Nqakula mem­oir: Zuma must go

The cur­rent cap­tain and crew of the ANC Ti­tanic do not know how to steer it away from the ice­bergs in its path, writes the author

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - – Staff Reporter

A MAJOR book is to be launched to­mor­row by for­mer jour­nal­ist, mil­i­tary com­man­der and cab­i­net min­is­ter Charles Nqakula. The Peo­ple’s War – Re­flec­tions of an ANC Cadre, of­fers a com­pelling mem­oir of those who par­tic­i­pated in the Strug­gle for free­dom.

It seeks to pay homage to the un­her­alded and of­ten seem­ingly for­got­ten fight­ers of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment.

In his book, Nqakula calls on Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, a close con­fi­dant, to re­lin­quish the state pres­i­dency when he gives up the lead­er­ship of the ANC in De­cem­ber, so as to give the new pres­i­dent an op­por­tu­nity to lead the lib­er­a­tion move­ment into the wa­ter­shed 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.

This was be­cause Zuma had be­come “the weak­est link” amid wide­spread al­le­ga­tions and in­creas­ing ev­i­dence of state cap­ture.

The Mut­loatse Arts Her­itage Trust and Real African Pub­lish­ers de­scribe the book as “a highly per­sonal and evoca­tive glimpse into ex­tra­or­di­nary life ex­pe­ri­ences. It of­fers a vivid ac­count of com­plex sit­u­a­tions that shaped his life, that of his com­pa­tri­ots and South Africa to­day, with in­ti­mate ac­cess to key politi­cians and mon­u­men­tal mo­ments through the his­tory of the ANC”.

The book is to be launched to­mor­row at 6pm at The Cas­tle in Cape Town, the first build­ing and strong­hold of the colo­nial­ists, and home of the then apartheid army’s West­ern Prov­ince Com­mand, which was bombed by the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto weSizwe, of which Nqakula was a se­nior com­man­der.

While it now serves as the West­ern Cape head­quar­ters of a united SANDF, The Cas­tle was where the first po­lit­i­cal prisoners were in­car­cer­ated, tor­tured and killed.

As a jour­nal­ist and leader of the jour­nal­ist union, the Me­dia Work­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa, Nqakula was jailed, tor­tured, banned and forced into ex­ile, serv­ing full-time in MK in ex­ile and in Cape Town as part of Op­er­a­tion Vula.

The launch, to be at­tended by cab­i­net min­is­ters, MPs and dig­ni­taries, is to in­clude a key­note ad­dress by Nqakula’s wife, De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Say the pub­lish­ers: “Over a span of 50 years, the book hu­man­ises what it means to strug­gle by un­earthing sto­ries of per­sonal en­coun­ters with an ex­ten­sive spec­trum of ANC cadres. Ex­pe­ri­ences with iconic lead­ers past and present, such as Oliver Tambo, of­fer read­ers an en­cy­clo­pe­dic in­sight into an of­ten hid­den world.

“Now, speak­ing openly for the first time, a for­mer gen­eral sec­re­tary of the SACP and po­lit­i­cal ad­viser to the Pres­i­dency, gives read­ers a ring­side seat to his emo­tional and of­ten painful jour­ney of love, strug­gle, tragedy and com­mit­ment with his wife and fam­ily. “The Peo­ple’s War re­vis­its the past in light of a po­lit­i­cally charged present and asks dif­fi­cult ques­tions of the ANC by ex­pos­ing sen­si­tive truths and ob­ser­va­tions in the party. The book of­fers a plat­form to re­con­sider South Africa’s col­lec­tive mem­ory by con­nect­ing with the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal path­way, ac­knowl­edg­ing sac­ri­fices made and propos­ing so­lu­tions to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.”

Mut­loatse Arts Her­itage Trust founder, Dr Mothobi Mut­loatse, said: “With South Africa fac­ing un­charted po­lit­i­cal wa­ters, politi­cians and the peo­ple want to know where our coun­try is headed, The Peo­ple’s War – Re­flec­tions of an ANC Cadre gives read­ers a chance to re­flect on our cur­rent cri­sis through the lens of his­tory.”

Ex­tract from Charles Nqakula’s book The Peo­ple’s War – Re­flec­tions of an ANC Cadre

HOW did we get here?

The ques­tion re­ver­ber­ates around the room like an ex­plo­sion. It is asked when­ever small groups of se­ri­ous ANC mem­bers meet and try to as­sess the po­lit­i­cal dam­age that has been caused to the move­ment over more than 20 years of free­dom.

Baleka Mbete, Lindiwe Sisulu, Tony Yen­geni, Tha­bang Mak­wetla, No­siviwe and I used to sit to­gether and dis­cuss po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in South Africa, es­pe­cially those re­lat­ing to the ANC. Our views would some­times find their way into the dis­cus­sions of the NEC, of which we were mem­bers.

