Strug­gle cre­den­tials aren’t a free pass to any­thing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

WHO owns the Strug­gle? Who has the right to claim it and quote from it? Who has the author­ity to make judg­ments based on it?

Should peo­ple’s con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing the Strug­gle mat­ter at all post-apartheid? And does it mat­ter less if those peo­ple are no longer in­volved in or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in the Strug­gle or, worse, have joined forces with par­ties who were not in­volved in the Strug­gle or were seen to have been op­posed to it?

These ques­tions oc­cu­pied my mind this week as var­i­ous peo­ple evoked the Strug­gle to il­lus­trate dif­fer­ent points.

For in­stance, be­fore he handed in his res­ig­na­tion as act­ing SABC chief ex­ec­u­tive, some peo­ple were won­der­ing what had hap­pened to the Jimi Matthews, who had been in­volved in the Strug­gle and who had cov­ered many po­lit­i­cal protests as a cam­era­man in the 1980s.

In ques­tion­ing the go­ings-on at the SABC, se­nior par­lia­men­tary re­porter Lukhanyo Calata evoked the mem­ory of his fa­ther, Fort Calata, one of the Cradock Four who were killed by the po­lice on June 27, 1985. Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Spar­row Mkonto and Sicelo Mhuali had been in­ter­cepted by se­cu­rity po­lice out­side Port El­iz­a­beth. Their deaths marked a turn­ing point in the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle in­side South Africa, putting tremen­dous pres­sure on the apartheid regime.

Matthews re­deemed him­self with his res­ig­na­tion, say­ing he could no longer work in a cor­ro­sive en­vi­ron­ment. There were some peo­ple, how­ever, who felt his res­ig­na­tion was a case of too lit­tle, too late. But it was Calata’s com­ments which made many peo­ple sit up and think. He re­port­edly said the di­rec­tion taken by the SABC “flies in the face of what many have sac­ri­ficed”. He ac­cused the SABC, his em­ployer, of curb­ing me­dia free­dom and won­dered what had hap­pened to the lead­ers of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment who “stood at my fa­ther’s grave and waxed lyri­cal about the free­dom he died for”.

“How do they live with them­selves? How do they watch as the rights and free­doms the Cradock Four were bru­tally mur­dered for are sys­tem­at­i­cally be­ing un­done?” Calata was quoted as say­ing.

Sub­se­quently, the top brass at the SABC an­nounced they would take ac­tion against Calata. It re­mains to be seen whether Matthews’s ac­tions will be enough to re­deem him in the eyes of his crit­ics.

But this col­umn is not about the SABC. It is rather about the rel­e­vance of Strug­gle cre­den­tials in post-apartheid South Africa.

There are many peo­ple who con­trib­uted to the Strug­gle and who dis­graced them­selves sub­se­quently. There are others who con­trib­uted and de­cided, after 1990, to con­cen­trate on build­ing their lives, some­thing which had not been a pri­or­ity dur­ing the Strug­gle years.

There are others who found new causes and made that the bat­tle grounds for their new strug­gles.

These in­clude HIV/Aids, free and bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and me­dia free­dom, which some peo­ple in the rul­ing party would like to cur­tail.

But there are also peo­ple who were not in­volved in the Strug­gle – some might be too young while others might not have been in­spired to get in­volved at the time – who are now mak­ing a great con­tri­bu­tion to our so­ci­ety. Does a con­tri­bu­tion to the Strug­gle out­weigh lat­ter-day con­tri­bu­tions?

There are also many who left the for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ment a long time ago and now find them­selves in what used to be en­emy ranks. I am not talk­ing about Loy­iso Nkohla and his group of Ses’Khona sup­port­ers who de­fected to the DA re­cently. Throw­ing fae­ces out­side the pro­vin­cial par­lia­ment, or any­where for that mat­ter, does not make you a Strug­gle vet­eran.

I am talk­ing about peo­ple who were out and out sup­port­ers of the ANC and its then-big­gest ri­val, the PAC, and who now will have noth­ing to do with ei­ther of these or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Do we un­der­value their con­tri­bu­tion to­day be­cause they are no longer mem­bers of the club?

This be­comes a cru­cial ques­tion as we head to­wards lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions when cer­tain peo­ple will want to be judged on their his­tory and Strug­gle cre­den­tials – and they are not only in the ANC – when they should be judged on whether they are able to de­liver ser­vices at a lo­cal level.

I de­cided a long time ago I would not sup­port any po­lit­i­cal party or in­di­vid­ual politi­cian just be­cause we share a his­tory. I would rather sup­port some­one based on the dif­fer­ence he or she is mak­ing to so­ci­ety, ir­re­spec­tive of party af­fil­i­a­tion.

Many of us be­lieved the Strug­gle ended in 1990 after Nel­son Man­dela was re­leased, or in 1994 when we voted for the first time in a demo­cratic South Africa. How­ever, what is be­com­ing clearer to me ev­ery day is the Strug­gle is far from over. It is just tak­ing on dif­fer­ent shapes. While we should ap­pre­ci­ate the con­tri­bu­tion of those who went be­fore us, we should also judge their ac­tions to­day in re­la­tion to the many chal­lenges we face. Just be­cause some­body op­posed me­dia re­stric­tions in the past does not give her the right to be­come a cen­sor to­day. And just be­cause some­body op­posed apartheid in the past, does not mean that he can­not be racist to­day.

There are some in the gov­ern­ment who be­lieve if you are crit­i­cal of them then you are counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But what if some of the ac­tions of peo­ple in the gov­ern­ment are coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary?

I be­lieve in a set of val­ues which de­ter­mine my ac­tions and my at­ti­tude to­wards the ac­tions of others. These in­clude a be­lief in non-racism, non-sex­ism, a de­sire to have a more eq­ui­table so­ci­ety where ev­ery­one has equal ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties, and a strong com­mit­ment to a free me­dia.

If your ac­tions go against any of my be­liefs, then I will take is­sue with you, ir­re­spec­tive of your Strug­gle cre­den­tials.

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