The ANC through the past 105 years

2017-01-06 12:21

This is written in the spirit of wholesome and positive debate in these times when the ANC is swimming in dark troubled waters and facing an impending doom.

It is an interpretation and analysis of some of the great personality figures in the history of the ANC. Not that others are irrelevant but that these ones presented here captures the most significant times of the ANC: its formation, rise, banning and the time when it started to govern. Further, it is my view, that these leaders included here throughout the course of the ANC provided the dynamo and the coloring for other leaders.

This is one interpretation among many and it is suggestive in its presentation. Any analysis of history of this nature is bound to be selective, and all selection is a form of prejudice.

So who are these personalities that have shaped the ANC profoundly?

We start:

PIXLEY ka SEME(Born: October 1, 1881. Died June 7, 1951)

One of the principal characters that led to the formation of the ANC in 1912 was Prixley ka Seme. Seme was an University of Oxford educated lawyer. A white teacher told him that since he is black that his ambition of becoming a lawyer was misplaced and that he should scale it down to becoming a carpenter.

Before Oxford he did his Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia University in the United States. There he inspired many with his powerful message of Regeneration of Africa.

After completing his degree Pixley ka Seme returned to South Africa "like the arrow, to drive darkness from the land".

He opened a law practice together with Alfred Mangena. And soon, together with Mangena, he played a big role in organising the Bloemfontein conference in 1912 that led to the formation of the African National Congress.

For Pixley ka Seme, the formation of the African National Congress was not an end, but a means to an end. The end was the regeneration of Africa – which to him means "higher standard of living for Africans". And so soon after his mission of helping in the setting up of the ANC was achieved, he returned to his passion: economic freedom.

He considered that for the vision of economic freedom to ever start it has to be about the returning of the land. He created an African farmers association. With the association he bought very big farms in Daggakraal and Driefontein in the Wakkerstroom district of the Transvaal. These areas are today called the jewels of Mpumalanga.

Pixley ka Seme wanted to buy more land in and around present day Gauteng, but was pushed back by the White government, using the Natives Land Act of 1913 which made it illegal for Africans to buy land. He fought a brutal fight to make the Natives Land Act of 1913 annulled, and with little money he was soon left impoverished and his farms never succeeded because of zero support from all corners.

Pixley ka Seme’s struggle was selflessness, dedication and commitment for economic freedom to the down trodden African people. He saw his life being about an arrow that drives away poverty among Africans.

One study made by a university in the United States notes that:  “Pixley Seme's attempts to transform the ANC into an organization of economic self-help [economic freedom] proved fruitless.”  For me Pixley ka Seme succeeded by merely framing the issue of economic freedom and going all out putting his money on the line.

Pixley ka Seme eventually became ANC President in the 1930s. Back then in 1912 when the ANC was formed it was too easy for him to push for his name and become the first ANC president but he considered it wise to nominate John Dube as President even though Dube was not even present at the conference.

Seme is normally despised for having fought a bitter internal war. He was against the idea of aligning ANC with Communism. He was a man of deep convictions and often refused to budge on issues, for this, he has been consigned by many to the wrong side of history as somewhat dictatorial. But it is a mistake to put down the record of a man of such stellar ethical insight and impressive vision. This is a point that I have not been able to understand.

Personality traits: Discipline, self-discipline and selflessness

Theme / Tag Message: Regeneration of Africa / Economic Freedom / Higher standard of living for Africans

Legacy: The sense of a great duty and a big burden to improve the lives of people, economically.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts, Doctor of Laws - University of Columbia,  – United States. Bachelor of Laws - Oxford University.

SEFAKO MAKGATHO (Born: 1861. Died: May, 23, 1961)

Sefako Makgatho born in Ga-Mphahlele in the now Limpopo Province of South Africa was educated in the United Kingdom. He was a powerful source of inspiration and motivation to Nelson Mandela to the point that Nelson Mandela named his first son after him. Nelson Mandela was attracted to Sefako Makgatho because they both share the same backgrounds, both of them were raised by their royal parents to become super chiefs.

