Dali Mpofu: I didn’t leave the ANC, the ANC left me

2013-11-11 10:00

Dali Mpofu explains why he joined the EFF

In my home language there’s a saying that, simply put, means “dogs don’t bark at stationary cars”.

This saying is often used to motivate someone to deal with unfair criticism, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is clearly not a stationary car.

My decision to join the EFF has attracted many positive comments about “bravery”, being a “principled fighter” and even a “people’s advocate”.

There have also been a few vitriolic personal insults. The latter were to be expected as a test of the impact of the discussion itself.

I confess that I would have been a little disappointed if it turned out that the car was actually stationary, as indicated by the absence of any barking.

The noise generated by my decision was all predicted and predictable: I could have written the script for my detractors with eyes closed.

It is now time to reveal my intentions, and motivating factors and hopes, while hopefully addressing some of the frequently raised issues provoked by my decision.

I have always been a political animal.

The earliest memory of my political involvement is 1976 when, aged 13, an uncle gave a copy of Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country to my late sister, who shared the book and its interpretation with me. By the second half of that year, I had already participated in a failed school boycott staged in solidarity with the fallen children of Soweto.

That year I was in Standard 6, or Form 1, in Duncan Village, East London, the place of my birth. We lived in abject poverty in a one-roomed “house”, which was really a glorified shack built with bricks instead of corrugated iron.

At 17, I underwent my first stint of detention without trial and torture at the hands of apartheid’s security police. I spent my 18th birthday in a cell.

Upon my release months later, I was charged with sabotage and arson.

My organisation then, Cosas, still prides itself on having been the first organisation to adopt the Freedom Charter since the banning of the ANC and other political organisations in 1961.

Since those days, I have sworn by the Freedom Charter, which has now officially been abandoned by the ANC.

By the time I was acquitted in April 1981, I had to look for a job, which I finally found as a labourer – a spot-welder at the B-plant of the Mercedes-Benz factory.

Because of my credentials as a “veteran” (with two detentions and a political trial under my belt), I was made a plant organiser for the militant and unregistered South African Allied Workers’ Union, led by Thozamile Gqwetha and Sisa Njikelana.

The first time I set foot in Joburg was in 1982 to attend the funeral of Neil Aggett, a white trade unionist killed in detention at John Vorster Square (now Johannesburg Central Police Station).

Ironically, that became the exact place of my sixth and last detention without trial in 1986, by which time I was the president of the “Charterist” Black Students Society at Wits University.

I defeated Xolela Mangcu in an election for that position: he was running on a rival black consciousness ticket.

Nonracialism runs in my political blood.

One of the most ignored facts about the emergence of the EFF,

as eloquently articulated by Andile Mngxitama, is that for the first time, the children of Tambo, Sobukwe and Biko are able to worship under one roof.

This is no coincidence but history telling us that while there may have been sharp differences in respect to how political freedom was to be attained, the destination was always the same: the economic emancipation of our people from the yoke of colonialism, apartheid and capitalism.

In 1992, I was elected as the Johannesburg Publicity Secretary of the ANC Youth League under the leadership of Peter Mokaba, with whom I had worked since the mid-1980s.

I was frequently and correctly described as a “radical youth”, and I suspect I still have remnants of that streak.

The fine print on that undertaking is that in the heat of electoral politics, some things have to be said. But the politics of personalities have never been my thing. My starting point is that anyone who is mad enough to be involved in politics must love his or her country and their patriotism must be assumed until proven otherwise.

Thereafter, we must all be

fair game for public scrutiny in respect of the political products we put into the political marketplace of ideas, more pompously referred to as “ideology”. Real differences that matter in politics are necessarily ideological – everything else is negotiable.

My decision to leave the ANC is, to that extent, driven by my belief that the country is being taken to an ideological cul de sac paved with neoliberal and dangerously unsustainable

right-wing policy options.

I may be completely wrong, but I truly believe this to be so.

