Frankly speaking, the final word: Ronnie Kasrils responds to Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
- Ronnie Kasrils
- 05 May 2014 (South Africa)
What do you know of the word “coward” which you so loosely employ? I am not one to beat my breast and have never claimed how brave I might be. But what pathetic logic you demonstrate by asserting that it is cowardly to leave the ANC, raise a critique and yet not form another party or not state which of the smaller parties I intend voting for?
Frankly, that line of reasoning, if we can call your rant that, just does not add up, for it is no mean feat, in the first place, to be prepared to break with a ruling party in a far from politically tolerant environment. You are intent on focusing your rage on me, yet the SIDIKIWE campaign is far from a one-man show.
I am with other “cowardly” individuals such as Barney Pityana, Breyten Breytenbach, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, Stephanie Kemp, Sarah Carneson, Mazibuko Jara, Louise Asmal, Damien de Langa, Max and Audrey Coleman and hundreds more who demonstrated considerable bravery over many years of struggle. Are they all “cowardly” like me?
And what idiocy to demand that in breaking with the ANC means one is compelled to form a new party. Where oh where is your sense of democracy when you have the gall to assert that recommending a protest vote for smaller parties of the individual’s choice amounts to “making a half-hearted message that people must make their vote not count...they must vote for parties that will never have a chance to rule, therefore never have a chance to express their aspirations.”
So, there we have it, straight from the frankly speaking horse’s mouth. You JJ Tabane believe that it is only in voting for a large party that equates with democracy. That reeks of a totalitarian disposition; of voting one way until the second coming. Excuse this cowardly question but what happened to multi-party democracy and of the right for small parties to exist who may never come to power but by their existence in parliament may play an invaluable role of calling government to account?
What of the praise heaped on Helen Suzman, who demonstrated for years that a sole seat in parliament could make a tremendous difference? Let us come to your other gem; namely that it is sheer cowardice not to state which party people should vote for. The SIDIKIWE campaign is not a political agent for any party and respects the voter’s right to make their own informed choice from any number of possibilities.
The people who have signed the SIDIKIWE statement themselves may have different choices in mind. I am not going to waste time repeating the argument in favour of our approach of voting tactically and if a voter has no confidence in any of the parties his or her right is to spoil their ballot paper. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to follow that simple logic.
That it is a cowardly position to uphold says more about JJ Tabane than anything more I care to say. I leave it to the reader to judge. That this means Chris Hani died in vain is sheer bunkem. It was Chris Hani who stated: “In my view a new South Africa would be meaningless if the problems of the poor are not tackled.” And in that same period soon after his election as General Secretary of the SACP, December 1991: “I will work to have the ANC elected into power. But if that ANC Government does not deliver I will not hesitate to march against them as we marched against Apartheid.”
With a huge chuckle he added: “Look it’s going to be our Government – the People’s Government – they won’t teargas or shoot us like the present bunch.”
Chris Hani was a man of his word. I leave it to the readers to imagine how he would have reacted to the shooting down of miners at Marikana and whether, like Tabane, he would have been content to await the time-consuming process of a commission of enquiry before reacting. Tabane questions me for not raising issues directly within the ANC. Polokwane showed in no uncertain terms, on the nation’s television sets in fact, that arrogant bullies had hijacked the movement. I gave it some time, but the dangers were evident, in the first place with regards the so-called Security Bill, that a slide towards a police state was underway and I chose to raise my alarm out in the public arena where I at least felt one could strive to make a difference. I just did not trust to the possibilities of open discussion within.
I leave it to the JJ Tabane’s to defend the Bill of Rights and Constitution from within – and heaven help us for there is much to fear. Besides my view is that these issues are of national import and I believe I had a responsibility to a higher order than loyalty to a political party. For me the welfare of our people and country is more precious than the ANC, more especially as it is presently led.
As to the question why I did not speak out when I was in government, the difference between the Mandela and Mbeki administrations was whatever errors may have been; these were due to errors of judgment and not the motivation of self-service and rampant greed.
Of course corruption goes back to 1994 onwards – even before, to some extent. So what does Tabane expect – that because it happened then those like myself should hold our tongues? There has been no shred of evidence that I was ever implicated in corruption around the arms deal – but plenty relating to the relationship between Schabir Shaik and one Jacob Zuma. With regard to my Intelligence Service portfolio, it is public record that I attempted to prevent the abuse of state resources by ANC-aligned officers who were reporting to Luthuli House and aligning themselves with a political party. After getting rid of key culprits, I instituted a Commission under the late Joe Matthews concerning the necessary reforms of the intelligence agencies. That report is gathering dust because the incoming Zuma administration does not wish any reform to take place within the security establishment whose fundamental mission must be his protection.
If I made errors then or government did, why should this debar one from being able to criticise now? After all, any self-respecting movement needs to learn from mistakes. However, I am not going to go on and on in this respect because people like JJ Tabane, a self-righteous know-all, who seeks to excel in speaking frankly, shows in his servile defence of a rotten ANC and Government leadership and that he is totally bereft of the courage to talk truth to power.DM
[Editor’s note: This is the final installment in the debate between Ronnie Kasrils and Onkgopotse JJ Tabane.]
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