Sefako Makgatho became the ANC president from 1917 to 1924. His immense role in the ANC was that he helped it stabilised and spread its message with the newspaper he founded called The Native AdvocateThe Native Advocate did not last long, it stopped publishing because Sefako Makgatho lacked money to continue with it.

He was a man of Spartan habits, a man of great personal discipline and focus. He strengthened the ANC with his theological outlook and ethical perspective.

He was a shepherd leader. The shepherd not only takes the position and role of knowing and being a guide, but also cares and takes the interest of the sheep so to heart that the sheep is freed from bothering for their wants, which are anticipated and taken care of by the shepherd. Sefako Makgatho was equal to the task. He excelled, he did not disappoint.

Personality traits: Leading with discipline, based on tried and tested principles, and an ethical outlook laced with integrity.

Theme / Tag Message: Politics with principles.

Legacy: Caring, protective watch person over very vulnerable people marred by poverty and limited exposure to possibilities.

Formal Qualifications: 3 Year Diploma in Education, History and Theology, Ealing – United Kingdom

OLIVER TAMBO (Born: October 27, 1917. Died: April 24, 1993)

The reign of Oliver Tambo shifted a bit in the course of the ANC. His leadership was not much about a process, but about keeping the records on how the ANC became so stable and perfect. That is to say his leadership was not about how things should go, but how things should be kept the way they are. He was a wise and protector of the ANC when it was vulnerable outside South Africa when it was banned. The other role that he set himself to achieve was to train and educate an elite within the ANC designed to rule in the future. Thabo Mbeki is a product of this project.

Oliver Tambo’s leadership lasted a long time, and it proved precarious sometimes because it zeroed on having exceptional individuals. He was an excellent leader, but a person who seemed to carry the weight of the whole world on his shoulders.

Personal traits: Philosophical, that is to say that he used pure thinking to come up with what seems to him the best for the ANC at any given time. Liked giving general lectures on politics and leadership.

Theme/Tag Message: Passionately committed to raising self-sacrificing leaders, ready to take on the world.

Legacy: Built ANC as a solid fit-to-govern organisation during its years when it was banned.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, Mathematics and Physical Science – University of Fort Hare

NELSON MANDELA (Born: July 18, 1918. Died: December 5, 2013)

I mentioned the fact that it was Oliver Tambo that kept the ANC intact and made sure that it is ready and fit to govern when the time comes. But, and a very big but, it was the giant Nelson Mandela who made the ANC gain more altitude with the world. As the ANC entered the more severe storm as a ruling government it was Nelson Mandela's charisma, integrity and symbolism that roused up the world, and make it see South Africa as an oasis.

Realizing the immense and overwhelming task of bringing South Africa out of apartheid, Nelson Mandela took in a theologian and pastor in his wing: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He threw Desmond Tutu around into the whole process of fashioning a new country from the ruins of hate, pain and death. Desmond Tutu did not disappoint Mandela he flapped his wings and threw in mantras that South Africans have to chant to internalize through autosuggestion: such mantras as rainbow nation and reconciliation. I do not think that the concept of reconciliation could have succeeded has it not been the fact that it was facilitated by a pastor. As a pastor Desmond Tutu was able to bring that cool hand that is necessary into the whole confessions of murder, shootings, burning people by tires etc. It was the smartness of Nelson Mandela to realize the work will need such a pastor of high esteem.

To the world Nelson Mandela represented self-sacrifice.

Personality traits: Humility: the ability to place himself in the head of the enemy and seek to understand his emotions, leaving room there for common ground.

Theme/ Tag Message: Rainbow Nation - crafted for him by theologian and friend Desmond Tutu

Legacy: Whipping together a fractured people, forging their diverse energies and talents towards a common humanity of all.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Laws, Wits University (largely because of racism, did not complete even after 6 years of study).

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