‘I had to step be­yond my eth­i­cal bounds’

For­mer West­ern Cape pre­mier Ebrahim Ra­sool says the ANC needs a 10-year plan to win back the prov­ince

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

“I used that op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate out­pour­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple. We de­cided to place Man­dela’s statue out­side the em­bassy, where the first anti-apartheid civil rights ac­tivists were ar­rested.”

Ra­sool said Obama might have had un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of his pres­i­dency.

“If Pres­i­dent Obama were to think back over his term as pres­i­dent of the US, he should not only have re­grets about what he could have done, but he would re­alise the lim­i­ta­tions of his pow­ers.

“If Congress hates you be­cause you are black, you will not get any­thing done. If you can­not man­age the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity over how blacks are treated, or even is­sue a de­cree on a sim­ple self-ev­i­dent is­sue of gun vi­o­lence, then what is your pres­i­dency about?”

Ra­sool said the world was be­com­ing po­larised be­tween ul­tra-left and ul­tra-right.

“You can’t look at Don­ald Trump with­out look­ing at Bernie San­ders. On the one side there is this vis­ceral racism and in­tol­er­ance, the idea that a black pres­i­dent has taken our coun­try away from us, and that we are be­ing over­run by the other.

“Trump has been able to get away with press­ing the hot but­tons of big­otry and with the vague prom­ise of mak­ing Amer­ica great again, which could eas­ily be mak­ing Amer­ica white again.

“That is a global phe­nom­e­non, be­cause we live in an era where money, goods, cap­i­tal, tech­nol­ogy flow in an in­stant, but the mo­ment peo­ple dis­play the same mo­bil­ity, we don’t know what to do with them. But there are young peo­ple who are say­ing the world can be dif­fer­ent, we can live in­clu­sively and we can co­ex­ist.”

Ra­sool said his most dif­fi­cult task in the US had been ex­plain­ing the Marikana mas­sacre.

“The coali­tion of black trade unions was hor­ri­fied that in post-apartheid South Africa 35 peo­ple could be shot dead.

“They con­vened a meet­ing of Trans-Africa and all the greats of the anti-apartheid strug­gle and penned a dev­as­tat­ing let­ter. If that let­ter ever saw the light of day, it would be the great­est vote of no-con­fi­dence in demo­cratic South Africa from peo­ple who fought in the trenches for our free­dom.

“Out of cour­tesy to me, they came to see me as a del­e­ga­tion. They said they wanted to read me a let­ter that they were go­ing to send to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and then re­lease to the me­dia. I read that let­ter and I thought, what­ever the aber­ra­tions in South Africa, we can’t af­ford this to be the epi­taph to be writ­ten on our grave­stone.

“I asked them not to send the let­ter and in re­turn I would or­gan­ise a memo­rial ser­vice in Wash­ing­ton for the vic­tims of the Marikana mas­sacre where they could say what they wanted to say. At the memo­rial, we mourned the loss of in­no­cence in South Africa. But by that time, they had tem­pered their lan­guage.

“There are ways of rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try in tragic mo­ments.

“You can do the per­func­tory thing, is­sue the state­ment, jus­ti­fy­ing it, swear­ing al­le­giance and make as if nothing has gone wrong, blame ev­ery­thing on the work­ers – or you can sim­ply be hon­est.”

Ra­sool be­lieves the ANC in the West­ern Cape is in a worse con­di­tion now than when he was its leader.

“In 2008 my ap­proval rating as pre­mier was at about 62 per­cent, and the ANC gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval rate in the West­ern Cape was at 53 per­cent.

“It is sad that the ANC could muster only 30 per­cent in the last elec­tion, below what we got in 1994. We are fight­ing for our life, we are caught up in the iden­tity pol­i­tics that I thought we had left be­hind in 1994. We are mired in con­tro­versy, al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and of un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour.

“Whether I would have been able to make a dif­fer­ence is another mat­ter.”

He be­lieves the ANC would have to im­ple­ment a 10-year pro­gramme to win back the West­ern Cape.

“We must set our­selves at least another 10-year time frame from this elec­tion and we must do the hard yards again, like we did be­tween 1994 and 2004. You can­not get the con­fi­dence of the prov­ince if you can­not build unity in the ANC. You can’t pro­ject an im­age of non-racial­ism if you are frag­mented racially within the ANC.”

Ra­sool said na­tional pol­i­tics were im­pact­ing on lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

“If you are spend­ing an elec­tion cam­paign de­fend­ing, you are never get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance.

“When I go to mosque, I have to spend the first 10 min­utes ex­plain­ing what went wrong. For ac­tivists who have to can­vass door to door, it is fear-in­spir­ing to meet only scep­ti­cism.”

Asked whether he would con­sider a come­back, he said he re­mained a “po­lit­i­cal animal” and an ANC mem­ber.

“There will al­ways be some­thing that I will have to be grate­ful for to the ANC, but be­cause of all those ex­pe­ri­ences, I also have the obli­ga­tion to say things in the gen­tlest, most in­tel­li­gent ways when I see things are wrong.”


For­mer West­ern Cape pre­mier Ebrahim Ra­sool in front of his res­i­dence at Leeuwen­hof in 2005.

Ra­sool greets then-deputy pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.