My father did not compromise me

Naledi Pandor replies to Isaac Mogotsi's criticism of her writings on Joe Matthews

Naledi Pandor responds to Isaac Mogotsi, "Naledi Pandor and Joe Matthews" PoliticsWeb, 18 January 2012

Isaac Mogotsi believes my grandfather, ZK Matthews, was a great man and that he has not been appropriately memorialized. He believes that my father was not a great man, largely because he thinks he was disloyal to the ANC. He presents my grandfather as noble and my father as ignoble. He presents my grandfather as a saint and my father as a sinner (see here).

Isaac Mogotsi is entitled to his opinion, even if he fails to marshal facts and evidence in its support.

But he is not entitled to use words like ‘sinister' and ‘suppression' and ‘ghosts' and ‘compromised' and ‘mislead the general public' about my recollections of my father. I take exception to those terms. I take strong exception to them and if my father was alive he would have put Isaac Mogotsi to the sword in the printed word and in public debate.

I did not ‘suppress' information about my father's political life. What an absurd comment to make. I was asked to reflect on my grandfather and my father in the time they were active in the ANC together. And that is what I did. And that is why I talked about the 1950s and 1960s when I was a child and growing up and learning about our struggle for liberation.

Did my father ‘suppress' anything about his political life? How do I know? But he certainly did not suppress the fact that he served on the central committee of the SACP between 1962 and 1970 and that he then left the party. This is hardly surprising, given the events in central and eastern Europe at that time. Most sensible communists left the party after the suppression of the Prague Spring and the invasion of Hungary. To stay in the party was to advertise to the world that you were a Stalinist. And that my father never was. But he never left the ANC and he remained committed to its core political principles then and late in his career when he was a minister in government.

My father has given more interviews than any other struggle veteran. Isaac Mogotsi should spend time looking at the Mandela Foundation website and at the Padraig O'Malley oral archive, probably the largest collection of interviews with South African politicians involved in the negotiated-solution phase of South Africa's struggle for democracy in the early 1990s. They certainly give a deep insight into the complex relationships between the ANC and the SACP. 

Let me add this. Commitment to political principle is a virtue. The ANC has a rich and varied group of world-renowned leaders whose commitment to liberation has never been questioned (even by Mr Mogotsi). My grand father is among them. My father is among them. My grandmother is among them. My mother is among them. But while political principle is unchanging, strategy and tactics in the struggle do change. And that is what my father was good at. He made strategy and tactics his own speciality. And the ANC is much the better for his great understanding and subtle skill in articulating the best way forward.

So don't call me compromised by what I learned from my father, Mr Mogotsi. Don't call me compromised. What did you learn from your father, Mr Mogotsi?

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