Lindiwe first asked the ques­tion after Thabo Mbeki sacked Ja­cob Zuma as South Africa’s deputy pres­i­dent, and dis­unity took root in ANC ranks. It was about the po­lit­i­cal mi­lieu that some of the ac­tions or de­ci­sions of the ANC lead­er­ship had cat­a­pulted us into. It was 2006 and Lindi, No­siviwe and I were sit­ting in a cor­ner at Lindi’s home in Cape Town. The ques­tion was in­tended to in­ter­ro­gate the di­vi­sions that were threat­en­ing to tear the ANC asun­der. The gath­er­ing storm was omi­nous. Fast-for­ward to 2017: the po­lit­i­cal tsunami has grown ex­po­nen­tially and threat­ens to break the for­mi­da­ble bonds that kept the ANC to­gether for many years.

Mem­bers of the ANC, cel­e­brat­ing 105 years of the move­ment’s es­tab­lish­ment in 1912, de­fied the in­clement weather on Sun­day, Jan­uary 8, 2017, to fill Or­lando Sta­dium in Soweto to ca­pac­ity – late­com­ers had to be shut­tled into des­ig­nated over­flow ar­eas out­side the sta­dium. It was a big show of force and an at­tempt to si­lence the move­ment’s de­trac­tors, who had been crow­ing about the loss of sup­port for the old­est po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tion in Africa.

They were gloat­ing be­cause the ANC pre­sented an im­age of a wounded lion that could be killed off by po­lit­i­cal preda­tors.

Of course, the ANC has been wounded – not fa­tally, but wounded nonethe­less. Its wounds are self-in­flicted – a con­se­quence of self-in­jury of the worst kind.

Pres­i­dent Zuma, charged with de­liv­er­ing the NEC cel­e­bra­tion ad­dress on the day, painted the fol­low­ing pic­ture:

“The peo­ple have told us that we are too busy fight­ing each other and we do not pay suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion to their needs. Our own re­search and in­ter­ac­tions with mem­bers of the ANC demon­strate clearly that the peo­ple ab­hor the ap­par­ent pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with per­sonal gain… We must com­mit to the unity of the ANC and the only no­ble fight that we must en­gage in is a fight to serve the peo­ple and not our­selves.

“We must learn from Pres­i­dent OR (Tambo) and con­tinue to demon­strate to the peo­ple, in word and in deed, that the ANC re­mains the or­gan­i­sa­tion most ca­pa­ble of lead­ing South Africa. The ANC must unite so that we are able to unite the peo­ple against our com­mon en­e­mies – un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity.”

It would seem, though, that none of the lead­ers of the move­ment has the nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal will or au­thor­ity to bring ev­ery­body into line and en­force the ANC’s core val­ues. In­stead they com­plain, like some of the ju­nior lead­ers in the branches and prov­inces, about the pres­ence in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s struc­tures of “neg­a­tive forces”.

The cur­rent Top Six, elected in 2012, com­prises Ja­cob Zuma as pres­i­dent, Cyril Ramaphosa as deputy pres­i­dent, Baleka Mbete as na­tional chair­per­son, Gwede Man­tashe as sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Jessie Duarte as deputy sec­re­tary- gen­eral and Zweli Mkhize as trea­surer. It is a house di­vided. The pend­ing De­cem­ber 2017 elective con­fer­ence of the move­ment

has sharp­ened their dif­fer­ences and hard­ened the di­vi­sions. At the cen­tre of the prob­lem is the fact that they have dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests that the elec­tion out­come will af­fect.

Tambo be­lieved that there were no bat­tles the ANC would not win if it was united. Prob­lems did sur­face from time to time un­der his watch, but the ANC was able to deal with some of the neg­a­tive en­ergy, in­clud­ing the shenani­gans of the Group of Eight. Tambo in­ter­vened when­ever prob­lems emerged and drove unity as the glue that would keep the ANC to­gether.

When the founders es­tab­lished the ANC, they never thought it would one day de­gen­er­ate to the level where it finds it­self to­day – pen­e­trated by mem­bers who are bent only on fi­nan­cial gain and ready to use crooked means to get their hands on it. Most of the time the money is needed to bribe com­rades for sup­port in elec­tions.

I of­ten won­der what im­age of the ANC drifts across the mind of African Chris­tian Demo­cratic Party leader Rev­erend Ken­neth Meshoe’s mind when he looks at and lis­tens to its mem­bers de­bate in Par­lia­ment, at least since the 2009 elec­tion. The ANC’s big­gest elec­toral vic­tory was un­der Mbeki in 2004, when it scored a 69.69% vic­tory, se­cur­ing 279 of the 400 seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly.

Meshoe’s re­frain from 2004 – maybe a warn­ing – was that the ANC may have be­come smug and ar­ro­gant in the face of that huge vic­tory. He went on to say: “You may be­lieve, at this time, that you are like the Ti­tanic. Re­mem­ber that ship was sup­posed to be un­sink­able but it did sink. You are also go­ing to sink.” The 2009 elec­tion saw the ANC lose 33 of the 279 seats it won in 2004. Its tally dropped again in the 2014 elec­tion, when it scored 62.15%, los­ing a fur­ther 15 seats.

