We owe deep grat­i­tude to Peter Hain

Post - - Opinion - BRIJ MA­HARAJ Brij Ma­haraj is a ge­og­ra­phy pro­fes­sor at UKZN. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

VET­ERAN anti-apartheid ac­tivist – and one of the lead­ers of the move­ment in London – Peter Hain is the man apartheid-sup­port­ing whites loved to hate (and he ac­knowl­edges that some still do, even ex­pats in the UK).

In the apartheid era he was called “Hain the pain”, and no doubt his de­trac­tors in the loot­ing club of the ANC gov­ern­ment would do the same, as he mo­bilises against cor­rup­tion in the Zuma ANC gov­ern­ment in the UK, es­pe­cially in the bank­ing sec­tor.

Although he is of Cau­casian de­scent, it would be dif­fi­cult to la­bel Hain a racist, which is the ANC gov­ern­ment’s de­fault, de­fen­sive re­sponse to cri­tiques of its poli­cies and ac­tions.

Hain’s ac­tivist par­ents were ar­rested, jailed, banned and ha­rassed be­tween 1961 and 1966 and were forced to flee to the UK when he was a teenager.

As a 19-year-old, he played a lead­ing role in en­sur­ing the apartheid pariah state was iso­lated in­ter­na­tion­ally, es­pe­cially in the sport­ing sec­tor, and he be­came a lead­ing light in the anti-apartheid move­ment.

He led the cam­paign to stop rugby and cricket matches be­tween Eng­land and SA from 1969 to 1970.

In 1971, he ini­ti­ated a sim­i­lar, suc­cess­ful cam­paign in Aus­tralia.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the apartheid se­cu­rity forces tried to elim­i­nate him. A let­ter bomb was sent to him in 1972 but it did not det­o­nate.

In 1975, the Bureau for State Se­cu­rity framed him for an al­leged bank rob­bery in a case of mis­taken iden­tity, but he was ac­quit­ted.

He join the Labour Party and served for 12 years as a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter in Bri­tain un­der Tony Blair and Gor­don Brown, re­spec­tively.

On June 26, 1994, mem­bers of the 35-year-old anti-apartheid move­ment in London de­cided to dis­band as its goal of mo­bil­is­ing for a demo­cratic non-racial South Africa was re­alised, and Nel­son Man­dela ex­pressed his grat­i­tude: “The peo­ple of South Africa will be for ever grate­ful. We felt its strength even within the dun­geons of apartheid… Ex­cept for all of you, I might not be stand­ing here, a free man to­day, and our peo­ple would not be free.”

Hain de­scribed Man­dela as a “mag­netic fig­ure (who) never lost his com­mon touch, his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with peo­ple (who) ex­uded hu­man­ity and was a peo­ple’s leader, not just a tow­er­ing fig­ure. Nel­son Man­dela was not just the coura­geous leader whose whole adult life, pretty well, was spent on Robben Is­land in a tiny cell, he was also some­body who healed a bit­terly di­vided na­tion, who brought peo­ple to­gether, who for­gave his op­pres­sors but never for­got their op­pres­sion. And in that sense, he was… the icon of all in­ter­na­tional icons… Nel­son Man­dela can be truly de­scribed as one of the great­est fig­ures of mod­ern times. Not many peo­ple can claim to have changed the his­tory of their na­tion for the bet­ter, by bring­ing to­gether what was then a bit­terly di­vided so­ci­ety”.

In 2015, Hain was awarded the Or­der of the Com­pan­ions of OR Tambo by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, the high­est hon­our pre­sented “to for­eign cit­i­zens who have pro­moted South African in­ter­ests and as­pi­ra­tions through co-op­er­a­tion, sol­i­dar­ity, and sup­port”.

In Hain’s case, the award was for his “ex­cel­lent con­tri­bu­tion to the fight against the in­jus­tices of apartheid, and un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for the South African lib­er­a­tion move­ment”.

In sev­eral in­ter­views in the UK and SA, Hain re­vealed that as a crit­i­cal ac­tivist and a politi­cian (in the UK), he was not blind to the chal­lenges fac­ing SA.

He ac­knowl­edged: “South Africa has made amaz­ing strides com­pared with the dark abyss into which it was col­laps­ing to­wards the end of apartheid.

“At the time of Nel­son Man­dela’s re­lease, the coun­try was at risk of civil war and the econ­omy was in tat­ters. Over the last two decades mil­lions of homes have been built, mil­lions of cit­i­zens have gained ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, run­ning wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, and school at­ten­dance has im­proved. Over­all there has been a sig­nif­i­cant rise in real liv­ing stan­dards.”

How­ever, he be­lieved that Man­dela’s legacy and the sac­ri­fices of so many was be­ing squan­dered and was con­cerned there could be a “rev­o­lu­tion of ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and frus­tra­tion” in SA.

Hain was scathing of the cur­rent pres­i­dent: “Ja­cob Zuma has in­deed al­lowed cor­rup­tion to flourish on a scale which poses a huge and can­cer­ous threat. Crony­ism has re­placed merit, not only in the pub­lic ser­vices, but also in the paras­tatals, which play such a vi­tal role in the econ­omy – from en­ergy to air­lines and wa­ter sup­ply.

“The wa­ter sys­tem, once the clean­est in the world, has fallen into dis­re­pair and is shame­fully im­per­illed… South African schools are not short of text­books be­cause there are no funds, but be­cause bud­gets are badly man­aged or si­phoned off. Nine out of ev­ery 10 schools still lack li­braries and lab­o­ra­to­ries.”

Hain was con­cerned about money laun­der­ing, which was fa­cil­i­tated in part be­cause there was a lack of col­lab­o­ra­tion and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween in­ter­na­tional bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions and law en­force­ment agen­cies. He re­ferred to the “sys­temic transna­tional fi­nan­cial crime net­work fa­cil­i­tated by an In­dian-South African fam­ily, the Gup­tas, and the pres­i­den­tial fam­ily, the Zu­mas”.

As a re­sult of Hain’s re­quest to the Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer, banks such as Stan­dard Char­tered, HSBC and the Bank of Bar­oda are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Author­ity and the Na­tional Crimes Agency in the UK, to de­ter­mine whether they were in­volved in any Gupta-linked trans­ac­tions.

Con­nect this to the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the af­fairs of their neph­ews in the US, the Gup­tas and their cronies may just be en­snared in their own web of de­ceit and de­cep­tion.

Once again, South Africans op­posed to cor­rup­tion and com­mit­ted to good, ac­count­able, trans­par­ent, demo­cratic and re­spon­si­ble gov­er­nance owe a deep debt of grat­i­tude to Lord Peter Hain.

Mean­while, not­with­stand­ing the damn­ing ev­i­dence in Jac­ques Pauw’s game-chang­ing book, The

Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers, South African en­force­ment agen­cies ap­pear to be mori­bund largely be­cause of Zuma’s chess­board machi­na­tions with their pli­able heads in an at­tempt to avoid in­ves­ti­ga­tion, con­vic­tion and the don­ning of or­ange over­alls.

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