Defend Truth


The ANC has lost all moral authority and has forfeited its right to use the good name of the party


Ashley Forbes was active in the establishment of the United Democratic Front in 1983. He later joined Umkhonto weSizwe, the military wing of the ANC. He went into exile in 1986 and completed his military training in Angola. After his release from Robben Island in 1991, he completed a three-year Business Management diploma in Singapore. He assisted with the establishment of the Robben Island Museum and returned to the island in an act of unintended irony to take up the position of Estates and Services Manager.

We call on the elders to rip the stripes from the uniforms of all those who have brought the good name of the organisation into disrepute, and henceforth prohibit them from wearing the insignia or colours of the ANC.

The dominant ruling party has forfeited its right and authority to use the good name of the ANC. It is heartbreaking to see how, over the past 28 years, the party has abused its power and how far it has fallen.

This astounding fall from grace was not caused by an isolated act of criminality, not by individuals, nor by one sitting president, but by a series of systematic attacks, executed by the top leadership of the party against all organs of state over these past 28 years.

Their actions have wreaked more damage upon our economy, our society and the environment than any previous war in our country. The scale of the looting and the levels of pain and suffering that the majority of ordinary South Africans continue to endure is staggering.

The ANC and its alliance partners have not only alienated themselves from the masses of our people and lost the moral authority, trust and respect of ordinary South Africans, but has brought shame and dishonour to past generations, our forefathers, past esteemed leaders, and centuries of gallant freedom fighters.

We summon the elders to see and listen, discuss and then enforce a sanction. We call on the elders to rip the stripes from the uniforms of all those who have brought the good name of the organisation into disrepute, and henceforth prohibit them from wearing the insignia or colours of the ANC.

During the uninhibited, eight-day looting spree of July 2021, the ruling party completely abdicated its responsibility and failed to take meaningful action against the perpetrators.

In the 1980s, Allan Boesak threw himself over the near-lifeless body of a uniformed policeman who was being stoned at a funeral in Salt River. This courageous act caused the frenzied crowd to stop stoning and to disperse and allow the funeral to proceed calmly.

Political leaders who wield such moral authority no longer exist in the ruling party. Instead, in July 2021, from day one, in the absence of political leaders, it was the leaders of the people who were on the streets, defending communities from the mayhem and destruction. These community leaders continue to mount service delivery protests and champion the cause of the poorest of the poor. These leaders operate outside of the institutionalised framework of party politics, and rise, in ever-increasing numbers, within civil society formations and organisations.

Ordinary citizens are challenging the waning authority of the state and the ruling party, as they recognise that those who are supposed to be there to serve our interests are the ones who pose the greatest threat to our Constitution and our democracy.

Contrary to all the well-meaning calls for unity that are made at national conferences and rallies of the party, the ANC remains weaker than it has ever been, divided, dysfunctional and internally toxic.

It is most unfortunate that past presidents perpetuate the narrative that the ANC is so big and powerful that it will remain in power “until Jesus Christ’s second coming”. They fail to acknowledge what history has taught us – that justice will triumph over injustice and that societies will organise and develop progressive movements to bring down powerful illegitimate governments.

The question is not how long the ruling party will be in power, but how long it will take South Africans to replace the ANC government with a viable alternative.

If the ruling party had any remnant of self-respect or concern for the damage caused to the name and image of the ANC, then the President, his Cabinet, the top six, the National Executive Committee and the National Working Group would vacate their posts with immediate effect, in acknowledgment of the heinous crimes committed on their watch. Such an act may restore some credibility to a political party that has become synonymous with treason, terrorism and criminality.

But, realistically, this is never going to happen because the noble values and principles of the ANC and the interests of our people have never been priorities for this ruling party. Power and access to the public purse are all that consumes it, and it will employ every dark fibre in its being to perpetuate its selfish interests and those of the wealthy elite.

If there is any hope that people may have that the ruling party would ever defend the interests of the people against the wealthy, then consider how the biggest investors, the World Bank and Cyril Ramaphosa responded to the wildcat strike that threatened operations at Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August 2012, when specialised forces of the South African Police Service were pressured to slaughter 34 of the most noble of South African workers in the first recorded massacre of our new democracy.

It is inconceivable that seasoned politicians of the ruling party have forgotten from whence they came, who put them in power and how powerful the might of the South African people is. South Africa experienced a small political tsunami that hit the coast of KwaZulu-Natal on 9 July 2021, which reverberated into parts of Gauteng, causing at least 342 unfortunate deaths and about R50-billion in damage to infrastructure, places of work, livelihoods and the economy that will be felt for years to come.

