Loyalty to a fellow soldier is not glorification of an individual, but grounded in our historical understanding of the liberation task of the ANC – A rebuttal of Xolani Dube

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By Carl Niehaus and Nkosentsha Shezi

In recent months Xolani Dube seems to have made it his life mission to tell anyone who bothers to listen, and even those who may not be that much interested in his particular interpretation of history, that President Zuma never cared for Radical Economic Transformation (RET).

According to Dube President Zuma only used/abused RET as a rallying cry to fight for his own political survival.

In doing so Dube accused us, and specifically some members of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), of putting an unwarranted ‘badge of honor’ on President Zuma. He furthermore accused us of apparently fighting for an ‘individual’, instead of fighting for the ANC economic policy of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), and for the economic empowerment of the people of our country.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Let us re-iterate a few basic facts: Radical Economic Transformation is the official economic policy program of the ANC, and this was re-affirmed by the pro-RET economic transformation Resolutions that were adopted at the 54th National Conference of the ANC. None of us in the ANC who push for the implementation of these RET Resolutions ever claimed that we ‘belong’ to any individual – including President Zuma. We only belong to the ANC, and are part of the majority of ANC members who worked tirelessly for the adoption of those RET Resolutions.

We are ANC members who know that our Liberation Movement, with its rich history of being rooted in the people of our country, can never be reduced to any particular individual. No leader, no matter how prominent and well respected, can ever be considered to be larger, or more important than the ANC. As such no individual can ever be described as the ‘savior’ of our country. We are not, and will never be, members of a member – we are members of the ANC. This was always emphasized by someone no less than President Nelson Mandela.

If there is any living member of the older generation of leaders who has personified these truths in his life-long selfless commitment as a dedicated member of the ANC, it is President Jacob Zuma. The life example of this humble servant of the people is the antithesis of any personality cult.

President Zuma has never claimed, and will never claim, to be the originator of the ANC economic policy of Radical Economic Transformation (RET). Together with all of us who push for the implementation of RET, Msholozi know that the return of the land to the people, including the full economic empowerment of the majority of black (especially African) people, and control of the means of production and the commanding heights of our economy by the majority of black South Africans, can all be traced back to long before anyone of us were born, throughout the 108 long years of the ANC’s existence, right from it’s formation in 1912.

President Zuma knows that everyone of the ANC Presidents in whose footsteps he followed had to be, if they were to be true to the historical mission of the ANC, proponents of Radical Economic Transformation. In as much as our current ANC President, comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, if he is to be true to the historical mission of the ANC, ought to be a proponent of Radical Economic Transformation too. Like all the Presidents that followed before him, he has no other choice. Anything less would be a betrayal of the liberation task that rests on the shoulders of the ANC. Every President of the ANC must be the humble custodian of the ANC’s dedication, and servant-ship, to the full liberation of our people.

It is in this context that the longest serving President of the ANC, comrade OR Tambo, always reminded us that the liberation task of the ANC was never just to achieve the universal non-racial franchise, but always the full economic liberation and economic empowerment of black South Africans. As such comrade OR was as much a champion of Radical Economic Transformation as any other leader of the ANC, including President Zuma, can claim to be.

Those of us in the ANC who are committed that our ANC economic policy of Radical Economic Transformation must be implemented have never claimed that President Zuma’s time as President of the ANC, and of the Republic of South Africa, has an unblemished record with regards to the implementation of Radical Economic Transformation. Far from it! Let’s be honest much more could, and should, have been done. However, the responsibility for failing to proceed with greater determination and speed ultimately cannot be dumped on the shoulders of one individual, it rests with us in the ANC as a collective. What can be said without fear of contradiction is that during the Zuma administration, more effort had gone into trying to achieve the radical economic transformation of our economy, than at any time since 1994.

Similarly without fear of contradiction it can be said that these efforts were met by resistance totally unknown to President Zuma’s three predecessors, Presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe. No other President in the short history of our democracy had been subjected to the vicious attacks and vilification that President Zuma had been subjected to, and we have no doubt that this was mainly due to his commitment to the historical liberation task of the ANC to bring about Radical Economic Transformation. In the language of the ANC and the SACP, to implement the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution.

The Zuma Administration inherited from the Mbeki Administration the neo-liberal economic policy of GEAR, with its philosophical adherence to the myth of inclusive growth. The transformation of this poisoned inheritance was, in stops-and-starts, painfully slow to get to anything that resembled the radical transformation of our economy. Resistance did not only come from the White Monopoly Capitalists (WMC), who control our economy, but also from black compradore capitalists inside the ANC whose own fortunes during the Mandela, and especially the Mbeki years, had become totally entangled with, and dependent on, the continuing control of the economy by their WMC sponsors/masters.

This titanic battle dominated, slowed down and far too often paralyzed, attempts by those in the ANC who wanted to regain the Movement’s revolutionary heart, and implement Radical Economic Transformation. It was only during the latter part of the Zuma Administration that some of our efforts started to gain momentum, and found their way into the official economic policy programs as is evidenced by the last two State of the Nation Addresses (SONA’s) by President Zuma. One of the most significant breakthroughs was President Zuma’s announcement of free tertiary education for the children of poorest families. However, these RET gains came at the heavy price of increasingly vicious resistance, and counter attacks, both nationally and internationally, and an avalanche of personal, extremely vicious, attacks on President Zuma by the mainstream media, who are financed and controlled by White Monopoly Capital. This, more than anything else, is what led to the reinstatement of the so-called corruption charges against President Zuma, and him being forced to resign as President of the ANC and of the Republic of South Africa.

In this context it is not strange, nor coincidental, that those members of the ANC who are committed to the full implementation of the ANC’s economic program of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), also recognize the role that President Zuma played in trying to advance RET, and the price that he paid, and is still paying, for his efforts to be true to the collective historical liberation task of the ANC. It is in this context that the phrase that we so often use must be understood: “One soldier does not betray, and leave another soldier behind on the battle field”. It has nothing to do with the glorification of any individual above the cause. Indeed it is all about the cause, and loyalty to those who are loyal soldiers on the battle field of that cause. Make no mistake this is indeed a war to preserve the historical liberation values of the ANC, without which it will fail to continue to serve our people, will loose its raison d’être, and go asunder.

It is not that Xolani Dube did not live through these historical events, as an observer of South African society and a political commentator, he must be aware of them. Thus, to make statements as if those of us in the ANC who are pushing for the implementation of the Radical Economic Transformation policies of the ANC can be reduced to being the glorifiers of any individual leader, no matter how respected that leader is in our ranks, is disingenuous, and an insult to the cause that we are dedicated to.

Mr. Dube claims to be himself dedicated to the cause of justice and the economic empowerment of the majority of black (especially African) South Africans. If this is true, he will do well to understand who his true allies in this noble cause are. Such an understanding will also assist him to know who the real enemies are. We are certainly not his enemies.

As an African he will furthermore do well to appreciate the importance of ubuntu, and loyalty, and not to confuse such with the ‘glorification of individuals’, and personality cults, which is – and should always remain – totally objectionable to the democratic, and people’s centered, culture of our beloved Liberation Movement, the ANC.

*Carl Niehaus is an ANC veteran, and member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of MKMVA, as well as the National Spokesperson of MKMVA.

*Nkosentsha Shezi is the National Chairperson of the RET Champions.

This article is in response to an article containing Xolani Dube’s comments in The Citizen: https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/politics/2242956/zuma-never-cared-about-ret-analyst/amp/