Speaking in Tanzania, at the Morogoro Conference Tanzania in 1969, ANC President Oliver Tambo said, “In essence, a revolutionary policy is one which holds out the quickest and most fundamental transformation and transfer of power from one class to another. In real life, such radical changes are brought about not by imaginary forces but by those whose outlook and readiness to act is very much influenced by historically determined factors. To ignore the real situation and to play about with imaginary forces, concepts and ideals is to invite failure.”
Tambo, more aware than any other ANC leader how much of a thorn in the flesh of the ANC the South African Defence Force was, in the flesh of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Cubans, Swapo and company, knew that despite the significant weakening of the apartheid economy by the time of negotiations in the early Nineties, their military strength remained one of the several factors that made it possible for the South African government to negotiate from a position of strength.
Tambo knew that despite the regional animosities, no African army at the time posed a serious or immediate challenge to South Africa’s military might, and its domestic enemies were not well enough organised or equipped to confront the power of the state.
From the Sixties into the Nineties South Africa made its presence felt in South West Africa (Namibia) and Angola, Rhodesia as Zimbabwe was then known (South African Police operations), Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Transkei and surrogate operations and attacks on liberation and other organisations opposed to the South African government, and then there was the attempted coup in the Seychelles.
Negotiations with the apartheid government, although happening with a declining continental force, still posed a great threat to all liberation forces across the continent. For example, the mass involvement and organisation of the South African forces during the world wars, the SA Air Force’s operations in Korea or, the SADF’s 1970s and 1980s operations in Namibia and Angola, were a lot more aggressive than the MK activities of the early 1960s and 1980s. The 5th SA Brigade’s stand at Sidi Rezegh in November 1941 and the SADF destruction of Fapla forces at Lombe River in October 1987, again, were much more brutal than the MK mine explosions at various critical points within the RSA economy.
Tambo knew that even plumbing colonial history for valiant Zulu or Xhosa military victories, the battle of Isandlwana, the massive casualties still inflicted upon the Zulu army in this battle and the latter’s inevitable destruction by British and colonial forces months later at Ulundi, could never be ignored.
Tambo knew that the heart of a lion that all South Africans had and their sheer numbers was enough to destroy the apartheid government, but it would come at an unacceptable loss of life, so until MK was battle ready, Tambo was not ready to send sons of daughters of our native land into the biggest blood battle of their lives, until their valiant hearts were matched by their skill and resources for war.
Then the transformative moments came and the country began to explore a different path to freedom. White South Africans and black South Africans began a conversation about building a new nation. As Floyd Shivambu said, quoting Thabo Mbeki, Peace could never trump justice in this country. De Klerk, whatever his sins, was a critical element that was necessary for leading his followers to tables of peace in this country. Of course, the fact that today Malema says Justice trumps peace (when he says, with his delusions of grandeur, that if he became president he would arrest De Klerk) shows this lack of traceable ideology in this assembly of barely formed men that is the EFF.
Today, however, the old South African Defence Force, national servicemen, the ANC’s Mkhonto we Sizwe and PAC’s Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), all form part of the South African National Defence Force. Today, we have the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa as the supreme law of the land. No other law or government action can supersede the provisions of the Constitution.
The 1993 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ended with an epilogue entitled “National Unity and Reconciliation”. which said among other things, “This Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief of sex.”
Today, the ANC is therefore interested that, as a people, we move as rapidly and as consistently as possible to transform South Africa into a non-racial country.
The new South African story has not been standing still, however. Certain conditions – notably some South Africans’ patent impatience with the pace of change which expresses itself among the poorest in society as well as some African professionals and youth – have given birth to one radical political party, the EFF. The ANC has acknowledged the conditions that gave birth to the EFF as a matter of reality. During this period, the EFF has moved from blaming our negotiated settlement, Nelson Mandela, the ANC, and white South Africans for this perceived slow pace of change.
What the EFF has been contradictorily calling for is the undoing of the 1994 project, citing it as a deal by the devil which promised a continuation of the subjugation of black people and white superiority. Julius has occasionally called for the taking of arms, for land invasion, and although not yet calling for the outright assault of white South Africans, he has said he might call for it at a later stage. Mcebo clearly shares these sentiments, the idea that the black child is undone by the negotiated settlement.
Given that this is not 1994, when such war talk could have been met by the then military machine, what then is giving Malema such confidence today to recklessly and loosely engage in war talk almost on a daily basis? It is of course the very ANC he despises, the current power the ANC has amassed for a black child and the current empowered position of a black child, the environment of peace the ANC has created, that allows his political immaturity to thrive without consequence.
It’s much easier to be reckless with your radical rhetoric when everyone else around you is committed to peace. The ANC has always rejected it as a false sentiment, the assertion that the steps taken at the beginning of democracy, as part of the process of ending white minority rule, constituted an act of treachery. The ANC asked itself then and every day still, whether there are things that make up the national interest to which all can adhere, regardless of racial or partisan interests. It is by building on those things that we have come to have a country that works so well, despite a brutal past only 22 years ago.
The ANC knows the importance of human development, the role of state, business, and society in building an ever-rising standard of living. For this, the ANC forged a future that belongs to black people but would be long and occasionally painful, but would be defined by the changing face of a black population, a rising black middle class, entrepreneurs, and a multitude of professional strata that would ultimately make this our country the realisation of a dream.
Malema is of course young and young people are prone to foolishness and fads. DM