To deprive a country’s citizens of their birthright and democratic future, as the ruling party has done, must and will give rise to a revolutionary movement that may lie dormant and grumble like a volcano for some time, but when it erupts it will destroy every injustice in its path. Fancy rhetoric, designer jackets and flags won’t stop the avalanche of change.

I can remember when I was in secondary school in 1980 and got involved in student organisations, consumer boycotts and marches. The South African Police and its Special Branch would monitor student meetings and leaders who they later proceeded to detain and arrest.

By 1985, a State of Emergency banned progressive people’s organisations and resulted in thousands of leaders from all walks of life and stations in society being arrested, imprisoned, ambushed, assassinated and killed. The South African Defence Force imposed curfews and the press was gagged.

Five years later, in 1990, I was part of a Robben Island prison delegation that was transported to Victor Verster Prison to meet Nelson Mandela to be updated on the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the return of exiles and the negotiated process to transfer power from the hands of the white minority.

I learnt then that the subjective conditions of a country can change very quickly. Then, as now, South Africa could easily move from a decade of relative calm to a decade of violent uprising.

A new movement for meaningful change is taking root in our homes, streets, communities, places of learning, worship and work, on social media and in the press. The new movement may appear illusive, localised and spontaneous, unconnected, dissimilar in intention and even conflicting and contradictory, but deep within that complex mix lies the viable alternative to the dominant ruling party and the magic of our rainbow nation.

If there is anything that can be learnt from the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983 and the birth of our rainbow nation in 1994, then it is South Africans’ unflinching commitment to build broad-based mass democratic organs of peoples’ power, to tear down barriers of division and to stand united to achieve an equitable and just society for us all.

Ordinary South Africans from all walks of life worked together to shield our most marginalised citizens from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are out on the streets every day to protest and demonstrate to improve service delivery failures. Ordinary South Africans have rallied broad sections of society to oppose Shell’s seismic surveys and challenge the rape of our marine environment.

For this new movement and potentially new political party, victory may appear elusive and impossible at times, but history places these demands on ordinary South Africans who can no longer wait on the ruling party to change today, but are actively building their own, new tomorrow.

South Africans, be fully aware of how dearly we all continue to pay for voting in a headless and heartless government. Understand the historical imperative, to vote in a new, good and strong government sooner rather than later. Only a new movement that is based on achieving the minimum aspirations of the Freedom Charter, that earns the trust and respect of the majority of South Africans, can avert this perfect storm. We must build a new movement and put forward a new political party to secure peace and stability, growth, development, freedom and prosperity for all our people and neighbours on our continent.

It is painful for a young democracy to learn such bitter lessons of betrayal. It is one thing to be oppressed by an apartheid government that hated the masses of its indigenous people, but it is even more painful when the majority of South Africans vote a regime into power that deprives them of their birthright, dignity and future.

We have no choice. We cannot limp through this decade with the current ruling party, a political establishment and state that has turned its back on its people. We have no choice but to focus on building a new political party that captures the hearts and minds of all South Africans.

Nobody knows what the future holds, but some things are certain. Civil society will correct and redirect this present destructive course by voting the dominant ruling party out of power. The party will respond with violence against its own citizens, but there will be a national call to action to unify the broadest and most wide-ranging sections of society to conceive of a new vision and to build a political party that is fit for purpose and capable to address the specific challenges of our time. DM


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  • Derek Jones says:

    Agree Mr Forbes, I like your heart and your reasoning. To me, Ramaphosa and his long game is too damaging. We need very solid, even alarming action right now, whatever the consequences. Failure to do that teaches our children that dishonesty can win the day. Integrity after all is the one essential quality for real success and there seems to be none in the ANC. I mean if you had any integrity could you continue to be a member of the party even?
    I believe not. I fear Ramaphosa through his inaction will become or is already irrelevant.

  • Stephen T says:

    I would be in favour of change but not radical change because that tends to create far too many instances of unintended casualties and consequences that in turn create unforeseen burdens that inevitably fall to the taxpayer to bear. And yet the many left-leaning politicians, academics, and other dishonest charlatans continue to call for radical change at every turn.

    I disagree that the ruling party “has forgotten from whence they came”. They are simply doing what The Struggle was always intended to do. Does anyone honestly believe that the vast majority of those that committed acts of terror were doing so on principles of honesty, accountability, and good governance? No, they committed these acts because they were enamoured by the fantasies of vast sums of plunder and wealth as was promised by the Necessary Deception of Marxist ideology. Very little has changed in the last 30 years in this regard. The ANC is exactly who they always have been.