I agree with the diagnosis of the problem facing modern-day South Africa as articulated by the ANC, namely the “triple challenge” of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The point

of divergence comes when one asks the perennial question once posed by Vladimir Lenin: “What is to be done?”

In my view, the EFF has come the closest to identifying the correct solutions or areas of focus, which need to be addressed to answer that question. I don’t fully agree with everything thus far articulated by the EFF. If we agreed on everything, life would be boring indeed.

For example, Julius Malema supports Orlando Pirates. How can I agree with that? I have been a Pirates sympathiser for only one week now, and that feels too long already!

On a more serious note, the Pirates-Chiefs “coalition” that we’ve witnessed this week was forged not on paper but because we faced a common “enemy” called Al Ahly.

Similarly, we should be seeking political coalitions and other arrangements with a view of facing the common enemy called the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. In that fight, the enemy is not the ANC but right-wing economics, tribalism, corruption, crime, vote-buying and other ills currently afflicting our new nation.

But I believe that we need to define our ideological directions and points of departure. To dodge the “isms”, I prefer to use the looser appellations of right, centre and left. I acknowledge that those labels themselves

can be problematic, but that is a debate for another day. For now, let’s just say you know what I mean?…

The debate should centre on the role that should be played

by the democratic state on one hand and the citizenry on the other. That social change should be citizen-driven is no novel idea and is universally accepted in South Africa across the political spectrum. The differences come in the nature and extent to which the public should participate in shaping the decisions that affect us all.

Is it to be confined to voting every five years or do we create institutions of meaningful democratic participation, even between elections?

Is it as beneficiaries of charitable corporate social investment and other forms of “trickle-down effect”, or is it as owners and decision makers in the economic sphere?

Is participation going to be exercised through the agency of board members, trade unions and/or directly by the poor and the working class or a party representing their interests?

Whether one belongs to the right-wing DA, the modern-day centrist ANC or an organ of the left such as the EFF, most can easily be placed into one of those three moulds by simply looking at the direction of the top five economic policies of each party. The exceptions to this only prove the rule.

Is it possible that the ANC is a victim of its own inability to commit to a particular ideological outlook as well as its refusal to transform itself into a political party remaining, rather, a liberation movement and a so-called broad church?

This stance has rendered the ANC vulnerable to being hijacked by right-wingers, multibillionaires and market fundamentalists, robbing it of its very soul and provoking the refrain from its dejected members that goes: “This is not the ANC I joined.”

Has the organisation not also allowed itself to be obsessed with quantity over quality in the chase for a million members?

As a result, it fell into the control of few recruits (referred to by long-standing members by the derogatory terms of “the new ones” or “the De Klerk detachment”) who know nothing about its proud history, values and objectives, seeing it only as a vehicle for money and positions.

The time may well have arrived to remember those four little words of warning once uttered by Thabo Mbeki: “Better fewer, but better.”

My short answer to the question “why?” is perhaps that I did not leave the ANC but the ANC left me: still standing but stranded on the road towards that lofty destination where “the people shall govern” and “the people shall share in the wealth of the country”.

That is why we urge all citizens – young and old, black and white – to go and register a vote for the future, not the past.

That is why myself and millions of South Africans committed to real and fundamental change will take our “dirty votes” to the EFF.

In short, the ANC has been part of my life since my recruiters gave me a copy of the Freedom Charter, which had been daringly published in one of the post-banning-order versions of The World newspaper.

I think it was then called Golden City Post.

“How can you leave an organisation that is almost part of your DNA? How can you leave for the EFF? I mean, really!” This sums up some of the reactions I’ve had this week.

I have nothing negative to say about the ANC or its members except that the political and ideological direction it is taking the country in is, in my humble view, incorrect and doomed to end in tears for our nation.

I do not wish to get involved in the personal politics of showers, buffalos and other alleged indiscretions on the part of any leader.

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