Thabo Mbeki's letter to Jacob Zuma
I imagine that these must be especially trying times for you as president of our movement, the ANC, as they are for many of us as ordinary members of our beloved movement, which we have strived to serve loyally for many decades.
I say this to apologise that I impose an additional burden on you by sending you this long letter.
I decided to write this letter after I was informed that two days ago, on October 7, the president of the ANC Youth League and you the following day, October 8, told the country, through the media, that you would require me to campaign for the ANC during the 2009 election campaign.
As you know, neither of you had discussed this with me prior to your announcements. Nobody in the ANC leadership - including you, the presidents of the ANC and ANCYL - has raised this matter with me since then.
To avoid controversy, I have declined all invitations publicly to indicate whether I intended to act as you indicated or otherwise.
In truth your announcements took me by surprise.
This is because earlier you had sent Comrades Kgalema Motlanthe and Gwede Mantashe to inform me that the ANC NEC and our movement in general had lost confidence in me as a cadre of our movement.
They informed me that for this reason you suggested that I should resign my position as president of the Republic, which I did.
I therefore could not understand how the same ANC which was so disenchanted with me could, within a fortnight, consider me such a dependable cadre as could be relied upon to promote the political fortunes of the very same movement, the ANC, which I had betrayed in such a grave and grevious manner as to require that I should be removed from the presidency of the Republic a mere six or seven months before the end of our term, as mandated by the masses of our people!
Your public announcements I have mentioned came exactly at the moment when Comrade Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota and other ANC comrades publicly raised various matters about our movement of concern to them.
I have noted that some in our broad democratic movement have spoken publicly, unfortunately, and wrongly saying that Comrade Terror has acted as they have, driven by their loyalty to me as an individual.
During the decades we have worked together in the ANC, we have had the great fortune that our movement has consistently repudiated the highly noxious phenomenon of the "cult of personality", which we saw manifested in other countries.
It therefore came as a surprise to me that anybody within our revolutionary democratic movement could so much as suggest, and therefore insult somebody like Terror Lekota that he could act as he has, whether rightly or wrongly, driven by attachment to a personal cult!
In this context, given that I have worked longer with you than I have worked with Terror, I would be interested to know your view of any instance in our movement during which it fell victim to the noxious phenomenon of the personality cult, as a result of which it ceased to think, content to act in the manner of the "anointed personality", such as the late Kim Il-Sung determined to the people of North Korea!
Personally, I've been privileged to interact with such varied titans of our struggle such as Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, ZK Matthews, Yusuf Dadoo, Mark Shope, Leslie Massina, Duma Nokwe, Moses Mabhida, Frances Baard, Steve Dlamini, Lilian Ngoyi, Walter Sisulu, Gertrude Shope, Govan Mbeki, Julius Nyerere, Raymond Mhlaba, Kenneth Kaunda, Helen Joseph, Trevor Huddleston, Agostinho Neto, Robert Resha, Jack Simons, Seretse Khama, Ray Alexander, Ruth Matseoane, Sam Nujoma, Fish Keitsing, Kate Molale, Ahmed Kathrada, Nelson Mandela, Joshua Nkomo, Samora Machel, MB Yengwa, Ruth and Joe Slovo, Robert Mugabe, Mpho Motsamai, Bram and Molly Fischer, Mike Harmel, Brian and Sonia Bunting, Andrew Mlangeni, Liz Abrahams, Joe Modise, Florence Mophosho, Alfred Nzo, Beyers Naude, Albertina Sisulu, Thomas Nkobi, Sophie de Bruyn, Ellen Khuzwayo, Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela, Wilton Mkwayi, Alfred Hutchinson, Rusty and Hilda Bernstein, Jack and Rita Hodgson, Cedric Mayson, Thomas Nkobi, Tiny Nokwe, Albert Nolan and many others.
All these, and many others I have not mentioned, were and are true heroines and heroes of our struggle.
I have omitted to mention others among these such as Albert Luthuli because I cannot claim truthfully that I have interacted with them in the context of the struggle.
I have mentioned the people I have to make essential and crucial points, central to the value system of our movement and struggle, that none of these heroes or heroines ever sought adulation in any manner that would turn them into cult figures.
