ANC binds the nation

2013-06-04 00:00

SENZO Mchunu (The Witness, May 22) has opened up a powerful debate on ethnicity, identity and social cohesion. It is a timely intervention and has drawn interesting responses.

In raising the issues, he is accepting responsibility on behalf of the ANC for a set of conditions that need to be changed. This deserves careful analysis and consideration. The history of the ANC is about unity among our people, and across the continent. It is the essence of the Freedom Charter. As a young activist, I was motivated by the Freedom Charter and its call: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. To this day, it remains a powerful, energising and uniting message for us all. No doubt, there will be detractors and dissenters, and they must be engaged.

In our province, Pietermaritzburg has always been the powerful beacon of non-racialism in action. The work of Moses Mabhida, Harry Gwala, A.S. Chetty, Chota Motala, Peter Brown, Dashrath Bhundoo, Peter Kerchoff, Zweli Mkhize and Yusuf Bhamjee is legendary.

The current question is: what is the state of our nation vis-à-vis the ANC’s vision of non-racialism? I would argue that notwithstanding all our challenges, it is the ANC that provides the glue that holds our nation together. If the ANC fails, the country fails. This is a reality, stated without arrogance. In fact, it is a humble call for all to join in the task of realising the ideals of the Freedom Charter.

Much of what our detractors say, you will find already analysed and acknowledged in our discussion and policy documents. The ANC has a remarkable capacity for self-criticism and self-correction. Political mobilisation and inspiring confidence in our people requires hard work every day. I travel the length and breadth of the province. I visit rural areas, townships and informal settlements. I also work in Shallcross, Austerville, Phoenix, KwaDukuza, Richards Bay, Umzinto, Mariannridge, Dundee and Marburg, where we have projects benefiting significant concentrations of Indian and coloured communities. I am part of a powerful anti-drug campaign, led by the Premier, in Chatsworth and Austerville. We are hard at work.

We are also regularly invited to, and respond to, invitations from schools, religious and community-based organisations providing for intensive interaction with communities, including the Indian community. All this is part of a determined effort by the ANC to serve all communities.

Let me also add my voice to the Gupta saga. I unequivocally condemn the audacity, disrespect and indignity of their conduct. But I will not be stereotyped. Indeed, Mchunu acknowledges the absurdity of any such possibility (“There is no need for Indians to apologise to anybody, not even to contemplate it.”)

I must, however, take issue with those who consistently assume a narrow perspective that seeks to drive the Indian community into a laager. There are large numbers of South Africans of Indian origin, both inside and outside of government, who continue to do sterling work in building our country.

In the current generation, I believe that when Pravin Gordhan’s story is told, he will rank as high as any of his illustrious predecessors. Today, he faces the sternest challenge in his capacity as Minister of Finance. The international recession, combined with the deep socioeconomic fault lines in our society, provide a challenge that any lesser leader would shrink from. South Africans have every confidence that he is the best person for the job. Why should we not acclaim him and be proud that he hails from our community? He deserves our support.

Recognising the threat of Mchunu’s powerful message, the DA’s Haniff Hoosen made a vain attempt to engage in the debate with a piece in The Witness. He fails to respond to the point made by Mchunu that the DA “sees indigenous Africans and Indian communities as political markets only”. This deception was exposed recently when Ronnie Veeran was removed from the eThekwini Exco. The DA has now discovered the African political market and needed to have an African representative on Exco. But there are only two seats. When the chips were down, Veeran was dumped. He was the DA mayoral candidate in the 2011 elections but not good enough to be in Exco today.

No one could honestly expect that we would be able to build a non-racial society overnight, or that we would not encounter serious challenges on the way. From time to time, racist voices will rise above others. We must resist them, as we have over the past 100 years of the ANC’s history.

Richard Pithouse, a fierce critic of the ANC, in a recent article made telling observations about racism from all communities. He concluded with a quote from Matthew: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

I believe there is much we can do to defend the dignity and political integrity of our communities. This requires mobilisation and organisation. We have many progressive activists wanting to be part of a creative programme. We are engaging them and opening the doors to others. Our young people, especially, need to be inspired to embrace the world. Our powerful history must make them lift their chins, stiffen their spines and be hungry to make their contribution to building a non-racial society.

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