Last week the African National Congress celebrated its centenary, marking a full hundred years of valiant struggle against colonialism, settler colonialism, racism and Apartheid in South Africa. All of us who had occasion to work with that great movement and its leaders and militants celebrated too.
It’s only fitting that we recognise the great contribution this august organisation has made toward the total liberation of the African continent.
It was the ANC that galvanised the energies of the South African people and led them in one of the toughest struggles to ever take place anywhere in the world.
It had to deal with a most formidable mix of enemies determined to impose and perpetuate their domination of this extremely rich country, who in doing soo knew no restraint, respected no rule, paid no heed to what the world might say.
Both the British colonialists and the Dutch settlers demonstrated unequalled ruthlessness, both to each other and to the true owners of the land, the Black African people, as the two marauding parties killed and plundered.
Some of the most barbarous acts of conquest and domination in modern times were committed in South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
These acts, appropriately, begat the resistance of the owners of the land. This resistance soon threw to the fore some of the finest men and women ever to walk this earth.
I’m talking of people like John Dube, Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Solomon Mahlangu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Steve Biko, Duma Nokwe, Chris Hani, Johnston Makhathini, Joe Slovo, Joe Modise and others whose names we may never know.
They accomplished great feats, some of which I personally have etched in my memory, such as Madiba’s speech at the Rivonia trial in 1964, when he knew a death sentence was almost a certainty; the women, led by Albertina and her colleagues, telling the racist authorities, sometime in the late 1950s, that now that you have started harassing us (women) you have hit a rock; the crazy idea by Mkhonto we Sizwe commanders Modise and Hani to shoot their way across Rhodesia all the way home in 1967 during the so-called Wankie operations in collaboration with Zapu, and other instances, acts and pronouncements of frightening fearlessness and inspired madness.
involved in this struggle have written their names in flame, and some paid with their lives, such as the young lions Mahlangu (hangman’s noose) Hani (assassin’s bullet) and Biko (police bludgeoning). Others died of broken hearts, despair and doubt.
That Apartheid was eventually defeated is tribute to the abnegation and singular generosity demonstrated by these heroes of that glorious struggle.
That is why it is simply unacceptable that those who are called upon to continue with the struggle, this time to bring about the economic and social liberation of their people, have now joined the rat race, started by imperial buccaneers like Cecil Rhodes to loot, steal and plunder the resources of the country.
Today’s ANC has very little to do with the ANC of Albert Luthuli and Govan Mbeki. Today’s ANC is a grouping of shameless nouveaux riches, seeking fabulous wealth in what has come to be called the “tenderpreneurship” culture that has gripped the higher echelons of the leadership. So-called Black Economic Empowerment has only managed to spawn a tiny group of filthy rich tenderpreneurs whose appetite for German cars and Malibu style villas stands in stark distinction to the abject poverty in which the majority of the people continue to wallow.
They seem to be in a hurry to catch up with their hopelessly corrupted colleagues north of the Limpopo. Et tu, ANC? Is this what we fought for?
Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political comentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]