Opinionista Oscar Van Heerden 17 July 2019

To Jacob Zuma: Secrets and lies were our friends in the Struggle, but Truth is the daughter of time

First we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. In the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.

For those of us who were actively involved in the anti-apartheid Struggle, who bled for the Struggle, who were arrested and tortured for the Struggle, who committed acts of terror for the Struggle, who killed for the Struggle, and yes, who died for the Struggle – if there is one thing that is like a warm cashmere blanket in the icy winter, it is secrecy.

For without it, the revolution would have been constantly compromised. The names of our fellow comrades, the safe houses harbouring state fugitives, the next rendezvous point for our crucial treasonous meetings, who said what in which meeting, and where the arms caches were hidden. This was the nature of the anti-apartheid game. Secrecy was everything. Because contrary to most, we were engaged in a war. It was a war of attrition between those fighting for liberation and those opposed to it.

I once attended a mass rally in my home town at one of the high schools in Mitchells Plain in 1986. I was one of the young student leaders of the 14 high schools in the area. One of the speakers at the rally, unfortunately, implied that another of us was collaborating with the security police and pointed him out in the crowd. Before we knew what was happening, the student had been accosted by an angry mob and in no time was attacked. The kicking was relentless and simply too much. He later died of internal bleeding, succumbing to his injuries.

I tell this horrific story because in my time, at the height of our struggle for freedom, it was callous to say this one or that one is, or was, a spy. Necklacing was almost a certainty at the time, and so comrades knew that you’d better have, and present, irrefutable evidence to make such a claim because a life was on the line. The only people who used it in such a callous manner during our time were either agents provocateurs themselves and/or the very spies they so foolhardily called out.

This is what I remembered when I heard Jacob Zuma making such irresponsible and callous claims about certain comrades.

An agent provocateur (French for “inciting agent”) is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group to which they belong.

This is Jacob Zuma! To save your own skin, to dabble in the art of misdirection and to destroy comrades and their families is what an agent provocateur such as yourself does.

How else does one explain what transpired in South Africa over the past 10 years under Zuma’s watch? Who if not an agent of apartheid, appoints known collaborators of apartheid, spies and askaris into high government positions? Gives them contracts to the tune of millions, whether it be in the police, intelligence services or state-owned enterprises or from the former apartheid security structures?

Zuma did this, no one else. He allowed the state to be hollowed out, virtually bankrupted us and actively facilitated State Capture with his friends the Guptas. Zuma is the last to talk of apartheid spies. These vile threats will not deter us from our mission to clean up your mess and in the process arrest, suspend, expel and humiliate those that actively participated in eroding our state and the ruling party.

Having said this, however, I do also want us to investigate the causes of this phenomenon. This, in my opinion, is symptomatic of us all lying to our people, it is haunting us all because of how we have opted to lie to ourselves and the people of Mzansi.

The exiled comrades who now find it more convenient to be held up as heroes who selflessly fought for our liberation in foreign lands. Never must there be any mention of the illegality that took place with the full knowledge of the then leadership. It had to be done because we needed the money to keep the organisation and its huge infrastructure going. But besides this, there were the criminal elements among us who personally benefited from such illegality. The rapes that took place in our camps, not to forget the firing squads for those who dared to instigate mutiny in the ranks. Or those accused of spying in the camps.

The lying about qualifications to this day, because you think you can get away with it, stems from those days.

The internal United Democratic Front (UDF) comrades who did not want to readily admit the level of infiltration in our midst, in every organisation, be it student, youth, civic or labour movements. Rumours abound to this day about this one and that one having been a spy.

I recall meeting one of the security branch people in Muizenberg a few years ago with a friend while he was doing research work for a book he was thinking of writing. The security police officer was one of the so-called coloured ones that collaborated with the white security police during that time. It struck me then that when my friend asked him whether he would be prepared to mention the names of all those at the time that spied for the security police, his answer floored me: he said, no, I cannot and will not do that. We took a decision together as the security police after 1994 that our contribution to the Struggle will be to not mention any names because that would simply distract all of you from what really needs to be done, which is to transform our society for a better life for all, instead of fighting and killing each other, because this one was a spy, an impimpi or an askari. I could not believe this guy. In short, he was saying, we are doing it as our contribution to the Struggle. What kind of perverse logic is that?

But then it got me thinking – maybe there’s some truth in that logic. And as I had previously written, we could find it in our hearts to forgive the white enemy, who killed and maimed us; treated us like imbeciles and young boys even though we at times were older than them; humiliated us for centuries just for fun at times; and exploited us in the most inhuman way in the workplace and ensured the triple exploitation of women on the basis of race, class and gender. We listened to Mandela and we forgave them for all of the above and so much more, and yet we cannot do this for the numerous collaborators, spies and askaris. Why is that?

And then I realised why we are not capable of such a reconciliatory act: because first we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. So, in the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.

Allow the legends, untruths and lies to fall, so our people may have confidence in us once more. So that the moral fibre can be visible again. And just before all the non-ANC types shake their heads in agreement, let me also appeal to you to divulge your truths. White South Africans must acknowledge their role in apartheid, whether in the form of an apology or indeed a developmental tax. The Inkatha Freedom Party must own up in terms of their role with regards to black-on-black violence in the early 1990s. And the so-called coloureds that collaborated with the National Party in their ill-conceived Tricameral Parliament must speak up.

Many of our hands are anything but clean, we owe it to our people. We will not be able to build a nation-state when the very foundation is built on lies.

We must all become agents of truth because truth is the daughter of time. DM


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