An Open Letter to the ANC NEC Leadership: Stella Harlam; Bronville Community Member

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DO NOT TREAT US AS STRANGERS IN OUR OWN COUNTRY TO BE TOLERATED.

The demise of apartheid was a complex process and entailed a role for various social forces. Nelson Mandela had the following to say in his address at the 1995 National Conference of Idasa; “ Countless individuals of all colours and backrounds, contributed to South Africa’s liberty, justice and democracy. Many are from the colored community, which has nurtured a long tradition of struggle against oppression. It has given our nation outstanding leaders whose contribution and sacrifice for the ideal of non-racial democracy has been immense.”

We strongly believe that South Africa should promote true non-racialism and not ethnicity based on discredited racist categories from the old South Africa should drive this process. President Ramaphosa emphasis a very critical point in saying that “ non-racialism is not the product of a negotiated compromise, but is a fundamental pillar of the new society we are building. It is only through advancing no-racialism that we will be able to reconstruct the fabric of our society and narrow social and economic divide…”

We are the descendants of the Khoi and the San. We too are South Africa’s indigenous people and we refuse profusely to be pushed to the margins. We reject any attempt leading us down the dark path of nationalism based on race or ethnicity. We would like to remind the leadership of the ruling party that it is small decisions that will determine our destiny as people of this beautiful country.

The Constitutional Court reflected that it was important, in the context of South Africa’s history of institutionalized racism, to reject racist conduct in all its form. We refuse to succumb to hate and we are prepared to live in defiance of everything that is bad around us. We are raising our voices in challenging the African National Congress leadership, to strive to be genuine and sincere in every action and decision you are faced with.
Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.

The unfortunate,irresponsible and derogatory statement by the Mayor of Matjhabeng did not only demean and belittle us but it has also tarnished the reputation and dignity of the public office he represent. Your respect and understanding of the importance of the office, should have prompted you to act decisively. But you chose the easy way out but unfortunately you “cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

We dare to remind you that not only do values compel you to reinvent your discipline, they oblige you to transcend them completely. We ask you as leaders to know that “ rules mark out what we can do,values tell us what we should do. Yet values are what count.” The ball is back in your court, show leadership. This is a matter of national importance. The sooner you recognize that the marginalization of coloureds or any race, by the majority party, will have consequences for our social cohesion construct the better.

It very unfortunate that the whole saga happens at this crucial time, when we should all be embracing our collective diversity to stand united in fighting this unseen enemy, COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot, and must not let anyone, especially those who are tasked with the authority to lead us, allow the values of our public institutions be undermined by racial slurs. These statements, such as those uttered by the First Citizen of Matjhabeng and the leader of the ANC in the Lejweleputswa Region, stand contrary to everything that makes us strong as South Africans.

The Mayor, as an elected official of our Municipality, should be conscientious in setting the best example in character and conduct at all times. He has failed and his actions undermined his authority over us and he must do an honorable thing.

Mr. Mayor Just Resign but if you have no conscience at all left in you, we ask the collective conscience of the National Leadership to reign supreme and just Recall Him.

You have the power to do this. Respectfully we ask you not delegate your responsibility to act, to a lower structure.

As a leader of the municipality he should be held to a higher standard and to this end the ANC should have demonstrated urgency and commitment in attending to this matter and resolving it.

As the ANC leadership, you have displayed poor judgement and failed to demonstrate that racial slurs and racially charged language cannot and would not be tolerated regardless of the perpetrator. You have failed dismally when your moral courage was needed and unfortunately we were left disappointed. As the leadership of the ANC you have refused to move beyond politics and claim the leadership role of society expected of you as the ruling party.
We are left outraged by this absence of leadership especially from the party that characterises itself as a democratic liberation movement that is non-racial and non-sexist. The organisation that is committed to being democratic in its composition and functioning to combat any form of racial, tribalistic or ethnic exclusivism or chauvinism. We repeat our call to you, ANC National Leadership, act and act NOW.

This cognitive dissonance unfortunately confirms Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte’s statement that “ we are racist in the ANC because we marginalize people who are not black African people..”
Our caution to the leadership is that your handling of this matter, should not lead to being interpreted as the sign of the ANC’s insincerity to the coloured people.

The following phrase sums up our feelings in the manner in which as the ANC leadership, in your wisdom decided to deal with the matter involving one of your own;
“ Intolerance breeds hatred, hatred creates divisions and divisions destroy common ground.”

It is very unfortunate that as the ANC Leadership you have decided not to err on the side of the people but felt a responsibility towards protecting one of your own. Please take note of what Titus Lucius said; “ A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally in the end, betray itself.”

