Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane 23 April 2014

Dear Comrade Ronnie Kasrils, let’s talk frankly

Comrade Kasrils, you have rattled the cage, all right. There is a need to shake the complacency in our movement, I admit. You have a good idea, but it is badly executed.

In a month where we celebrate the legend that is Chris Hani, it is indeed mindboggling that a revolutionary like you wakes up and makes a decision that amounts to political cowardice. How can you be considered a part of the family if you are selling off the family silver? How are you still pissing in a straight line when you remain in the tent?

What puzzles me is that you don’t seem angry enough to face the possibility of expulsion. Others were expelled for much less, remember. The reality is that not everyone who is sticking around in the ANC is jumping for joy. Few pretend to be happy when, like you, they are gatvol.

When we were herd boys we were always taught not to abandon all the sheep just because of the one black sheep. We were taught instead to keep an eye on it, because every family would always have one. You can’t sell the whole flock to the abattoir for that.

On the eve of a tough election, all really must grin and bear it, because that is the nature of the compromise called democratic centralism. You yourself would have taught that to young comrades who joined the movement under your wing. Look what Pallo did; one minute he was gung ho and calling the Zuma administration ‘scandal-ridden’; the next minute, under the fierce questioning of Aubrey Masango on 702, he backtracked, to the disappointment of many. At least he attempted to speak out, I suppose. Look at Manuel: he stuck it out despite the reds wanting him out, and now look at the NDP as a product of his toil (whether you like him or not). The biggest flag the ANC is waving now, in terms of moving forward, is the NDP: this achievement of exemplary and competent leadership does not, for a minute, mean you may not end up being labelled a free agent.

Finally, look at Uncle Ben Turok. He defied the headiness of the Secrecy Bill when all those others sheepishly went along. Was he expelled? No. He went on to help us get rid of Comrade Pule instead.

This shows us that if all of us identified the necessary talents and gifts, we could help build the ANC. Not everything would be in vain; in our small way we could build an ANC that could liberate our people from the fangs of poverty. We don’t always have to agree.

Frankly speaking, the ANC is a contested terrain. Your ilk have lost power, but the wheels of politics turn, that’s for sure. I know that some – who are currently faction-blind – think the wheel will not turn because they have climbed. But nowhere in history is there a permanent state of politics. The ANC will not rule “until Jesus returns”. It will rule for a while, and then it will lose power, all as part of a natural circle of political life.

You can’t accelerate that reality, though, without willingness to fold your sleeve, like Manuel did. The quick fix of spoiling your ballot is such undiluted cowardice that I have no words to describe it. To spoil your vote is essentially to say we can have a stateless nation. If all citizens followed your lead, they would fail to choose who would govern them. There is no politician called ‘spoiler’. Other than you, that is. But your party is not on the ballot, Comrade Ronnie.

I know that the ANC is your home. When some among us fled during the bad times, you stuck it out. What you have chosen to do now is rather confusing to ordinary members who consider you a hero. Believe me, there are those who remember the commander in you. And we know you would not have embarked upon this crazy campaign if you did not have reason to believe that some people would listen to you. If you argue that the spoiled vote campaign can result in such support that it could be the second biggest party, the question is: why don’t you have the courage of your convictions and actually start this party, even if you name it the spoiler congress? The reality is that it’s tougher to start a party that can take on the century-old movement; it’s easier to initiate a gimmick that can only serve to spit on the grave of the likes of Chris Hani – and waste his blood, which he shed for you to be able to use your vote to make a difference, to determine who gets to govern this country.

Last week we saw a few things that should make you angry. After 20 years of democracy, white people are still the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action, since in the presence of such a policy, 60% of all promotions and appointments are to white people. I wonder how I can ever change this by spoiling my vote. The Public Protector released several reports into maladministration. How do you and I make sure maladministration ends by effectively not being counted in the big stakes of governing the country? Last week a group of unreconstructed white people marched to demand that Chris Hani’s murderer be released. These people must have short memories. They must have forgotten what happened in 1993 when Chris Hani was murdered. They must have forgotten how Nelson Mandela saved us from going into a full-on racial civil war. They now want the murderer to roam our streets. How soon they forget. Imagine if after Hani’s death our anger had run its course. We would have surrendered our power to a foreigner, and while we continued to be angry, they would have continued to lord it over us.

But come, let’s talk frankly.

Did corruption really start with this administration? What is the Arms Deal, really? Surely we are now only reaping what you and others have sown successfully. The misuse of state apparatus, you are telling me – the patronage veiled as BEE – was born with successive ANC administrations. The tender corruption was in fact at its worst even before the Malemas of this world learnt what a trust account looked like. So we have been in the mielie field of moral decay, planting and planting, over the years. Now that the harvest is here, few want to be around to separate the chaff from the wheat and correct the calibration of a ship sinking into a moral morass. Come now. We all know our house is not in order, but to argue arson as a solution is no different from people burning down libraries out of anger for not having enough books.

Come back now. Let’s reason together. Maybe, just maybe, the ANC of Luthuli is once more on the rise, and needs the leadership of the likes of you.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM


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