Malema and Lamola should rise above differences


Floyd Shivambu 

I have over the past week read with incredulity the statements of fellow Economic Freedom Fighters in the formal structures of the ANC Youth League National Executive Committee and now the views of President Julius Malema on the approach of Deputy President Ronald Lamola. I do so because as economic freedom fighters, we are engaged in the same war, and because of the complexity of the war and the dynamism that came to define the terrain of struggle, we had to fight on different battlegrounds and fight different battles whilst the intention is to win the war for economic freedom in our lifetime. Indeed the war is war to attain economic freedom in our lifetime and when presenting the Programme of Action for Economic Freedom in our Lifetime during the 24th National Congress, we concluded by saying that the ANC's 53rd National Conference is an important battle in the war for economic freedom and all fighters should work in unity, ditching petty differences to ensure an important step forward towards attainment of economic freedom in our lifetime. An immediate threat to the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime is disunity of the fighting forces and such disunity can be nipped in the bud.

Our definition and conceptualisation of Economic Freedom is that it should necessarily culminate in the realization of all Freedom Charter objectives, where land is owned by those who work it and the mines, banks and monopoly industries are transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole. In a programmatic necessity, the economic freedom programme of action adopted by the ANC Youth League 24th National Conference in June 2011 has 7 pillars, which include education and training, development of the African economy, land redistribution and agricultural development, Nationalisation for industrialisation, development for growth, building a democratic, corruption-free and tender-free developmental state, and many other vital components of what is do be done to rescue South Africa from the crises of unemployment, poverty and massive inequalities. Now, I know that most cadres in the ANC Youth League, in particular Comrades President and Deputy President are genuinely committed to these important pillars for economic freedom in our lifetime. In fact, to refer to Comrades President and Deputy President's devotion to the struggle for economic freedom as 'commitment' is a radical understatement, because these cadres have internalized and are actual embodiments of the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime, in the same manner in which comrades Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, and many others were an embodiment of the struggle agains racial oppression.

This devotion and embodiment are values that bind and will hold all economic freedom fighters together. From the 24th National Congress, we already had identified what could be potential challenges to the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime. Amongst these many challenges we said election of weaker and less determined leadership collective in the 53rd National Conference might be a setback because in a revolution, subjective factors have potential to undermine the revolution itself, since those at the forefront might not know what to do, when and how, thus opening space for imperialist backlash. The ANC Youth League's leadership perspective was to be derived from these assertions, summarized in the notion that we will only support leaders of the ANC who are committed to radical economic policy shift and committed to the struggle for economic freedom. Because of the lessons we derived out of many revolutions across the world, we then agreed that younger, energetic and organisationally grounded leaders of the ANC should be given the responsibility to lead the movement because younger people are not conservative and will not conserve truths of the past in executing the tasks to attain economic freedom in our lifetime. The motion of generational mix arose out of this context.

As the two most senior commanders in the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime, both President Julius Malema and Deputy President Ronald Lamola carry the responsibility and obligation of this generation to guide all progressive forces towards victory of the war for economic freedom in our lifetime. Tactical blunders and mistakes, which include miscommunication, have potential to throw confusion amongst economic freedom fighters and disorganise the struggle for total economic emancipation. These two leaders of the movement should internalize it within themselves that on their shoulders, rest a massive burden to lead the struggle for the emancipation of so many young people who are hopeless and dejected due to problems of the post democratic dispensation. Differences on the tactical options and what is to be immediately done have potential to undermine and compromise the strategic mission we have identified for ourselves. The reason why the generation that made the clarion call for "Freedom in Our Lifetime" in the 1949s was able to lead South Africa into political freedom and emancipation is because despite their differences on tactics, they were united. ISithwalandwe Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhaba, Oliver Tambo never agreed on all tactical options, but they never engaged in anything that would send confusing messages to the masses of our people. They in fact had differences on many occasions, but those were never elevated to the level of divisions. The notion that in politics there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends is ahistorical and reactionary and does not apply to revolutionary politics. The Cuban July 26 Movement disputes this and many other revolutions.

In resolving these internal differences, certain factual acknowledgments and admissions should be made, and these are some of them: 1) President Julius Malema remains the commander in chief for Economic Freedom Fighters and the outcomes of the faction called ANC National Disciplinary Committee do not hold water in the struggle and in formal structures of the ANC Youth League - the self appointment as Acting President therefore does not arise; 2) There is completely nothing wrong with giving support to President Julius Malema during the court appearances and members of the ANC Youth League should never be made uncomfortable to support him; 3) Deputy President Ronald Lamola has not betrayed the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime and has not changed the collective view that there should be change of leadership in the ANC 53rd National Conference, and 4) The ANC Youth League and the struggle for Economic freedom in our lifetime is bigger than all of us and should never be compromised, nor drowned in sounds of tactical differences on what should constitute the change in the 53rd National Conference battleground. These are realities which we all need to acknowledge and seek guidance from on what is to be done from now henceforth.

The ANC Youth League 24th National Conference was correct to say that subjective weaknesses and challenges have potential to undermine the revolution, and if these unnecessary differences and bickering are not discontinued, we run the risk of undermining the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime and once again delay the emancipation of the downtrodden, hopeless and suffering masses of our people. We need to rise above these differences and unite our people for the common good and avoid playing into the hands of the enemy camp, because the political battles in the ANC are not insignificant. The strategic enemy of our struggle is Capital and imperialism, those we politically oppose in the ANC are their representatives and if we continue fighting amongst ourselves, these representatives of white monopoly capital will ascend to position of leadership and continue to cause more strife and suffering to the masses of our people. It is a fact that retention of the status quo will lead to the decline of the ANC in electoral politics and the confidence the people have on the ANC will slowly, but sure diminish. By electing the current leadership under the misguidance of President Jacob Zuma for 2nd term, the ANC would have institutionalized corruption, mediocrity, lack of accountability, factionalism, tribalism and ideological directionlessness. That is why unity in opposing this political apocalypse is paramount.

As one of the Commissars in the struggle for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime, I believe it is now the responsibility and obligation of President Julius Malema and Deputy President Ronald Lamola to guide economic freedom fighters towards the important battlefield for Economic freedom in our lifetime. Immediate self gratification, competing for space to assert authority, bickering, and anything of that sort will send confusing messages and we dare not fail in the important task of taking the revolution to another level. History will judge us badly and will condemn us to failures who could not resolve their own internal differences and chose public space to release divisive statements and make divisive articulations which will not benefit the revolution. This struggle is not about us as individuals; it is about the oppressed people of South Africa, Africa and the world. I have read before about a Military wing of a revolutionary movement that went to exile, and ended up arresting, executing and assassinating many amongst its own soldiers, than executing and destroying the enemy forces. I have the privilege of knowing that the Command team of economic freedom fighters share the same vision and will be able to rise above the tactical differences and guide all forces of change to total victory. Victory is certain and we must never despair.

Floyd Shivambu is an Economic Freedom Fighter.

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