Magubane: Still much to be done

2018-09-16 15:21
ANC chief whip in Msunduzi Truman Magubane.

ANC chief whip in Msunduzi Truman Magubane. (Nokuthula Ntuli)

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South Africa’s struggle for true freedom is far from over as the country’s democracy is threatened by crime and economic inequality.

This is the view of Midlands struggle stalwart Truman Magubane (74), expressed during a wide-ranging interview with the Weekend Witness.

Mgubane, who is the ANC chief whip in Msunduzi, said when he started aligning himself to the ANC as a teenager growing up in Sobantu, he never dreamt he could be part of such a “vibrant” democracy.

“We are one of the very few countries on the continent where citizens can challenge, not only the government, but also the president, and get to live to see another day. So we have to protect the rights that we have so that they continue to serve generations to come,” he said.

He said the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution should not be abused because they are there to ensure continued accountability by those in power and members of the public.

The son of a police officer, Magubane was once interrogated by his own father when he was arrested for his political activism.

“I could see that my father was a bit disappointed that his own son was among those arrested, but I didn’t give out anything, even when they brought him in to interrogate me,” he said.

His last arrest was in November 1975, when the police swooped on him while he was working at Edendale Hospital, just a few weeks before he was meant to leave the country for training at one of Mkhonto weSizwe’s military camps.

“They arrested 10 of us, including uMunt’ oMdlala [Harry Gwala], and kept us in isolation until we were charged under the Terrorism Act in May 1976.

“That was a really difficult time for me because I had no visitors and during the trial the police also detained my wife [Mavis] but never charged her. To this day she always tells me that her biggest regret was that she was not there when I was sentenced in 1977 because she was in jail.”

He spent 15 years in jail, 13 of which were on Robben Island where he was detained with three former presidents, including Kgalema Motlanthe, with whom he shared a cell.

“I’ve never regretted joining the ANC and fighting for our freedom but I do regret not being around when my children were growing up. But a part of me would never have allowed myself to turn a blind eye to the oppressive state that we lived under.”

There was sadness in Magubane eyes when he spoke about the bittersweet reunion he had with his son, Mlungisi, who was also arrested for his activism in 1986.

He said he was happy to see him because he carried news from home but it had been one of his worst nightmares to be detained along with any of his children.

“My oldest was 13 years old when I was sentenced and the youngest was barely two years old.

“So I was already feeling bad for turning my wife into a single mother but now our children were following in my footsteps.”

After his release in 1990 he immediately resumed his political work. He was part of the team assigned to resolve the disputes between the IFP and the ANC during the height of the political violence in the province.

Since 1994, he has served the ANC in numerous portfolios and is one of Msunduzi’s veteran councillors but he believes he still has a lot of work to do.

Last year he joined hands with his family in the launching of the Truman Magubane Family Foundation, whose aim is to support young people explore educational and economic opportunities such as bursaries, vocational training and mentorship.


Skilled youth needed to take country further

“The struggle is far from over. Now the focus is on getting our youth educated and capacitated with skills needed to attain economic freedom so we can develop this country to be better than it is now,” said Magubane.

He supports the concept of radical economic transformation because it would open up opportunities for those who were previously denied.

However, Magubane is against the disruption of work on sites or holding government officials hostage over tenders and jobs. “The MK vets are my comrades. I truly sympathise with them. Some are really struggling because they haven’t even had proper jobs since they came back from exile but we have to find the correct platforms to engage on our grievances without breaking the law, otherwise the public is going to label us as criminals instead of seeing us as victims of the system,” he said.

Level of crime is frightening

The Ashburton resident expressed his sadness about the rate of crime in SA, saying it is crippling its potential.

He blames the easy availability of drugs for some of the crimes committed, saying the users were often not in their right minds. “I lived during one of our toughest times as a country where so much blood was shed but the level of violence that I see today frightens even me. I’m not talking about political violence but you just have to look at the rape statistics, robberies and general murders to see that we have a problem,” Magubane said.

He said reducing crime should be everyone’s priority, not just the government’s and the police. He said communities should protect their neighbourhoods from criminals by reporting them to the law-enforcement agencies.

 ‘Greed our greatest enemy’

Commenting on the political violence that has claimed more than 20 lives in KZN since 2016, Magubane said problems started when people started seeing politics as a career.

He said when he was an underground operative of the ANC he never thought about career development.

“One of the biggest threats to our democracy are the people who see political deployment as an entitlement. They don’t want to leave office when their term ends so they do everything to hang on to power, including killing and buying votes. It’s really sad to watch. Too many lives were lost when we were fighting the struggle but at least then we all knew who the enemy was. Today we are killing each other over positions and greed has become our greatest enemy,” said Magubane.

He said corruption is also retarding the progress of the country because investors do not want to be associated with some of the people in leadership positions accused of graft. “Corruption is our dirty laundry and it’s not nice when we see media reports about it but it needs to be dealt with. We just hope that the platforms available are not used for witch-hunting because that would defeat the purpose.”


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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