Snouts to the trough

2008-04-11 00:00

I joined the ANC in 1979. A long, long time ago. I was young and idealistic. Today, I am verging on old, and still idealistic. Back then, I crossed the border into Lesotho and as I did it seemed as though I was entering another universe. The ANC was, naturally, extremely suspicious of me at first — in those days, it was rare for whites to cross borders and join its ranks. It was much more likely that white men would be trying to infiltrate the organisation to destroy it.

It was a war situation, but I was never in the military wing of the ANC. Yet we all had our part to play. Umkhonto we Sizwe was brave, certainly, but had a difficult time being effective against the resources of the SADF. Cadres were, in most cases, utterly self-sacrificing, often to the point of torture and death. When you joined the ANC you knew that you might well be signing your death warrant. I was lucky in that I had a white skin and a priest’s collar to provide me with some measure of protection. I could use both of them in all sorts of ways. And I did. We were, all of us — the armed fighters and the tongue-lashers, the priest and the poet, the professor and the young lion from the township — disciplined cadres fighting for justice in our country. And amazingly, together, we won. The Constitution which we have today was a direct product of that long and blood-soaked struggle. We won over the forces of darkness and death. We were free.

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