Vet­eran trou­bled his party’s go­ing ‘astray’

Mfenyana says it hurts to see what’s hap­pen­ing in the ANC now, writes

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

LEAN­ING for­ward slightly, with the pain vis­i­bly etched on his face, ANC vet­eran Sindiso Mfenyana is un­am­bigu­ous when he says: “It pains me to see the ANC in a (cor­rupt) mess.”

Mfenyana is a long-serv­ing mem­ber of the party, hav­ing served the ANC in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties for over five decades. Start­ing off in its Youth League in the 1950s, he was de­ployed to ex­ile in or­der to fight the re­pres­sive apartheid regime.

He spoke to The Star yes­ter­day at the ANC’s na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence held in Nas­rec, Joburg.

On Tues­day, Mfenyana launched his new book Walk­ing With Gi­ants: Life and Times of an ANC Vet­eran (South Africa His­tory On­line), a memoir that out­lines not only his story, but sto­ries of var­i­ous other lead­ers who self­lessly sac­ri­ficed their lives to wrench the coun­try away from the clutches of op­pres­sion as well.

In the book, he re­lates a story of how the late Strug­gle icon Wal­ter Sisulu, whom he stayed with when he ar­rived in Joburg in 1960, told him not to in­volve him­self with crim­i­nal el­e­ments as the ANC “was not a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

This re­lates to how Mfenyana wanted to join his child­hood friend, Lwan­dle, who was from their na­tive Eastern Cape.

Mfenyana writes that, when he saw Lwan­dle for the first time in Joburg, his friend was rob­bing a jew­ellery store on Com­mis­sioner Street.

This gave Mfenyana the idea to also get in­volved in crim­i­nal­ity in or­der to fund the ANC, which he said was broke and “sur­viv­ing on do­na­tions” af­ter its ban­ning in 1960.

“I gen­tly re­lated my ex­pe­ri­ence with Lwan­dle with Tat’uWal­ter (Sisulu), with a hint, to solve the ques­tion of scarce funds,” Mfenyana writes.

“The Old Man pulled me into the cor­ner and sternly told me that the ANC was not a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Asked yes­ter­day whether it hurt to hear re­ports of deep-rooted corruption and the so-called state cap­ture, as lu­cidly out­lined by ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe in his Or­gan­i­sa­tional Re­port that he de­liv­ered on Fri­day, Mfenyana said: “Of course!

“It hurts any­body who has been in the ANC – es­pe­cially those of us who are veter­ans of the move­ment. You ask your­self: ‘Why is my or­gan­i­sa­tion go­ing astray in cer­tain re­spects?’”

He stressed, how­ever, that he was loyal to the ANC and would not en­ter­tain no­tions of de­sert­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Some peo­ple would say: ‘I’m fed-up; I’m not go­ing to vote for the ANC any­more. There are crooks, Gup­tas; Zuma is cor­rupt and so on’,” he said.

“But if you are re­ally a loyal ANC mem­ber with a long ser­vice to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, you worry about how you can help the or­gan­i­sa­tion to get out of this mess.”

The late Ahmed Kathrada, an iconic fig­ure in the anti-apartheid Strug­gle, wrote the book’s fore­word, where he lauded Mfenyana for his in­volve­ment in fight­ing the op­pres­sors and be­ing the first black per­son to be Sec­re­tary to Par­lia­ment in 1994.

“Sindiso is a revo­lu­tion­ary cadre, quiet diplo­mat, com­pe­tent ad­min­is­tra­tor and loyal func­tionary,” Kathrada wrote.

These views from the renowned ac­tivist en­cap­su­late Mfenyana’s char­ac­ter and writ­ing style; sim­ple but gets the point across.

Mfenyana said one of the peo­ple who in­flu­enced him was Mary Turok, whom he said would never use big words be­cause she wanted her mes­sage to be clear.

“But you could feel her de­vo­tion that she was a gen­uine com­rade,” he said.

“When we worked with white com­rades against a white, op­pres­sive gov­ern­ment, we had to tell our­selves: ‘No, the white race is not the is­sue; it’s the per­son that counts’.

“You could be white and be good or white and be bad.”

He added that even black peo­ple have good and bad traits, say­ing some of the Ban­tus­tan, or home­land, lead­ers showed them at an early stage that black peo­ple could also be op­pres­sors.

“This is what is creep­ing into the move­ment; we are hear­ing of peo­ple talk­ing about ‘white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal’.

“That is not what the ANC is about. Mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal is mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal; if you’re a cap­i­tal­ist, you are a cap­i­tal­ist – re­gard­less of race,” Mfenyana said.


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