When a legacy is shamed

2017-10-29 05:54
In the shadow of greatness: President Jacob Zuma sitting in front of a portrait of the ANC’s former president, Oliver ‘OR’ Tambo, who would have turned 100 this year. Picture: Louise Gubb / Corbis via Getty Images

In the shadow of greatness: President Jacob Zuma sitting in front of a portrait of the ANC’s former president, Oliver ‘OR’ Tambo, who would have turned 100 this year. Picture: Louise Gubb / Corbis via Getty Images

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The plinth near the entrance to the ANC cemetery at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco) in Tanzania bears a profound message.

“Ours was not for personal glory nor distinction, but for a noble cause of our time – the liberation of the people of South Africa and the entire humanity,” reads the statement, which speaks of the intentions of those who lie buried there. All of them left South Africa to pursue the dream of a just society.

The Somafco camp was the vision of long-serving ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo.

When it was established, its aim was to school youngsters who had left the country for exile, as well as to educate children who had been born outside the country.

It was also to be the model of a South Africa that Tambo and his comrades wanted to construct: ambitious, selfless, cooperative, ethical, nonracial, just and nonsexist.

This week, South Africa and the world celebrated the centenary of Tambo’s birth. Tributes poured in for the man who set up the ANC’s external mission in the early 1960s and kept the organisation intact for more than three difficult decades.

In South Africa, the conversation about Tambo was dominated by questions about what he would make of the state of the country today and the organisation that he loved and led.

In a lengthy and emotive open letter to Tambo, ANC spokesperson and national executive committee (NEC) member Zizi Kodwa said the “challenge facing the movement today is not a vicious apartheid state but vultures within” who have no qualms about obliterating Tambo’s legacy and sacrificing the party’s values “at the altar of greed and personality cults”.

He lamented people’s plummeting trust in the ANC, an organisation that had once represented their hopes and been a “moral leader of society”.

“Your movement is crying for leadership. Your country is crying for leadership that can restore confidence and inspire hope,” Kodwa wrote to Tambo.

Ironically, his sentiments and longing for Tambo’s leadership and values mirrored those of the ANC’s bitter foes on both sides of the political spectrum.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said: “Tambo would surely have been deeply hurt and angry today if he could see the succession of corruption scandals and the spread of the capitalist culture of greed and self-enrichment.”

This culture, said Saftu, “is undermining all the great progress we have made and plunging us into a society which is the absolute opposite of the free, democratic and egalitarian society which OR spent his life fighting for”.

The DA, whose leaders were no fans of Tambo, said it was “clear that the current ANC does not uphold the ideals of Oliver Tambo. They have abandoned that dream in favour of self-enrichment at the expense of the people of South Africa.”

It is not difficult to see why there is so much nostalgia for Tambo inside and outside the ANC.

In this month of October, the month of his birthday, the governing party let the country know that it hates the values he stood for.

In a scandalous move, the party promoted former Gauteng MEC for housing Humphrey Mmemezi to chair the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on public works. This is the same Mmemezi who was found guilty of breaching the ANC’s and the legislature’s ethics, and was fired from his portfolio. Among his colourful offences, Mmemezi bought a painting that adorned a McDonald’s outlet and covered up his dodgy purchase by pretending he had bought burgers worth R10 000. Not only dodgy, but stupid too.

His career was resuscitated about a year later at the ANC’s Mangaung conference, where he was rewarded for campaigning for President Jacob Zuma’s second term by being elected on to the NEC.

He is now an esteemed senior leader of the ANC. In his respected capacity this paragon of virtue used a platform to urge members to deal with “ill-disciplined” MPs who voted with the opposition in the motion of no-confidence.

According to the ANC, the slimy Mmemezi was among those promoted to “strengthen” the portfolio committee’s “capacity to fulfil its oversight functions”.

While celebrating Tambo’s birthday month, ANC parliamentarians, including ministers and NEC members, have tried to shut down the probe into grievous crimes of corruption that occurred at Eskom. Their argument: the probe is divisive and factional and will harm the party.

Also in October, the party’s MPs overturned a decision to launch a fitness-for-office inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. This as Mkhwebane clearly demonstrated that she intends to be the protector of political interests rather than a defender of the people.

In this same month, the party’s leader and president of the republic has been waging a cynical battle to prevent a judicial inquiry into state capture. Using public funds and heavyweight lawyers, he is fighting to the death to prevent an inquiry that would shed light on state capture and help prevent this evil phenomenon from ever gripping us in future.

In the month of celebrating a legend, crooks are actively exerting their influence over the party’s direction and the outcome of the December elective conference.

And this is a party that believes it can self-correct and return to the values that OR embodied.

Read more on:    saftu  |  anc  |  oliver tambo

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