FI­NAL OPEN LET­TER TO A Rivonia Tri­al­ist

CityPress - - Voices - Kay Sexwale voices@city­press.co.za

At a time like this, as many peo­ple are cel­e­brat­ing your life, it is wor­ry­ing that you de­part to join our an­ces­tors while a shady cap­tain re­mains at the helm of a ship that you pleaded with him to re­lin­quish. Our ship risks sink­ing be­cause, as hap­pened to the Ti­tanic when it hit an ice­berg, wa­ter is fast stream­ing in. In all of this, de­ci­sions taken by the cap­tain are cru­cial for the pas­sen­gers’ sur­vival.

To­day, we find that South Africa’s cap­tain has out­sourced his ex­ec­u­tive rights to a mi­grant fam­ily that tells him where to dock, how to throw the lifeboats overboard and what parts of the ship to de­lib­er­ately de­stroy.

In a way, I’m glad you didn’t live to see the mad­ness of Fri­day’s Cabi­net reshuf­fle – done in the hours thieves op­er­ate: just past mid­night. In­com­pe­tent scan­dal-rid­den peo­ple have sur­vived, while outspoken and hard-work­ing peo­ple have been shown the door.

I have fond mo­ments I spent with you that I will al­ways trea­sure. Our first meet­ing was al­most five years ago, af­ter I penned an open let­ter to you and the other sur­viv­ing Rivonia Trialists. It was a dis­tress call, pub­lished in City Press, that later went vi­ral. For­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela was too ill to re­spond. Com­rades An­drew Mlangeni and De­nis Gold­berg took their valu­able time to en­gage with me via open let­ters. They urged me to be more di­rectly in­volved in ANC branches and ANC work, and to try to change things from within, in­stead of only shout­ing as a public com­men­ta­tor.

That first and my sub­se­quent vis­its with you took place when it was un­fash­ion­able to speak up about the rot that was seep­ing into our great move­ment, which I was born into in ex­ile. I’m glad com­rades have found their voices. As I told you then in my let­ter, I was fed ANC pro­pa­ganda with my Pu­rity baby food. I will con­tinue to speak up – it’s im­por­tant South Africans don’t think we are all sheep.

This fi­nal open let­ter to you is yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to ask our fel­low trav­ellers, even those with small­ernyana skele­tons, to plug the holes that our cap­tain has de­lib­er­ately cre­ated.

Or, to put it in your words to the cap­tain in your open let­ter to him on March 21 last year: “Are you aware that your out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle stands to be se­verely tar­nished if the re­main­der of your term as pres­i­dent con­tin­ues to be dogged by crises, and a grow­ing public loss of con­fi­dence in the ANC and govern­ment as a whole?”

Sadly, he ig­nored you, but in­stead sent his Rot­tweil­ers to in­sult you, our beloved stal­wart. On Wed­nes­day at your fu­neral, some of these same cap­tured peo­ple pre­tended to mourn you. They must hang their heads in shame. I’m glad the cap­tain didn’t sully our fi­nal good­bye to you with his pres­ence.

In your true style of uni­fy­ing South Africans across the board, you of­fered to take the young lead­ers of two op­po­si­tion par­ties, Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane, to Robben Is­land, where you were im­pris­oned for 26 years, so that they could truly ap­pre­ci­ate the strug­gle of some of those known to have en­dured one of the cru­elest pun­ish­ments of the il­le­git­i­mate apartheid regime. As a uni­fier, you ob­vi­ously felt that South Africa was more im­por­tant than party pol­i­tics. Af­ter all, your life’s strug­gle was to en­sure democ­racy in our coun­try.

Sadly, these same young lead­ers, who I be­lieve se­cretly love the ANC but no longer have con­fi­dence in us in our cur­rent state, suf­fer from the “me first” men­tal­ity that the ANC Youth League also seems to be en­snared in. How can men and women chas­ing their 40s pur­port to rep­re­sent the real youth?

If we ab­sorb the mes­sage from great lead­ers such as our late and long­est-serv­ing ANC pres­i­dent Oliver Tambo, in whose name the ANC in­tends to forge unity, surely ours is to serve the na­tion in the man­ner in which our pol­icy doc­u­ment, the Free­dom Char­ter, dic­tates. This can­not be achieved if we con­tinue to ig­nore sages like you, who keep in­sist­ing that the cap­tain does the right thing. If we ig­nore the pains of now, the bet­ter will never come.

In July last year, when vis­it­ing Or­ange Farm with you, to­gether with Gaut­eng ANC lead­ers and for­mer pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe, you said: “Com­rades, it was the vol­un­teers that went door to door col­lect­ing the de­mands of our peo­ple that then turned into the Free­dom Char­ter. Don’t ever stop do­ing what you’re do­ing as vol­un­teers.”

So, as I bid you farewell Un­cle Kathy, I know you fought a brave, life­long fight. Like other lead­ers with in­tegrity, you in­spired me to fear­lessly con­tinue to speak truth to power. And, like you, I choose South Africa. Robala ka khotso Sea­parankwe, and thank you. Sexwale is a com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gist and a po­lit­i­cal ad­viser

TRUTH TO POWER Beloved ANC stal­wart, the late Ahmed Kathrada

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