Lekota defends Umshini Wami remarks

African National Congress (ANC) national chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota has defended his negative remarks about people singing freedom songs such as Umshini Wami, saying the issue was not about ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, but about policy.

Speaking to journalists at a media briefing on Wednesday, the defence minister said although he was talking to a specific audience when the remarks were made, the essence of what he said was relevant to everybody.

“These liberation and freedom songs are not pop songs ... which we sing for personal entertainment here and there.

“These are instruments of revolution, cultivated since the inception of our movement,” he said.

They had been sung with a purpose, and been used to advance the ANC’s policies, to announce them, and popularise them.

The songs had changed as policy positions had changed as the ANC went through its phases of struggle.

This was why the ANC national executive committee (NEC)—following the conclusion of the negotiations at Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa)—had stepped in when Peter Mokaba continued using slogans such as “kill the boer, kill the farmer”, which clearly flew in the face of policy.

The ANC had to look at what it was it wanted to say to the people, Lekota said.

“We have a responsibility to unite the people of this country. We carry the responsibility to unite these people and to reconcile them, and to focus their attention on the task of national upliftment and a better life for the people.

“Leaders of the ANC, therefore, cannot behave like anybody else on the street.

“I want to see the ANC work in the interests of the people of South Africa, uniting them, drawing young people and focusing their attention on the critical tasks of upliftment and advancement.

“We must not talk [of] these instruments of revolution, these freedom songs, like we are talking about [pop songs].
This is something different.

“This is a serious matter. It’s a matter of life and death.

“You could cause a situation in which people run around with machine guns and kill other people, when we are nursing a very sensitive national democratic revolution,” Lekota said.

Asked whether he would apologise for the remarks, Lekota said ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe had not yet advised him that there was any organisation outside the ANC that had indicated it required an explanation, not from him, but from the ANC.

If a query was received from any of the ANC’s allied organisations, the NEC would then address the matter.

In any event, it had not been raised at the ANC’s NEC meeting on Monday.

“I speak as part of a collective, so we will respond if there are sister formations that have difficulty with what I have said.

“For the time being, as an individual, I will be guided by the ANC, so I express no opinion on the question of apology.

“I actually don’t know if there is anything to apologise for,” Lekota said.—Sapa

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