The lie in the life of Julius Malema

Paul Trewhela on the infantile art of re-writing the history of the ANC

By arguing in Harare last weekend that the African National Congress in South Africa should follow the lead of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, Julius Malema, the president of the ANC Youth League, has sabotaged the best values in the history of Africa's premier liberation movement and disgraced it.

In two years' time, the ANC and South Africa will celebrate the centenary of a political organisation which - despite serious tensions at different times - truly earned the title 'national' by which the Native National Congress described itself at its founding convention in 1912, as the organiser, advocate and champion of black emancipation and advancement.

The ANC deserved its title of being 'national', awarded nearly a century ago, since, as Pixley ka Isaka Seme pointed out in a major preparatory article, the feud between Xhosa and Mfengu was an aberration, while the animosity between Zulu and Tonga, and between Sotho and other black people in the country, needed to be buried and forgotten. "We are one people," Seme insisted. "These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today". (Imvo Zabantsundu, 24 October 1911)

In four major steps - the Doctors' Pact in 1947 between Dr AB Xuma (president of the ANC), Dr GM Naicker (president of the Natal Indian Congress) and Dr Yusuf Dadoo (president of the Transvaal Indian Congress); the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 as a body of armed struggle open to all races; the Mororgoro conference of the ANC in 1969, by which general membership of the ANC was opened up to all races; and the Kabwe conference of 1985, by which the National Executive Committee of the ANC was made open to all races - the ANC further prepared itself as a party fit for national government, in terms of its founding ethic. Each step involved a further elaboration of the founding doctrine, elaborated by Seme: "We are one people".

Zimbabwe has never achieved a political organisation that could make a truth of this ethic.

Instead, under Robert Mugabe and the securocrats and military brutalists he represents, ZANU-PF was guilty of the biggest genocidal massacre in southern Africa since the Vernichtungsbefehl (or Extermination Order) of General Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha against the Herero people in Namibia in 1904, an act that set the scene for the European Holocaust under Adolf Hitler.

ZANU-PF's Gukurahundi, its mass extermination of 20,000 isiNdebele-speakers in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, should have cried to high Heaven for emphatic protest, at the very least, from the ANC, as a violation of the first principle on which it had been founded by Seme, the Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, Solomon T Plaatje, the Reverend Walter Rubusana and others. As an expression of Shona chauvinism and blood lust against the formerly dominant amaNdebele (who had fought against white rule in Rhodesia in the equally tribally-directed ZAPU), the Gukurahundi was a premonitory anticipation in southern Africa of the cataclysm to come in Rwanda in 1994, when Hutu leaders sought to exterminate from the earth the entire people of their former Tutsi overlords.

The silence of the ANC over ZANU-PF's Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe in the 1980s might be considered understandable, at that time, since it was then a banned organisation in South Africa fighting a very adverse military struggle against the apartheid regime from host countries to the north. It might be argued that a diplomatic silence was all that was available to it, at that time, under the circumstances.

Sixteen years after it became the government of the country with the strongest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, however, this is now a guilty silence, amounting to complicity, in which the ANC has spurned its founding principle.

Had a similar number of black people been murdered systematically by any white government in southern Africa since the end of World War Two, in a comparable time-frame, there would have been the most gigantic international outcry. Instead, ...silence. The massacre at Sharpeville 50 years ago was small fry by comparison. It was hypocrisy, and complicity in evil, for the ANC - and Malema - to commemorate the killings at Sharpeville and yet to continue in silence over the even greater crime of Gukurahundi, which should rank alongside von Trotha's Vernichtungsbefehl as an atrocity of the first order.

The whole of South Africa is shamed.

Now Malema wants to make the ANC even more an appendage of Mugabe's murder machine.

Instead of the ANC providing leadership to the continent, it has sunk to the level of praise-singer to a leader, a party and a government that would have aroused moral horror in the hearts of its own founders. Mugabe, this Macbeth "in blood stepped in so far", now finds an emulator, under the mantle of the ANC, who does not even know the history of his own party, which was unbanned when he was only nine years old.

According to the Sunday Times, Malema said in Harare that "Mugabe and Zuma, together with the ANC and Zanu-PF, had fought in the 'trenches' together against colonial regimes and shared a common history...". (4 April 2010)

This is nonsense. It is common knowledge and in all the history books that the ANC, and Umkhonto we Sizwe, fought in the 'trenches' alongside ZAPU, not ZANU. When not murdered by Mugabe's Fifth Brigade during the Gukurahundi massacre during the 1980s, former ZAPU leaders such as Dumiso Dabengwa and Lockout Masuku were imprisoned by Mugabe's government in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, while their former comrades-in-arms in Umkhonto we Sizwe were still in combat with the apartheid regime.

Only weeks before Malema's rhetorical exercise in Harare, Dabengwa said at a meeting in Zimbabwe last February: "Ngakhala zoma ezami ngiseChikurubi ngisizwa ngento yeGukurahundi." (When I was at Chikurubi, I cried until my tears dried when I got reports about the Gukurahundi).

Umkhonto soldiers were even killed by ZANU forces in Zimbabwe in 1979, having been 'embedded' in ZAPU's military wing, ZIPRA, during conflict between the two Zimbabwean parties prior to independence. Others were returned to the ANC during the demobilisation process, after having been found in ZIPRA uniforms.

As five former members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) recall in their indispensable essay, 'A Miscarriage of Democracy', reprinted in my book, Inside Quatro: a "majority" of MK troops formerly based at Fazenda camp in Angola in 1979 were "taken to Zimbabwe, where they fought alongside guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo, against the Smith forces as well as the guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), led by Robert Mugabe. Many worthy fighters perished there". (Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO, Jacana, 2009. p.12)

An ability to know the truth about the history of one's own organisation should be the indispensable requirement for a political leader who can be trusted. Not to rise above the level of tribe, or to shut one's heart to the abuse of one people against another, is a betrayal of the mission set out by the ANC a hundred years ago.

Malema befouls the best qualities in the history of the ANC of South Africa and lowers it to the worst in the history of Zimbabwe. He is not fit to repeat those words of Pixley ka Isaka Seme: "We are one people".

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