MK Commissars’ stand similar to one taken 47 years ago
By Shepi Mati , Zubeida Jaffer
The statement by MK Commissars on the current direction of the ANC is reminiscent of strong action by young militants that led to renewal of their movement after 1969.
The last time MK Commissars took a strong stand in pointing out the enormous discontent in the ranks of the ANC was in the late sixties. This initiative led to the now famous Morogoro Conference in 1969 which redefined the way forward for the organisation. A new NEC was elected geared to do a clearly defined job and ANC President Oliver Tambo offered to resign which the organisation declined. Leading this initiative at the time was a young Chris Hani.
Perhaps it is the memory of this that triggered former Senior MK commanders and commissars of the former military wing of the ANC to prepare an explosive memorandum (see below) which they handed personally to ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe.
The group spans all generations of MK operatives starting from the elderly and illustrious combatant, Mavuso Msimang to Dipuo Mvelase, a young woman who was part of Operation Vula in the last stages of conflict.
Of the current signatories, at least Mavuso Msimang and Zolile Nqose are veterans of the Wanki and Sipolilo campaigns which preceded what became called the ‘Hani Memorandum’ in the 1960s.
Spokesperson for the Group, former cabinet minister Siphiwe Nyanda confirmed that it was not their intention this memorandum be a public document. It was meant for the leadership of the organisation to register serious concerns. He conceded that the leak must have come from within the group. It is understood that drafts were circulated more broadly than just to the people who have signed the memorandum. He further confirmed that he suspected that the leak came from the group since it was in draft form and not the final version.
Nyanda said they moved from the position that the ANC was the organisation that carries the hopes and aspirations of millions of South Africans. “We have always had faith in the leadership but things have reached a point now that we felt we could not remain silent,” he said.
Nearly 50 years ago, there was huge discontent and discord in the ANC ranks. According to historian Hugh Macmillan in the aftermath of the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns launching a Ho Chi Minh trail from Zambia via the then Rhodesia into South Africa between July and December 1967, the surviving fighters of the Luthuli Detachment regrouped into a movement whose leadership was in paralysis.
In an interview conducted with Ray Simons dated 25 November 1997 and deposited at the University of Cape Town under the collection ‘The Simon Papers’, Chris Hani is reported to have ‘after leaving prison in Botswana, [he] found the movement in a stalement position […] there was general confusion or unwillingness to discuss the lessons of the revolution.’
And so in January 1969 the signatories, including Chris Hani, delegated three members to approach then Secretary General of the ANC, Duma Nokwe, ‘with a view to arranging a discussion with members of the Executive’. Nokwe was apparently hostile to this idea dismissing the issues the group raised as ‘trivial and proposed to interview us as individuals and not as a group. We considered this procedure to be unpolitical and refused to comply.’
According to a current signatory Mo Shaik, that was the time when the leadership was losing touch with the base in a big way. There was huge discontent and discord in the ANC ranks which included a disconnect between the exiles and the people who were based in the camps, he said.
He explained that it was a very difficult period from the banning in 1960 to the imprisonment of Mandela in 1963 and then to the efforts for exiles to connect across a number of countries.
“The ANC was in trouble, ” he said. “There was an enormous disconnect and an urgent need to claim back the soul of the ANC.”
The stand taken by Hani and others led to the convening of the special Morogoro conference in April, 1969. And the rest is history.
The ANC went into a renewed effort and recommitted to its basic principles that took it to a peaceful settlement in the 1990s. Speaking as a newly elected Secretary General of the ANC in April 10, 2008, Gwede Mantashe is quoted by Macmillan as making a point that with Kabwe (1985) and Polokwane (2007), Morogoro (1969) came ‘after a period of dissatisfaction with the leadership [and] providing an opportunity to confront and to discuss the outstanding issues, heralding a period of reform and consolidation.’
This time the commanders and commissars note that ‘the country as a whole has been subjected to one crisis after another’. And ‘as a result the nation building project so necessary for the prosperity of our country is being compromised before our eyes’ whilst ‘the national psyche is characterised by helplessness and fear of what the future may hold.’
The signatories salute the courageous act of Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas for his public stand on the recent revelations that the Gupta family had offered him the post of Minister of Finance.
The 17- point memorandum goes on to list concerns about the ‘increasing tendency of state capture’ and ‘many accounts of undue influence on the decisions of the state’. It calls on the ANC leadership ‘to establish an independent commission of enquiry to investigate all claims of undue influence especially by the Gupta family on the ANC and the state.’
Finally the commanders and commissars call on the ANC leadership ‘to urgently convene a special National Conference to assess these challenges (the ANC and the state are facing) and chart a way forward to restore the prestige of our glorious movement and the State.’ This, they argue, is the responsibility entrusted on the leadership by the membership of the ANC and by the country as a whole’.
General Nyanda said they expect that their memorandum will contribute to discussions in the ANC and welcome the fact that the NEC has decided on an investigation into current business dealings.
It is hard to say whether or not the present leadership will be at all persuaded in the way they were nearly 50 years ago.
Memorandum from Senior Commanders and Commissars of the former military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
A time to Act!
1. We, the undersigned, are all committed cadres of the African National Congress, having served our glorious movement for many decades. Throughout our lives, and whenever the need arose, we did not hesitate to raise our hands to be counted among those who could be deployed in her service. Whatever the challenges we faced, whatever the risks we had to endure, we gave our all. In responding to the call of duty, we never strove for personal benefit, status or power. We executed our tasks as commanded to us by the leadership of the ANC, comfortably in the knowledge that the decisions of the leadership were based solely on the selfless pursuit of the well-being of our people. As such, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood.
