Veteran troubled his party’s going ‘astray’
Mfenyana says it hurts to see what’s happening in the ANC now, writes
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.