Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Historical skeletons.

There are so many thoughts going through my head when I read articles and letters like this.

First a few questions:

Who writes history? It does not matter really. No matter how you try to hide an imperfect past, somewhere out there, the truth lies.

Censorship in South Africa? Free speech? The unbanning of publications? Now isn’t it interesting that the “truth” will only be published as seen fit?

Are the ANC uncomfortable with this specific truth?
You bet they are! To get someone like Gwede to respond to the article in the Sunday Times means that someone has touched a very sensitive nerve. And just because of that, I give a lot of credence to the facts published. I believe it.

Now some of my thoughts.

I do not like the ANC. Or rather, the leadership of the ANC. There is not one of them that is not corrupt in some form or manner. Truly great men, will achieve what they have achieved without being the evil, corrupt individuals they are.

They use the platform given to them by the west, to only enrich the few, while trampling all over the masses. Nothing is sacred for them.

And so on, and so on, and so on………

I get so tired when I read articles like this that exposes the very evil historical core of the ANC leadership, and then see that there are very intelligent people that defend them. What there agenda is, is unclear, because believe it or not, the ANC leadership is laughing at them.

Also read: letter to Mandela

'Enemy agents' - A reply to Gwede Mantashe

Paul Trewhela
21 December 2009

A response to the ANC secretary general that was not published in the Sunday Times

In a country of Big Men, it is unpleasant not to be given the opportunity to reply - in the biggest selling newspaper - to a personal critique by one of the biggest of the Big Men.

Of course it was normal under apartheid, when bannings and censorship were the rule.

The article below was sent to the Sunday Times by email on 13 December, the day it published a critique of my writing, written by Gwede Mantashe, the secretary-general of the governing African National Congress and chairman also of the South African Communist Party: one of the biggest of the Big Men in the country. Mr Mantashe's article was full of errors. Some were pointed out in a letter by another person, "ANC 'judge and jury' in its crimes", that was indeed published in last week's issue of the Sunday Times (20 December).

But. although my name appears for criticism 16 times in Mr Mantashe's article, I was not permitted a reply of my own.

It is a bizarre state of affairs, in a country supposedly dedicated to a notion of equity.

On this difference of opinion between Mr Mantashe and me, readers of Politicsweb - though not of the Sunday Times - may judge for themselves.

Mr Mantashe has unfortunately proved my case.

I'm grateful to Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the ANC and chairperson of the SACP, for the thoughtful and considered way in which he replied ('ANC did not suppress facts', 13 December) to the article published under my name the previous week ('A shameful chapter', 6 December).

The flaw in his argument lies in the following statement in his reply:

'If one were to follow the logic of the Trewhela article, being an enemy agent in an ANC camp, deliberately poisoning the trainees in that camp, plotting the assassination of comrades and leaders, sabotaging equipment so that it killed or maimed those who used it, concocting false accusations that cast honest comrades as suspects, and causing general mayhem, were not cause for concern.'

Mr Mantashe is making a dangerous confusion here - between the relation of the ANC in exile towards spies ('an enemy agent') and its suppression of democratic debate among its own members.

Every word in my article 'A shameful chapter' came from one of the most important first-hand documents of South African history of the past 25 years. This is a historical account written by five former members of Umkhonto weSizwe, which I had the honour to publish nearly 20 years ago in a banned exile magazine, Searchlight South Africa, in July 1990. It was titled 'A Miscarriage of Democracy: The ANC Security Department in the 1984 Mutiny in Umkhonto weSizwe'.

The fact that Searchlight South Africa remained banned in South Africa - even after the unbanning of the ANC, the SACP and the PAC - meant that members of the public had no proper opportunity to read this document, until now.

After nearly 20 years, however, anyone can now read this remarkable and truthful article for themselves, and reach their own conclusions, in freedom, following its publication in my book, Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO (Jacana Media, 2009).

I take full responsibility for having sought it for publication from its authors in April 1990, for publishing it again last October in Inside Quatro, and for the excerpts published in the Sunday Times under my name on 6 December.

