I come to bury Caeser, not to praise him

Thula Bopela says Frank Chikane served a leader who failed

I come to bury Caeser, not to praise him

The words were used by Marc Antony in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar had been assassinated by the Roman senators who accused him of being a tyrant. The accusation was that Caesar planned to declare himself king and make the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, his queen. Rome was a republic and had no place for a king and queen. The senators then decided to assassinate the man they saw as a threat to Roman liberties.

Antony was a great friend of the dead Caesar and he decided he was going to turn the Roman citizens against the senators who had murdered his friend. Marcus Brutus had addressed the citizens first and explained why they had killed Caesar, and the citizens had been satisfied with the explanation. ‘Not that I loved Caesar less, but Rome more,' said Brutus. Antony's job, as the friend of Caesar, was to change the public mind against Caesar's murderers.

He had to resort to language that, at first, did not indicate his true intention, knowing the mood of the citizens after Brutus had spoken to them. He pretended that his sole aim was to bury Caesar only and not to praise him. He even pretended to agree with what Brutus had said about Caesar: ‘The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious; if it were so, it was a grievous fault.' At the end of his oration, Antony had successfully changed the mood of the citizens, and had so moved them that the citizens believed the senators had done a terrible wrong to Caesar. Civil war followed.

The Reverend Frank Chikane has been trying to do something for some time, beginning with what was called ‘the Chikane Files.' Recently he has written and published a book ‘Eight Days in September' wherein he outlines the events leading to former President Thabo Mbeki's removal from the presidency, before his term of office had expired. The Reverend tells us what was done, when and by whom. What he does not tell the world, and us simpletons, is what Thabo Mbeki did to bring a tolerant organization like the ANC to the point where it decided he must be fired. He decides to tell us how he was fired.

I believe that at the back of his mind, Reverend Chikane and his friends (I bet you he is not working alone) he believes that the people who will read his book will come to see Thabo Mbeki as a victim of unscrupulous and power-hungry politicians.

He says repeatedly that as Mr. Mbeki's director-general, he was placed in a position where he could understand the goings on far better than anybody else. He claims to be the sole possessor of the truth in the matter of Mbeki's removal from office. He claims also that Mbeki was totally unaware of the book that he was writing. Really? Is that a fact?

Reverend Chikane is a preacher (umshumayeli), a person who stands behind a pulpit every Sunday and tells a church full of people what to believe about God, and everybody listens. His talents as a purveyor of God's Word are, however, sadly misplaced when it comes to politics and the interpretation of political events. When he enters the political arena he becomes just one of us, possessing no monopoly of knowledge about events. He can be questioned.

When he wrote his ‘Chikane Files' I asked him to take us into his confidence about certain events. The specific event I referred to was when Mr. Mbeki told clergymen who had come to ask him to suspend Jackie Selebi that if anybody gave him concrete information that Mr. Selebi was mixed up in corruption he would act. It later came out that Vusi Pikoli, the then head of NPA had been feeding Mr. Mbeki and Bridgette Mabandla (then Justice Minister) information about Selebi's activities which later led to his conviction and imprisonment. Mr. Mbeki had told the clergymen to trust him, and I suppose they did. Reverend Chikane never answered me. He just stopped publishing his files.

To try to paint Mr. Mbeki as a victim without mentioning the many things he did to force the ANC to remove him is being dishonest. The law of cause and effect applies to all nature, including Thabo Mbeki. Politicians like Frank Chikane do have a tendency of believing that ordinary people have short memories or are just plain stupid. They believe that the people they refer to as ‘the masses' are a bunch of idiots who are incapable of detecting lies when politicians make speeches or write files/books. To give an example, we were told by one of our politicians that ‘Thabo Mbeki was the best cadre that the ANC has ever produced.' The same politician had previously told us that ‘the biggest problem in South Africa is Thabo Mbeki and his people.' This politician did not expect us to remember what he had said about the same person in 2008.

When Thabo Mbeki and his friends went to Polokwane they brought along with them a device that they would use for counting the votes, an electronic device. It was rejected and the delegates demanded that the votes be counted manually. The Chairman, Lekota, was almost in tears trying to persuade the delegates to accept his little gadget! He had not expected that the delegates would see through his ruse. Had that gadget been used, the outcome at Polokwane would have been different. That is what happens when people underestimate the intelligence of the masses.

