OPINION: If Madiba didn’t sell out, the ANC did


“No amount of explaining or shameful labelling can change the resultant effect of the ANC’s bad deal negotiated 25 years ago. Use Madiba’s centennial and come clean with the masses, the ANC in collective leadership dropped the ball.”

Clyde Ramalaine

History is replete with those who seek to rewrite it in hope of portraying palatable versions that often defy the obvious, testified in a lived experience.


Throughout time those who write history have sought to manage it. We also know any time you manage history you are bound not to be honest and objective in your reflection. There are very little things that can contest the lived experience, articulated or not.

Madiba’s Centennial commemorations provide more than an opportunity for us to engage the experiential anomalies of a lived democracy, anchored in an agreed negotiated settlement that occurred under his leadership.

When ANC leaders today in seeming spirited defence of Madiba remonstrate in shouts of “people who say Madiba sold out are armchair revolutionaries”, are they rewriting history, are they telling us the full story? While we hear their personal rightful buoyant admiration for this liberation fighter, whom we celebrate, we must pause to perhaps hear the backdrop of a rewritten history relayed by the political and economic elite of this era. It can ever be argued that Mandela for them is also a means to an end because they are really defending themselves.

Should we have this impenetrable need to want to defend Madiba? Is that what he would have wanted? Can an icon sell out?

Is it not again the elites busy with politics of deflection, born from naked embarrassment?We expect ANC leaders to be accountable not just in word but in deed. That accountability at times may just have to be a simple confession, if not an admission.

I concur it is foolish to want to argue Mandela sold out, with him as the focus. I also wish to argue that foolishness equally extends to the often repeated claim that Mandela singularly freed and reconciled South Africans. If the principle of collective leadership counts and is made to count consistently, we must resist any effort to singularly accord Madiba honour and blame when it suits us.

Perhaps the error lays in that we are overeager to attribute the niceties to Madiba’s leadership period of five years but not the ugly. We are in scripted blindness of iconic statues seeking to acknowledge only the good of what Mandela perceptibly may have done until we refuse to engage the anomalies his leadership produced. Shakespeare was right, we doth protest, remember the good of a man when he is dead.

However, that by itself is a sanitised, even plausible whitewashed, legacy we in this season, when young people challenge us, prognosticate. If we care for Mandela and the masses we warrant attempting honesty. If the yardstick is the current landless and economically disenfranchised status of the masses, can we be freed to engage the discomforting conversation of the ANC at the dawn of democracy possibly being badly advised or led in negotiations?

Let us for once admit, the ANC and not Mandela, sold out. The ANC, not Mandela, reconciled SA by being outfoxed at negotiations. The ANC dropped the ball where it mattered most.

Blame the ANC for our landlessness and apartheid benefactors (whites) who were on the other side of the negotiations table still owning land no ship brought.

If you don’t want people to say Madiba (as the head of the ANC at the time) sold out, are you willing to admit the ANC sold out? Somebody sold out and you can’t convince the youth and masses otherwise!

I had wanted the three ANC presidents of the ANC not to give us half a story in spirited defence of Madiba. I wanted cadres Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa to unequivocally state in redemptive confessional sense we as the ANC sold out. If our people are landless and poor it is the ANC’s bad and short-sighted focus and the willingness of its leadership to allow capital, regardless of its colour, to buy ANC leadership until they became a buffer zone and the masses remained disenfranchised.

You simply can’t want to preach Madiba didn’t sell out and leave us there. Tell us who sold out because the masses did not struggle to have the current deal in land and economic benefit that we have in 2018.

No amount of explaining or shameful labelling can change the resultant effect of the ANC’s bad deal negotiated 25 years ago. Use Madiba’s centennial and come clean with the masses, the ANC in collective leadership dropped the ball.

It simply cannot be that you want to exonerate Madiba and by extension yourselves for this bad deal and want to own the inalienable and unique right to tell the masses how wrong they are for arguing somebody sold out.


You cannot undo our lived experience. You can admit you failed and throw yourself at the mercy of the people. But to shout and label others who demand explanations for where we are, you owe it to at least be honest. Listen to the youth and stop trying to tell them they are uninformed, your choices resulted in their limitations in what is called democracy.

Clyde Ramalaine

Political Commentator