/ 6 March 2015

Letters to the editor: March 6 to 12 2015

The SACP flag.
The SACP flag.

Kotane reburial revives the true MK narrative

The news has been full of the government’s return from Russia the mortal remains of former South African Communist Party (SACP) leaders Moses Kotane and JB Marks. It is useful to contrast the ANC’s official rhetoric with newly published research, allowing some reflection on aspects of the ANC-SACP alliance in the early 1960s.

The ANC’s president, Albert Luthuli, argued vehemently in June 1961, in an ANC working committee, against the launch of “armed struggle” against the South African state. Likewise, Kotane favoured continued nonviolent protest, motivated not by pacifism but by pragmatism. Unlike the ideologically driven impulsivity of Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and others, Kotane correctly anticipated a devastating government reaction, which would severely harm the ANC and its close ally, the SACP.

Historian Stephen Ellis has verified this in his ground-breaking work External Mission: The ANC in Exile. Like other ANC members (including Mandela), Kotane, then the SACP’s general secretary, held membership of both organisations. Partly because of differences in opinion in the ANC on “armed struggle”, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), another organisation was formed. It was dominated by the SACP. ANC national executive members who disagreed with the armed struggle strategy had to turn a blind eye to this, marking the beginning of the end of the dignified Luthuli’s presidential influence in the ANC.

Kotane spoke as an ANC, not an SACP, member, when he rejected Slovo and the others’ plans. As Ellis shows, the launch of the “armed struggle” was little more than a hijack by the deluded “Johannesburg SACP clique”, people who unquestioningly swallowed the Moscow line of how decolonisation in Africa marked the “end of the capitalistic world”.

The SACP and its fellow travellers were also in thrall to events in Algeria, where the violent Algerian National Liberation Front’s terror against Arabs and French colonialists alike served as inspiration and a possible revolutionary method for MK.

ANC history since 1994 has downplayed the overwhelming leadership role of the Stalinist SACP in the 1960s. The “official” ANC line remains MK’s amateurish sabotage campaign of 1961-63 was meant to avoid casualties and “wake government up”. In fact, SACP commissars fantasised MK sabotage would detonate a wider black uprising and white South African state control would rapidly collapse.

As Kotane predicted, the ANC-SACP leadership was all but crushed. Any historian will concur the “armed struggle” had minuscule impact in driving the change in South Africa that culminated in 1994’s elections.

Today, South Africa sees a floundering ANC-SACP government flirting with totalitarianism and practising profoundly damaging ideologically driven agendas, now called “transformation”, “representivity”, the national democratic revolution and so on.

One wonders if today there are any Kotanes vainly warning behind closed doors of potential disasters looming on the horizon. – Dr Rodney Warwick, Cape Town

•?A comprehensive programme for reburying our struggle heroes and heroines, with the costs detailed, must be presented to the public.

We must applaud the initiative to bring back the remains of Moses Kotane and JB Marks. Already the remains of Moses Mabhida, Cassius Maake, Johnny Makhathini, Bonnie Masabalala Yengwa and others have been returned. The National Prosecuting Authority has helped to trace deceased MK members.

Loved ones of Andile Kondile, Charles Ndaba and Mbuso Shabalala still hope to find their bones. Some mistakenly labelled informers, such as Thami Zulu, must be given remembrance status. We must press the government to remember the dead in Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Wankie, Sipolilo, Namibia and South Africa. It would be elitist to forget “ordinary people” who made Marks and Kotane extraordinary leaders.

Today, the SACP under Blade Nzimande defends the ANC “looting brigade”. Others have looted ANC assets. Schabir Shaik’s Nkobi Holdings did not benefit the family of Titus Nkobi, and we must ensure that the names of Kotane and Marks are not used to hook tenders, as happened with Nkobi’s name. – Siyanda Mhlongo, KwaDukuza

Kadalie returns as bitter and ignorant as ever

A few years ago, when Rhoda Kadalie made a hullabaloo about leaving South Africa, many people who had endured her weekly newspaper diatribes rejoiced. Indeed, many hoped that time away might do her some good. Alas, these hopes have been dashed.

Her letter to the Mail & Guardian (“Iqbal Survé wasn’t pushed, he jumped”), reveals that she is as bitter and incoherent as she ever was. Besides the attack on Survé being defamatory and personal, it does not mask the fact that the primary objective of the letter is deflection from the serious questions raised by several commentators (also featured in the M&G), about the lack of urgency in transformation at the University of Cape Town (UCT), 20 years into our democracy.

Furthermore, it appears that she’s even more determined than ever to be the chief black defender of white privilege. Anyone who’s familiar with the American cartoon series The Boondocks, and in particular the character of Uncle Ruckus, will immediately recognise the Kadalie mentality. White is always good, black is always bad.

According to her, UCT retains its reputation for “quality education” precisely because it has stubbornly held on to its lily-white faculty staff, unlike other universities that make an effort to recruit, train and appoint black academics. According to her, one of these “lesser quality” universities is the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), to which students apparently “give a wide berth in preference to UCT”.

For the record, UKZN has a larger student body than UCT and is an acknowledged centre of excellence in many fields of learning and research. Kadalie’s bitterness is only matched by her ignorance.

It would seem, reading the letter, that the lucid moments are infrequent. How else do you explain this: “The UCT student demographic is also racially diverse, very much in favour of black and disadvantaged students, in no small measure due to its revised admissions policy”, which is then followed by statistical evidence proving the exact opposite?

No amount of personal attacks on Survé will make the transformation issues raised go away. Only dealing with them honestly and with introspection will do that. – Zenariah Barends, chief of staff, Independent Media