When Mbeki was removed from the Presidency, one of the ANC's most prominent politicians was quoted in the papers as saying he was not happy at all with the manner in which Mbeki had been removed, and that Mbeki was the best president the country has ever had for the past 100 years. The ANC has just celebrated its centenary of existence, and to say such a thing means in all its years of existence the ANC has never had a president like Thabo Mbeki, starting with John Dube to Nelson Mandela. I asked this politician to give the criteria he had used to measure the excellence of all the presidents of the ANC, and he did not respond. He had not expected to be asked such a question, especially by one of the masses.

Another priest-politician-all-wrapped-in-one told us that the ANC government was worse than the apartheid government and that he would pray for its downfall. Why? Because his buddy, the Dalai Lama, had not been granted a visa to come to his birthday party! Where in the world is a government seen as not deserving to rule because it has not granted a visa to somebody?

It can only happen in South Africa, where members of the clergy dabble in politics, and believe they have the authority to ‘call fire down from heaven' because they participated in marches and demonstrations during the apartheid era. The ANC government is a government that was voted into power by the majority of the citizens of this country, but is expected to govern according to the whims of individuals or minority parties.

Thabo Mbeki was removed from office by members of the National Executive Committee, not by just any group of plotting and scheming individuals. Frank Chikane is not happy with that, and he has written a book to tell us that. To condemn such a decision without tracing where the Thabo Mbeki saga started, is like portraying Adolf Hitler's death inside the bunker without telling us why the Russians were attacking Berlin. To get to the death of Hitler a chronicler worth the name must start with Germany's attack on Poland in 1939. The chronicler must also mention Hitler's invasion of the USSR in June 1941 and lead us to the culmination of World War II events inside the bunker in Berlin.

Frank Chikane is not the only one who has tried to pull wool over our eyes about Thabo Mbeki. Before Polokwane, books were published by certain individuals about ‘The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki.' Others wrote a book called ‘Born to Rule.' My own opinion is that Thabo Mbeki is a very intelligent man, but to say that he is born to rule like a king, is dangerous. Nobody is born to rule, not in a democracy; only in a monarchy maybe. To write such things about a human being, especially just before the ANC goes to hold its elective conference in Polokwane, tells me that there are people out there who believe that the ANC membership is made up of stupid people.

I believe that there is a wide and concerted effort being made by a certain group of individuals to ‘spring clean' Thabo Mbeki's reputation, maybe with the aim of ‘re-launching' his career as a leader of this country. A school has been launched, the Thabo Mbeki School of Leadership', where young people are encouraged to go and listen to the great man giving lectures on Leadership. I trust the students do not have to pay fees, because if they have to, it would in my humble view, be a terrible waste of good money. I cannot fail to lead an organization and a country, to the extent that the organization I lead kicks me out, and then go and stand in front of people and give lectures about leadership.

Frank Chikane served a leader who failed. The failure can be explained in one of two ways or both. Either the leader was given bad advice by those who were close to him, seeking to stay in the good books of the leader, or he was given good advice by them but refused to listen to it. I do not know which is which, and I do not care. What I take serious exception to is that the very same people who formed this failed leader's inner circle like Frank Chikane, should have the temerity to tell us how ‘misguided' our NEC was by removing this leader.

What input did Frank Chikane have when his principal was indulging in an ‘intellectual debate' about HIV and Aids when South Africans were dying in their hundreds of thousands? Was Frank Chikane a participant in the discussions that led to the adoption and implementation of that failed economic policy called GEAR, which led to the loss of over a million jobs? What input did he have when his principal negotiated and implemented the Arms Deal, a deal that has cost the country so much money, and opened the ANC to such a vicious attack from opposition parties?

Frank Chikane is a clergyman and most people believe that clergymen are people who speak no lies. They are held in high esteem by Christians who call them ‘men of God.' I think Reverend Chikane should be careful what he writes or says, because if it turns out that he is misleading us by what he writes, we will call him what Jesus called the Pharisees....hypocrites.

They were men of the cloth too and got a tongue-lashing from the Son of God! Maybe it is why these men of the cloth incited the masses to demand that Pilate should crucify Jesus, when the Roman governor told them he did not find any fault with the man of Nazareth. We are the masses, the ordinary folk, and we can be fooled for some time, but we cannot be fooled all the time!

Thula Bopela, alias John Drinkwater, writes in his personal capacity and represents no views of any organization.

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