened considerably and I believe that Kallie would have welcomed their airing on his final mortal platform.

We thank you, Kallie, for bringing us together to ponder once more on the meaning of the society we have fashioned out of the fires described in Antjie Krog’s The Country Of My Skull. This constant reflection exemplifies your life, your belief in a just society and your part in our Struggle.

Hamba kahle Mkhonto! DM

This is an edited version of the tribute delivered at the memorial service for ANC veteran, Kallie Hanekom, who died on 9 August in Cape Town at the age of 73.


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