They never did anything, nor did we act in any way as we grew up in the liberation movement, which would result in our movement being enslaved in the cult of the individual.
In this regard there were exceptional circumstances attached to Comrade Nelson Mandela, which were not of his making or will.
In the context of the global struggle for the release of political prisoners in our country, our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of these prisoners, and therefore to use his personal political biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present to the world and the South African community the brutality of the apartheid system.
The beginning and the end of this particular discourse is that both of us have grown up in a political atmosphere that we fully respected and honoured our leaders, heroes and heroines without reservation.
However, for me personally, at no point did this translate into "hero worship" and therefore the progression to the phenomenon of the "cult of personality".
I know this as a matter of fact that all the heroes and heroines I have mentioned would have opposed the emergence of such a cult with every fibre in their revolutionary bones!
For this reason I find it strange in the extreme that today cadres of our movement attach the label of a "cult of personality" to me, and indeed publicly declare a determination "to kill" to defend your own cause, the personal interests of "the personality", Jacob Zuma!
When we last met, on September 19 2008, at the Denel buildings adjacent to the Oliver Tambo International Airport, I restated to you the incontrovertible fact that you knew that our engagement in the struggle for the liberation of our people had never been informed by a striving for personal power, status or benefit.
In this context I told you that should the ANC NEC, which was meeting from that day, decide that I should no longer serve as president of the Republic, having been the ANC presidential candidate presented to the Second and Third democratic parliament in 2004, I would respect this decision and therefore resign.
I have been informed informally that you reported this to the ANC NEC at the conclusion of the discussion about this particular matter. I take this opportunity sincerely to thank you for communicating my views to the NEC in this regard.
I mention all this in the light of what I cited earlier - the statements made first by the president of the ANC Youth League and later yourself, concerning the role I would play in the forthcoming 2009 election campaign, which has not been discussed with me.
For some years now our movement has had to manage an immensely challenging and unprecedented situation, occasioned by the criminal charges preferred against you by the National Prosecuting Authority, and related matters.
I state this as a matter of fact with no comment about the merits or demerits of what may have been said and done by anybody or institution in this regard.
I also mention this fact in this letter because, despite our best efforts, many in our movement and our population at large have refused to believe the sincere message both of us strived to communicate, that there were and are no divisions between us, and that nobody should use our names to incite or perpetuate division in the ANC and the country.
When the December 2007 Polokwane ANC National Conference elected you president of the ANC, and responding to Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe's suggestion, I walked with you to the platform, publicly to demonstrate my acceptance of that outcome, as did other Comrades who had been defeated in the electoral process.
When, more recently, the ANC NEC decided that it no longer had confidence in me to serve as its preferred cadre to occupy the position of president of the Republic, I made it a point not to contest this decision, and therefore resigned.
When I addressed the nation on September 21 2008, announcing that I had tendered my resignation as president of the Republic, to the National Assembly as the elective body, I said that I have been a member of the ANC for 52 years.
There is absolutely nothing I have done through this half-a-century of struggle of which I am ashamed. Above all, I know of nothing I have done which, to my knowledge, constitutes a betrayal of the interests of the masses of our people and their confidence in the ANC.
Despite all this, I have taken note of the campaign that some in our ranks, supported by some in our media, have waged for many years focused on discrediting me in particular, given the senior positions I have occupied in the ANC, and the ANC in general.
I have constantly been acutely aware of the fact that this campaign has been based on outright lies and deliberate and malicious distortions.
For many years I have refused to stoop to a public debate driven by these fabrications, which would demean and destroy the dignity of the ANC, its leadership and me personally.
I must admit that this posture might have produced results we never intended, specifically as it might have suggested that we could not contest the lies that have been told.
I know that now there are some in our country and elsewhere in the world who appear on television programmes or contribute newspaper opinion columns as "experts" or "analysts", simply on the basis of their readiness to abandon all ethical considerations and self-respect, to propagate entirely fabricated and negative notions about what our national democratic revolution means to our country and people.
Because of the services some of these have rendered to the opponents of the national democratic revolution, the "experts" and "analysts" and others who market themselves as "intellectuals/academics" have been handsomely rewarded with material possessions as embedded opponents of the national democratic revolution.