I did so precisely because of the dangerous confusion in Mr Mantashe's statement, quoted above.
The five authors were not 'enemy agents.'

That was a term used by the authorities in the ANC in exile not only appropriately against the very real spies that were sent by the apartheid regime into its camps in order to destroy the organisation - a fact I have never denied, and which the authors of the article not only did not deny but sought to have much more rigorously investigated.

That term 'enemy agent' was also used, however, in a massive, and illegitimate, way to suppress democratic debate. In that use, it was an untruth, and a cover for committing terrible cruelties.

It is the misuse of this term that I contest.

The five authors whose words appeared in the Sunday Times under my name were among the overwhelming majority of the ANC's trained troops in Angola who sought three big changes in ANC practice at a mass meeting held at Viana camp outside Luanda in February 1984.

These three demands were for:

• A democratically elected national conference of the ANC. The last one had been held 15 years previously, at Mororogo in 1969. By 1984 the great majority in Umkhonto weSizwe, from the generation of the 1976 students' uprising, still remained unrepresented in the ANC leadership.

• To be sent back to South Africa to fight. By 1984, the great majority of ANC troops felt that their lives were being wasted in the civil war in Angola. This was a most exceptional mutiny, in which the mutineers demanded to be sent to the front - and not to be demobilised, or kept idle, or squandered in the rear.

• For the suspension and investigation of the ANC's Security Department, iMbokodo ('the grindstone'). This was for two reasons. Firstly, because of its cruelties, which were acknowledged by the report of the Stuart commission, drawn up after the mutiny in 1984 (though kept secret by the leadership until 1993). Secondly, because the troops believed - with justification, in my opinion - that iMbokodo had been infiltrated right up to the top by agents of the apartheid regime, thus severely demobilising the struggle.

This final point continues to plague the history of MK - witness the authoritative account by Thula Bopela and Daluxolo Luthuli in their first-hand, autobiographical history, Umkhonto we Sizwe: Fighting for a Divided People (Galago, Alberton, 2005), where they state that major allegations concerning Joe Modise, the late MK commander and subsequent Defence Minister, going back as early as 1963, were "apparently never investigated by the National Executive Committee". (p.40)

Mr Bopela, in particular, is a highly respected veteran from the Luthuli Detachment who fought in the Wankie campaign in 1967. Prior to the election period he was the head of ANC security management at Parliament, and during the election period he was a member of the Media and Communications Team in the ANC Johannesburg region.

These matters of ANC history are still, as he writes, uninvestigated. But they had a terrible effect in exile.

The mutineers elected a Committee of Ten to represent these issues in discussion with the ANC leadership. Its response was to call up the Angolan Presidential Guard to surround the mutineers, and threaten a massacre. Members of the Committee of Ten then peacefully averted a massacre by persuading the mutineers to disarm themselves.

What followed was arrest by iMbokodo of the Committee and other mutineers, their torture in Luanda State Security Prison, transfer to the dreaded Quatro prison camp, systemic abuse by brutalised guards for over four years, and the death by cruelty and neglect of several of their comrades.

When veterans of the mutiny and Quatro were released and transferred to Dakawa camp in Tanzania in 1989, following the disbandment of the ANC presence in Angola under the Crocker accords, they were permitted to take a full part in the life of the exiles. In September 1989 their energy and integrity persuaded ANC members to elect them democratically to the topmost elected positions in Tanzania.

The NEC then dissolved these democratically-elected commmittees, sending Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela from Lusaka to impose its will, only weeks before the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Emeritus President Mandela.

This resulted in the flight to Nairobi of the five men, whose words - which appeared under my name in the Sunday Times - are contested by Mr Mantashe.

They were there. He was not.

These issues, and the misuse of that term, 'enemy agent', continue to remain central in the still new democracy in South Africa.

The greater clarity, and the more discussion and debate, the better.

*Paul Trewhela is the author of Inside Quatro: Uncovering the exile history of the ANC and SWAPO, which was published by Jacana Media in October this year.

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