The feeble attempt by Pule Mabe to absolve the NEC of the responsibilities in a statement attributed to him, in an article headlined “ Luthuli House stands aside as racist Mayor carries on in role, has reference;” It is a provincial matter, therefore they will deal with it at that level.”( Mail & Guardian, April 21, 2020).
This statement smacks of hypocrisy and fails to appreciate the seriousness and urgency of the the matter demanding decisive and honest leadership.

In support of the above assertion, we would like to remind the ANC leadership of some of the actions taken or statements made to tackle the demon of racism whenever it attempted to rear its ugly head;

The then ANC Spokesperson and current serving NEC member,Zizi Kodwa on behalf of the ANC NEC responding to the Penny Sparrow racial slurs said the following;” The ANC, working together with the majority of the people of South Africa, has committed itself to advancing and realising the aspirations of the majority of our nation’s people to live in a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa, to the end, the ANC will utilize all resources at its disposal, including the courts, to ensure that the already fragile social fabric in South Africa is not torn apart by the reckless and irresponsible comments of a few individuals.” (2016)

True to this commitment the ANC dragged Penny Sparrow to the Equality Court. She was duly convicted of hate speech and ordered to pay R150 000.00 to the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation. The court then referred the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority( NPA) for a criminal prosecution. She was convicted of crimes injuries and was fined R5000.00 or 12 months imprisonment.
The ANC acted swiftly and demonstrated that it was committed to rooting out racism. This begs the question, was their action,four years ago, informed by the fact that the perpetrator was white and a Democratic Alliance member? We hope that this assumption is wrong. But,what then informs the reluctance to act this time around to act with determination reflecting such bold leadership, instead of cowardly relegating this one to a provincial structure? We cannot avoid drawing the parallel that this time around the perpetrator is black and one of the leaders (Regional Chairperson and Executive Mayor). This, if true, will be very unfortunate and very problematic.

Leaders of the African National Congress, you have had the courage to stand up for what is right but it proving to be very selective.

Here are some the bold actions or statements from some of the leaders;

The then Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu and current serving ANC NEC member, ensured that Sparrow’s employer and the Estate Agency Affairs Board ( EAAB) dealt with her for her racial slurs.
She was quoted saying that, “ Our regulations and code of conduct must provide instruments for people like Sparrow not to operate as Estate Agents, the EAAB must make sure, if it is not there in current regulations, those regulations must be amended to ensure that we root out racism in the sector, it is our responsibility as Government.”( Politicsweb, 5 January 2016). She lost her job.

On Vicky Momberg’s behaviour Nathi Mthethwa said the following; “ All South Africans must reject them but isolate those who display those racist tendencies amongst us because they should be social outcasts and this should be whether you are black or white.” This is a bold and strong statement from the current serving ANC NEC member.

The ANC Youth League marched to Standard Bank’s Headquarters on 7 January 2016, and threatened to boycott the bank of Hart was not fired. The ANCYL Gauteng Chairperson Matome Chiloane had this to say;” We want him to get fired, because if they don’t fire him, we are going to advice on economist boycott. We are going to advice all Africans, in particular black people, that they must close their accounts with that bank because it is harboring racists.”

We cannot as a nation tolerate dehumanizing violations and any racial epithets or xenophobic flair.

Your silence as ANC NEC members is deafening, it is very loud. True courage is when bravery puts morality first.

Learning from the statement above, will we be correct to call for ‘an economic boycott and advise all the residents of Bronville as well as all the people hurt by Speelman’s derogatory statements, to stop paying for their services and refuse to work with the Matjhabeng Municipality as it is harboring a racist Mayor? Or better, will it be a wise call to refuse ANC mobilizing in our community, for next year’s local government elections because it is shielding and protecting a racist member and leader of the ANC?

We refuse to be treated as strangers in the country of our birth. We deserve the same treatment and protection leaders of the ANC have demonstrated capable of doing. Speelman does not deserve to serve us as the Mayor.

The ANC NEC has the power to institute disciplinary proceeding against any member and temporary suspend the membership of any member. It is empowered by its Constitution to recall any public representative.

To all ANC leaders at National your conscience should remind all of you that “ throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

We are calling on the African National Congress Leadership to “stop making big waves on the surface of the ocean, that do not change the deep currents.”

We are the people united in our desire to overcome any adversity intended to harm us but instead we emerge stronger and wiser. COVID-19 will not conquer and certainly racism shall be not win against a determined people.

We Hope this clarion call will spurn you action in support of the community of Bronville and the people of South Africa committed to building a United, Non-racial, Non-sexist, Democratic and Prosperous South Africa.