Former freedom fighter defends party hopping

2014-04-21 00:00

OUTSPOKEN Phillip Mhlongo says he didn’t take up arms under the banner of the ANC’s Mkhonto we Sizwe to fight for South Africa’s freedom in order to remain under a particular party.

“I fought because change is prerequisite for a country to move forward in order to build a non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society.

“We wanted a nation that would be counted among the nations of the world as being a competent and a caring nation,” said Mhlongo in an interview with The Witness.

His comment is in anticipation of a question as to why the former combatant left the ANC for the Congress of the People (Cope), only to dump it for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Mhlongo, a strong critic of President Jacob Zuma, and who once accused Zuma of mobilising support along Zulu tribal lines, was criticised in turn for keeping quiet when former president Thabo Mbeki populated state institutions with Xhosa speakers.

Mhlongo was among three people who were reportedly gagged by Gagasi FM when it was accused of being biased towards Mbeki in 2008.

Last year, his neighbours complained about the firing of shots into the air at night from his Newlands home.

Mhlongo was among the first ANC members in KwaZulu-Natal to be critical of Zuma at a time when many were unhappy with the direction the party was taking.

Mhlongo and others left the ANC to form Cope when the ruling party recalled Mbeki.

While in Cope as the provincial secretary, Mhlongo found himself in a position where he had to choose whether to support Mbazima Shilowa or Mosiuoa Lekota. His support for Shilowa saw him at loggerheads with Lekota, and when the EFF was formed, it became an obvious political home as Cope had become embroiled in leadership disputes.

Mhlongo said God had been kind to the people of South Africa with the collapse of Cope because it saw the emergence of the force of the left.

He said the EFF rekindled ideas of economic freedom that Chief Albert Luthuli, O.R. Tambo and Nelson Mandela believed could be realised in their lifetimes to end inequality.

“You cannot achieve non-racialism unless you address the question of visible inequalities in our society,” said Mhlongo. “Leaders massage forces of capital or play into the hands of international market forces.”

He said Mandela and Tambo had been concerned about the plight of the people. “They were unable to sit back and enjoy the good life if their people had nothing.”

This was in stark contrast, Mhlongo said, to the development taking place in Nkandla where there is a looting of state resources under the pretext of security, allowing one individual to get maximum protection at the expense of the nation.

Mhlongo said he admired EFF leader Julius Malema for apologising to IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for statements he had made in the past. “He was still very young, the man is growing up. A good sinner realises he made wrong things and asks for indulgence.”

Mhlongo also heaped praise on Buthelezi saying he never built his Nkandla heaven, but institutions that helped all, irrespective of political orientation. Yet some ANC members wanted institutions named after Buthelezi renamed.

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