2. We responded to call our duty, because we correctly believed, as we still do, in the centrality of the ANC in the people’s struggle against apartheid, and in the democratic transformation of our society to achieve a better life for the people of our country.
3. As disciplined cadres of the movement, we sought always to interpret the actions of the leadership of the ANC, through the policies, strategies and tactics of our organisation.
4. Recent events in our beloved country have both saddened and outraged us. The unwarranted and unceremonious removal of Comrade Nene from the post of Minister of Finance and his proposed re-deployment to a junior post in the New Development Bank leaves much to be desired and communicates the singular message that all is not well with our movement and in the State. What objective was served by the removal of Comrade Nene at such a fragile time of the country’s economy? How do we justify his redeployment to a junior post as a decisive promotion directed at serving the national interest? By what criteria was Cde Des van Rooyen chosen to this most critical post?
5. We welcomed the intervention that led to the appointment of Comrade Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Finance. This was a critical and necessary corrective step in order to prevent massive irreparable damage to the economy.
6. We are outraged by the investigation of so called SARS “rogue unit” by the Hawks of Comrade Pravin Gordhan and other senior comrades in such a public and antagonistic matter that would suggest the abuse of state institutions for purposes other than which they were created for. We are of the view, that these comrades are been targeted because they have consistently taken a stand against all forms of corruption and mismanagement in our public life, especially where it concerns public finances. We demand to know on whose instructions are the Hawks acting on and for what purposes? How do we justify the destruction of our economy and currency by such despotic acts
7. The recent revelations by Comrade Jonas Mcebisi that he was offered the post of Minister of Finance by the Gupta family in the presence of Duduzani Zuma is shocking and most embarrassing to the integrity of the ANC and the State. We salute this most courageous of acts by Comrade Mcebisi, and believe he has acted in the interest of the truth and in the defence of the the prestige ANC. We reject with contempt efforts to malign his integrity and good standing, and specifically call on Cde Kebby Maphatsoe to desist from further maligning the good name of Comrade Jonas Mcebisi.
8. In the light of these revelations, we demand to know what role do the Gupta family play in the appointment of Ministers and to what end? Which other Ministers have been approached in this manner? What are private arrangements that have been made with the Gupta family? Is the the leadership of the ANC aware of these arrangements ? On whose authority does the Gupta Family act in such a despicable manner?
9. In the absence of any coherent explanation to all of the above we are forced to conclude that the ANC no longer leads, and that important decisions of the State are subject to outside influence and unilateralism without any regard to the well-being of the country or our people;
10. As a direct consequence of these actions our country has been plunged into an uncertain and perilous future.
11. Further, over the years we have witnessed, amongst others, the rise of factions and slates, the diminishing quality of ANC cadreship, the rise of antagonisms within the Alliance, the breakaway of Unions from Cosatu, the break-up of the ANC youth League, the marginalization of committed ANC comrades, the rise of vulgar and unsophisticated politics within the ANC, the silencing of critical but necessary voice within the ANC, the wanton destabilization of critical state institutions, the wasteful expenditure of state resources, the devaluing of the critical institution of Parliament, the erosion of trust within the various arms of the State, the unprecedented rise of patronage and cronyism, the Juniorization of the State and the ANC and most alarming of them all, the capture of the State for the pursuit of the private interest of the few.
12. The country as a whole has been subjected to one crisis after another. As a result the nation building project so necessary for the prosperity of our country, is unfolding before our very eyes and the national psyche is characterized by helplessness and the fear of what the future may hold.
13. Whilst the challenges that face the ANC are many and complex, we are most concerned about the increasing tendency of state capture. In this regard, we want to be clear and unambiguous, when we speak of state capture, we speak of the undue influence that the Gupta family exerts on the decisions of the State for their private benefit. We can no longer remain silent in the face of this most undemocratic and dangerous of developments.
14. There are many, many accounts of their undue influence on the decisions of the State. We are convinced that much of these accounts are true. There can be no smoke, without fire!!
15. We call on the leadership of the ANC to act against this tendency and reclaim its dignity. We must free the ANC and the State from the influence of the Guptas and their beneficiaries;
16. Specifically, we called on the leadership of the ANC to establish a independent judicial commission of enquiry to investigate all claims of undue influence by the Gupta family on the ANC and on the State.
17. We call on the leadership ANC to assess, in light of the many failings and embarrassing revelations pertaining to the leadership of Comrade J ZUMA of both the ANC and the State, the wisdom to continue with Comrade J Zuma at the helm of both the ANC and the State. We are of the view, that for the sake of the ANC and the country a dignified exit should be negotiated with Comrade J Zuma.
Long live the ANC !
Signed by General Siphiwe Nyanda on behalf of the following:
Brig Gen Damian de Lange
Amb Mzuvukile Maqethuka
Amb George Nene
Amb Welile Nhlapo
Gen Nhlanhla Ngwenya
Brig Gen Ngqose
Dr. Ayanda Ntsaluba
Commissioner George Rasegatla
Brig gen Sejake
Amb Moe Shaik
Dr. Snuki Zikalala
Photograph by Reiner Leist, from the book Another Country, Jacana Media, 2014