Then came the move­ment’s worst per­for­mance – in the 2016 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, when it lost the major met­ros of Jo­han­nes­burg, Tsh­wane and Nel­son Man­dela Bay to a coali­tion of op­po­si­tion par­ties.

The loss threw the na­tional lead­er­ship of the party into a caul­dron of con­fu­sion and non­sen­si­cal state­ments. The most ob­vi­ous non­sense was the view that the ANC had lost noth­ing.

Meshoe may be re­serv­ing his judg­ment, but he must be se­cretly pray­ing, as a min­is­ter of re­li­gion, for an­other dose of di­vine in­ter­ven­tion in the 2019 elec­tions to en­sure that an op­po­si­tion coali­tion takes power from the ANC. He surely wants the Ti­tanic that is the African Na­tional Congress to sink.

The cur­rent cap­tain and crew of ANC Ti­tanic do not know how to steer the ship away from the ice­bergs in its path. They can­not get rid of the cor­rup­tion in the ranks of the move­ment, nor deal with the neg­a­tive ten­den­cies that have sown dis­unity. They have been im­mo­bilised by their own cul­pa­bil­ity for the wrongs that have be­come al­most sec­ond na­ture at ev­ery level of lead­er­ship.

Lindiwe Sisulu’s ques­tion stands: “How did we get here?” I have an an­swer: we walked away when wrong­do­ing took root and its pu­trid smell per­me­ated all our en­deav­ours. We wanted to keep our hands and noses clean. We are to blame as much as the cur­rent lead­ers are.

My last point is a per­sonal plea to Pres­i­dent Zuma. At the end of the De­cem­ber 2017 con­fer­ence, the ANC will have a corps of new lead­ers, in­clud­ing a newly elected pres­i­dent. Zuma must not agree to the sug­ges­tion that his term be ex­tended to align it with his cur­rent term as pres­i­dent of the coun­try, which would change his­tory by in­flu­enc­ing the terms of fu­ture pres­i­dents. Such a move would have to be thor­oughly dis­cussed to de­ter­mine whether it car­ries ad­van­tages for the ANC.

The mem­bers of the move­ment, in­clud­ing the del­e­gates that the var­i­ous struc­tures will send to con­fer­ence, may have many tac­ti­cal dif­fer­ences on how to move for­ward, but wher­ever they stand on the con­flicts over po­si­tions in the move­ment they all agree the ANC must be united. That unity of pur­pose will help the or­gan­i­sa­tion to re­oc­cupy its po­si­tion as the tried and tested leader of South Africa’s masses. It will also en­sure that the ANC re­tains power for as long as pos­si­ble. What­ever their po­si­tion on the con­flicts of the day, no mem­ber of the ANC wants to lose power.

The masses must see and be con­vinced that the new ANC pres­i­dent has what it takes to lead the whole coun­try after the 2019 elec­tions. For that to hap­pen, the newly elected pres­i­dent must be given space to project him or her­self as lead­er­ship ma­te­rial. To that ex­tent, Zuma should re­sign his pres­i­dency of the coun­try soon after the ANC has cho­sen its lead­ers. The party would then pi­lot through Par­lia­ment the new ANC leader as South Africa’s pres­i­dent.

Zuma owes it to the founders of the ANC and the lead­ers who pre­ceded him over many years to give the next pres­i­dent an op­por­tu­nity to present them­selves in the high­est of­fice in the land and ex­ert au­thor­ity over ev­ery­body, thus lead­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s forces and the other South Africans to­wards “a new life, em­brac­ing the di­verse phases of a higher, com­plex ex­is­tence”, as Seme put it. That is what the ANC calls a bet­ter life for all of South Africa’s peo­ple – black and white.

The ball is in Zuma’s court. His con­science should tell him what to do and, know­ing him to be a revo­lu­tion­ary demo­crat, I am con­vinced he will do what is right. I be­lieve he still pos­sesses the right revo­lu­tion­ary ori­en­ta­tion, and that this will make him un­der­stand that he must yield power in or­der to gain re­spect and save the move­ment he leads.

The Peo­ple’s War – Re­flec­tions of an ANC Cadre is re­leased in pa­per­back and as an e-book. The book will be launched a the Cas­tle of Good Hope in Cape Town on Tues­day, June 13, start­ing at 6pm, and at the Uni­ver­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg’s Kingsway cam­pus on Thurs­day, June 22.

For­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter and Am­bas­sador to Mozam­bique, Charles Nqakula is cur­rently the chair­man of Par­lia­ment’s joint stand­ing com­mit­tee on in­tel­li­gence.

Charles Nqakula


AT THE HELM: South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma greets sup­port­ers at a rally to com­mem­o­rate the 105th birth­day of the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress in Soweto on Jan­uary 8, 2017.

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