Yet such is the malaise that has entrenched itself in our democracy, including our movement, that we do not ask the obvious question - how can such "intellectuals/academics" have come to accumulate such wealth?
Bearing in mind everything I have said, let me then address the immediate matters on the national agenda, which relate directly to me.
(1) Comrade Lekota and others have not engaged me in any of the actions they have taken, to secure my approval or otherwise.
(2) The ANC leadership has not engaged me in any of the responses it has taken in this regard, to secure my approval or otherwise.
(3) Informally, I have communicated my view to both these contending groups, members of the ANC, that they should address all matters that might be in contention.
(4) In my President's Political Report to the Polokwane 52nd National Conference of the ANC, presented as prescribed by the ANC constitution, I warned of the grave challenges our movement was facing. I suggested that the conference should discuss these. This was not done. Ten months after this report was presented, I still stand by what it said.
Following the developments of December 2007 and September 2008, relating to tasks I had been given by the ANC, I have considered carefully what I should do as a private South African and African citizen.
Currently I am working as speedily as I can to elaborate the substance of this work, which will ensure that whatever I do in no way involves me in the internal politics of the ANC or the functioning of the government of South Africa.
As the saying goes, I refuse absolutely to rule from the grave. History will judge whether what I did during my political life, until September 25 2008, is worth anything.
Given the December 2007 and September 2008 outcomes to which I have referred, I trust that you will take the necessary measures to:
- Remind all comrades that everything we have done since 1994, to advance the national democratic revolution, has been based on collective decisions of our movement, without exceptions
- Encourage all Comrades honestly to confront the real problems, challenges and opportunities that the ANC, the broad democratic movement and our country face and,
- Convince these Comrades to desist from abandoning their revolutionary democratic obligations by falsely and dishonestly pretending that the goals of the national democratic revolution have been frustrated, if they have been, through the actions of one individual - Thabo Mbeki.
I would like to believe that you and I have devoted out adult lives to the victory of the national democratic revolution, and nothing else.
Similarly, I would like to believe that we have always understood that this revolution has as its principal focus the upliftment and empowerment of the millions of our working people, including women, who constitute the overwhelming majority of our people.
Accordingly, we have understood that this revolution has absolutely nothing to do with the personal fortunes of those who might, by virtue of historical accident, be its leaders at any particular moment.
I would like to believe that in this context we agree that the strategic and historic task facing the tried-and-tested leaders and cadres of our movement is to determine what needs to be done, next, to advance the goals of the national democratic revolution, focused on advancing the interests of the millions of the working masses.
In my view, with which you are free to disagree, the revolutionary tasks we confront are to:
- Recognise the various factors that have militated against the achievement of the unity and cohesion of the ANC in the recent past
- Defeat the actions prevalent in our governance system, especially the provinces and municipalities, to remove from their positions Comrades who are perceived as belonging to factions different from those which currently serve as elected leaders in the current elected ANC structures
- Renew the democratic movement on the basis of:
- opposition to the cult of personality
- the defeat of careerism and opportunism
- the defeat of the use of violence in the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement to impose particular leadership cliques interested in winning government tenders for themselves and their friends
- the defeat of bureaucratic parasitic tendency leading to the abuse of state power for self-enrichment
- the rejection of the phenomenon of the emergence of a black compradore bourgeosie which, in the context of BBBEE, is ready to front both for the domestic white and international capitalists
- commitment to the implementation of a socio-economic programme focused on economic growth and development, the restructuring and development of our economy, reducing unemployment and poverty, and sharing the wealth of our country in terms of our national, class and gender categories.
Nobody, and I believe the leadership of the ANC above all others, can ignore the conclusion that today our country stands at a particular crossroad.
This means that the decisions we take today will impact on our country and the masses of our people for a considerable number of years.
I am confident that the decisions the leadership of the ANC will take in this regard, with you at its head, will indeed advance the goals of the national democratic revolution to which so many of us, led by the veterans of our movement, have dedicated our lives.
As a small plea in this regard, I appeal that nobody should abuse or cite my name falsely to promote their partisan cause, including how the 2009 ANC election campaign will be conducted.
October 8 2008
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