Sunday World

Death of a liberation movement

It is time to reconcile ourselves with the demise of the party

- Tinyiko Maluleke • Professor Maluleke is a senior research fellow at University of Pretoria Centre for the Advancemen­t of Scholarshi­p. Follow him on Twitter @Proftinyik­o

The bodily remains of the beloved movement lie in state, to be seen by all the doubting Thomases, the betraying Judases, the murderous Brutuses and whosoever cares. Mine is the unenviable task of officially announcing the death of a liberation movement, the nature of death and its causes – an important item in contempora­ry South African funeral programmes.

It is 4am on Monday the 8th of January 2032. Inside the giant marquee, at the upmarket cemetery of Fourways Memorial Park, miniature flags and ribbons of green, red, yellow and gold are blowing in the wind. So is sorrow. Revolution­ary songs are ringing. Feet are stomping. From the back of the marquee, someone shouts: “Long live the dead movement!” The people respond with a diminished and hesitant “long live”!

At that moment, I rise to offer my commiserat­ions.

Backslidde­n comrades, beneficiar­ies, perpetrato­rs and other traitors, we gather here to mourn the hitherto glorious movement. Since all protocol is both reserved and reversed, I will acknowledg­e the presence only of those mourners among us who embody the spirit of Guccio Gucci, Louis Vuitton, VBS, the Watsons and the Gupta brothers – these being some of the most recent influencer­s of the beloved movement.

It seems that after the Codesa kiss of death, the gangrene spread rapidly, deadening its senses, numbing its ability to feel its own pain and the pain of others.

Seduced by the sweet aroma of state power and its bottomless war chest, the beloved movement attempted to hurriedly transform itself into a modern political party. In the end it was neither a political party nor a liberation movement. It became a looting machine instead.

Then came the 1995 air force review of equipment needs – a project which metamorpho­sed into the infamous Arms Deal. Since then, the Arms Deal has become the blueprint of corruption in post-apartheid South Africa. Thus graduated the beloved movement into a dealmaker, an enabler of tenders and a dispenser of food parcels before whom citizens have been seen kneeling and bowing in sheer gratitude.

As comrades queued up for their turns to “eat”, the people were being sprinkled with social grants, empty promises as well as highfaluti­n slogans: “reconstruc­tion

Backslidde­n comrades, beneficier­ies, perpetrato­rs and other traitors

and developmen­t”, “growth, employment and redistribu­tion”, “truth and reconcilia­tion”, “Ubuntu”, “service delivery”, “broad-based black economic empowermen­t”, etc, etc.

In the midst of these hollow slogans, black kids still attended mud schools and more than a few died in pit latrines.

Over the past two decades, there has been many campaigns to nurse the beloved movement back to unity and health. But there were always enough people to oppose such campaigns. In time, the phenomena of state capture and personalit­y cult emerged, with some low selfesteem­ed personalit­ies using whatever they could – patronage, ethnocentr­ism, racism, etc – to build a cult following.

When two young authors suggested 21 years ago that the beloved movement was “technicall­y dead and incapable of renewing itself”, it all sounded farfetched. Not anymore. One hundred and twenty years later, the glorious movement no longer moves anyone.

I have to urge you all to reconcile yourselves with the passing of the beloved movement. It will be hard for those of you who did time and those of you who suffered exile. Neverthele­ss, I urge you to make peace with the loss. It will be harder still for the wretched of our earth who, until recently, had invested all their hopes and dreams in the beloved movement.

Come, let us take comfort in the knowledge that having now kicked the bucket, the beloved movement has slipped into the ancestral realm. There it will be in the company of the likes of Robert Sobukwe, who taught us how to die better; Pixley ka Seme, whose epoch-making speech, “the regenerati­on of Africa”, reverberat­es across the last two centuries; Steven Bantu Biko, who taught us to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, Walter Rubusana, he of the zimkile iinkomo magwalandi­ni fame, as well as Charlotte Maxeke, who admonished us to “kill that spirit of self” and that “if you can rise, bring someone with you”.

After death, the beloved movement is surely in a better place by far. But are we?

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? The ANC flag flies high during the party’s door-to-door elections campaign. The liberation movement is in its dying throes due to corruption and the rise of personalit­y cults.
/Gallo Images The ANC flag flies high during the party’s door-to-door elections campaign. The liberation movement is in its dying throes due to corruption and the rise of personalit­y cults.
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