    Looking to the future, it seems to me the only way to effectively curb anyone’s enthusiasm for self-enrichment at the expense of the People is to rigorously separate money from politics. Grand visions of revolution is what got us into this mess in the first place so that’s the last thing we need. Instead we should be looking to refine the system such that acts of corruption are dealt with so harshly that it serves as a deterrent, and furthermore any potential conflict of interest is policed to prevent corruption before it takes root.

  • Michael Forsyth says:

    We need more and more ANC members to speak up loudly. The complete lack of conscience in the ANC is staggering.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    I am an old toppie. But I remember this name from my youth. UDF member or founder, ANC soldier and prisoner. Rather than misdescribe what I remembered or what I thought I remembered, I did a Google search and found this.

    Ashley Forbes was 24 years old when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. He stayed in a single cell in B Section with Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim who was then serving a second period of imprisonment. He had served 15 years from 1964 and then kidnapped from Swaziland in 1986 and sentenced to a further 20 years.

    The two men were both ANC operatives. Ashley was part of the newer groups that had launched military offenses against the apartheid state. Ebrahim was a senior Umkhonto we Sizwe leader based in Swaziland.

    I am not praising AF or singing his virtues. My point is that here was a young man who was an anti apartheid activist and operative. Here was a man who so rabidly pro ANC that he carried out violence it its name and was imprisoned for it.

    And THIS MAN here and NOW holds THESE beliefs on the the ANC of TODAY.

  • Johan Buys says:

    My best-case scenario is that the old UDF and the decent part of ANC take it back from the RET/Zuma faction. The RET can join and create a bigger EFF but they will battle to get past and keep 20% of the national vote. Then hopefully the NewANC plus ActionSA plus DA and a few of the small parties can work together and fix our country. One frustration is why good people don’t capture the ANC branch system??? Something like 1.2m branch members are deciding ANC policy and leaders and cadres on behalf of the 55m citizens. Take back the branches, ensure representatives are decent folk, then the RET crowd will go shopping for their jobs in the EFF.

  • anton kleinschmidt says:

    Wow! Very powerful and timely. Bravo

  • John Cartwright says:

    Thank you, Ashley – you point the way forward. Government – ‘big’ or ‘small’ – is not in itself the problem. Bearing in mind the sobering lessons of the last twenty-five years, we need to rehabilitate the institutions of government, their strengths and limitations and their systems of accountability, re-establishing their primary role of serving the common interest.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    The ANC had its chance and wrecked the chances of the people to build a better life. I don’t buy the pure undefiled historic ANC angle. The president who thinks the ANC will survive til Jesus comes was a foot soldier back then too as were many of his pals. Time’s up!

  • bus47pitt says:

    Great article. Unfortunately with the new commentary policy, seems like people have become disinterested in making comments.

  • Rich Field Field says:

    And lets not forget this (stats from DM):
    Our civil service is a mere 1.2 million people (2% of the population, but vastly overstaffed through nepotism, patronage, loyalty rewards, incompetence being “fixed” by the addition of “more hands”, and so on) – of an estimated 60 million population – consume a third of the total amount of money that is the entire “national fiscus”. They (the civil service) consumes 34% of the entire national budget.
    Mmmm…doesn’t seem fair. (And that money comes in (largely) from the pockets and businesses owned and run by the 5-6% who pay the taxes. Those 4mill odd (and declining)) And then we cannot even use the remaining 66% as chunks of this are siphoned off as graft, tender fraud, blatant theft and the rest of the troughtastic new get rich schemes.
    And once we get at the last 30 or 40% (thats a guess – I hope its at least a third), its misallocated and squandered on overpriced goods and services – often outside of the areas of greatest need.
    And then we reelect the criminally negligent, and murderously uncaring public “servants” to once again “serve the delivery” of our “wishes and needs” with a selfless commitment to our best interests (and no desire for self enrichment or notoriety and acknowledgement – or millionaire lifestyle)
    We are as much to blame for allowing them the authority to “F**K us over” for almost 30yrs. Only we can change that.

  • Bruce Q says:

    Mr. Forbes, your article sings with truth, honesty and hope.
    My only wish is that fellow South Africans read your insights with open minds.
    I salute you, sir. Not once did you lower yourself to the petty politics that abounds in our beloved country today.
    Not once did you mention race, colour or culture.
    If only we had leaders with the beliefs you so clearly wrote about.
    Why is it that politics so often brings out the worst in human nature?
    Greed, money, power.
    What has happened to our so-called leaders?
    Please God, your ideas and predictions take hold and eventually mold this country into the paradise it’s beautiful people really deserve.
    Thank you.

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