/ 4 February 2022

Unbanned are now the damned

Release Mandela
Auspicious: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela are among other familiar, if younger, faces at a protest march in 1990 on the same day as FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC. Photo: Susan Winters Cook/Getty



It’s been 32 years to the day since FW de Klerk was forced to unban the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, signalling the beginning of the end of white minority rule in South Africa.

I can remember a fair amount of the day — a real hallelujah moment in the history of our republic and in my own life — like it was yesterday.

We knew it was coming.

The Nats were broke and isolated internationally; they’d lost the war in Angola and Namibia and the United Democratic Front had made the country ungovernable with a rolling mass action campaign, so it was only a matter of time until De Klerk accepted reality and did what he had to do.

It was still splendid when it happened — the immediate celebration, total strangers going crazy together — but in a beautiful, loving way — the knowledge that De Klerk and the apartheid regime were, finally, officially, on the way out.

The latter part of 2 February 1990 is a bit of a blur.

The spontaneous toyi-toyi we joined in the street outside Dinvir Centre in the Durban CBD minutes after the announcement, took us on a tour of the city centre — thousands and thousands of humans who poured out of flats and supermarkets and takeaways joined a sea of celebration that flowed through the main streets and ended up at City Hall.

The quick beer to cool off after we dispersed at the upstairs bar at the Albany Hotel turned into a lengthy session at the Butterworth Hotel, so the rest of the day remains a bit of a mystery to me.

Butties was our local at The New African.

There weren’t many pubs in apartheid-era central Durban that would serve the entire newsroom — at least not without a major drama. 

Butties would.

It was also within crawling range of the newsroom, so Butties it was.

There’s no sign of any kind of unbanning commemoration going on — physically or on social media — apart from Eskom’s decision to move us to stage two of load-shedding.

It’s where we’re at.

The second part of the report by the state capture commission has been out since Tuesday afternoon, so most of the ANC leadership has its hands full dealing with the fallout from the former liberation movement’s more recent history, rather than commemorating the unbanning of the party 32 years ago.

Things are bad.

Zondo’s second report shows that the Guptas and their buddies made off with the billions from Transnet and Denel, courtesy of their deployees, including former Transnet group chief executive Brian Molefe and group chief financial officer Anoj Singh, but that it was the leadership of the ANC that made the entire racket happen.

It’s not just those such as former state enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, who Zondo wants the Hawks to investigate for taking cash bribes from the Gupta brothers, and who appointed Molefe as Transnet group chief executive in 2011, despite his not being the candidate who performed best in the selection process. 

Or former president Jacob Zuma and former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, who forced the appointment of Molefe’s successor, Siyabonga Gama, Zuma’s “preferred candidate” who had previously been fired by the state-owned entity over corruption.

Former ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe; party policy head Jeff Radebe; the party’s youth league and its allies in the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satwau) all left their fingerprints all over the elaborate scheme to take over Transnet for the Guptas.

So did the ANC’s powerful deployment committee, which determines which cadres get deployed to the top jobs in the civil service and in the state owned entities and which would have had to have approved the deployment of Singh, Molefe, Gama and the rest of those who made it rain for the Guptas.

It doesn’t end there.

Mantashe et al fired Barbara Hogan for opposing Gama’s appointment — Gigaba replaced her — and tried to send her to Finland as ambassador to keep her quiet.


Zondo’s still not done — the third part of his report will be released at the end of the month.

I wonder what’s going to happen — in the end — with those roads, schools and other things the ANC has named after comrades, if those comrades are arrested for corruption and go to jail?

Will the ANC simply carry on, and leave them as is, a monument to the party being turned into a criminal enterprise?

Will it change them back to the old dead white men they used to be named after?

Or will it — just this once — do the right thing and rename them after the whistleblowers who lost their jobs, their livelihood — or their lives — for speaking out against their crimes.