Thula Bopela on Thabo Mbeki: A reply

Mzukisi Makatse takes issue with the critique of Frank Chikane's new book

To Comrade Thula Bopela: A reply.

I must say that you comrade Bopela never fails to amaze me with your angry and personalised attacks on former president, comrade Thabo Mbeki. The way you stage-manage this project always gives a sense of warning to anyone wishing to say anything positive about the former president. Your attacks actually border on personal hatred for comrade Mbeki. This hatred seems to be informed by a certain level of tribalism, political jealousy and a strange political low-self esteem on your part comrade. This is evident in many of your writings about the former president and your latest article is no different.

This all-out attack on the former president is in fact designed to make comrades feel guilty of praising comrade Mbeki for the good things he did for the ANC and the country. It makes comrades to always think that praising comrade Mbeki's positive elements, as we always do with many other former leaders of the liberation movement, will lead to them characterised as part of one or another faction, clique and cabal within the ANC. This is unfortunately the consequence of the threatening and factional tone in your article against Rev. Chikane's book.

Like some media commentators, you couch your attacks on the former president with the usual negative brush of Gear, Aids denial and Arms deal. Well, that's fair enough because these are serious stains in the leadership of former president Mbeki. But in your tirade you say zilch about the role played by other leaders in these blunders as they were part of the previous administration under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki. Is it because those you say nothing about are your 'friends', like Marc Anthony?

Not surprisingly, you say nothing about the view that the overall thrust of the current economic policy is predicated on the philosophical tenets of the Gear policy. In fact, how different do you think is the detail of the New Growth Path from Gear? You avoid getting into such debates for an obvious reason, hence you end up doing exactly the same thing you criticise Rev. Chikane about.

The fact is that you are the one who take us for fools comrade Bopela. The manner in which you attack Rev. Chikane clearly shows that you want people to have the same vicious understanding as you about the removal of comrade Mbeki from office, as if in the ANC we think alike. How mischievous! In case you forgot, the ANC is a multi-class liberation movement buttressed by a mass character. In such an environment you cannot expect us to interpret the removal of Mbeki from office the same way. That would be the death of the ANC as we know it.

In his book, Rev. Chikane is giving his personal understanding of the removal of Mbeki from office. Not all of us agree with some or many of the things said in his book. But at least we respect his liberty to express his views as he wishes. For once I thought you were going to advance your own cogent argument and reasons for the removal of Mbeki from office in contradistinction to that of Rev. Chikane. Clearly I was wrong!

All there is in your article is the bashing of former president Mbeki and the Rev. Chikane's religious bona fides and his standing in society. In fact your article, and with all due respect comrade, displays a high level of immaturity, considering your years and experience in the movement. Statements like: 'Mbeki and his friends', clearly show how low can one stoop in a desperate attempt to spew venom and hatred against a fellow comrade. Or he is no longer a comrade to you?

To be honest with you comrade Bopela, your political analysis to me seems to always premise itself on a self-inflicted superiority mentality that depicts MK soldiers and exile cadres as the most brutalised by apartheid compared to the so called 'inziles'. This mentality lends itself to a feeling of being more important than those that waged the struggle against apartheid from within the country. This superiority mentality is clearly exposed by your consistent and malicious attacks on Bishop Desmond Tutu's and Rev. Chikane's participation in the internal political demonstrations against apartheid.

Let me tell you this comrade Bopela: I highly respect those MK cadres (including you comrade) and exile comrades that fought against apartheid at the same wave length I do those comrades who fought against apartheid from within the country. As a politically astute comrade, you should know better and be sensitive to the dialectical combination of all those methods we pursued in fighting apartheid. These methods included in the main armed struggle, international sanctions, underground work and not least internal mass mobilisation. These were carried out and implemented as a dynamic whole. You therefore can elevate one over others.

Further, to strenuously seek to erase Mbeki from the ANC's and country's history as a condemned and monumental failure is both disingenuous and wishful thinking. In fact that betrays your self-proclaimed understanding of the development of historical phenomena or matter. It is a wrong triumphalist mentality that shouts to all: now is our turn and to hell with the vanquished! Such a mentality only serves the immediate wants of the victors and does irreparable harm to the growth and development of the ANC as a movement.

The best thing that comrade Mbeki will always take solace in is the fact that none, including Rev. Chikane, have ever defined him as a faultless and infallible leader. Everyone who has dared to do an assessment of the former president always come up with the best and the worst of comrade Thabo Mbeki. In his resignation message to the nation aired on SABC in 2008, comrade Mbeki unflinchingly pointed out that under his leadership, we had the best of times and we had the worst of times. What more do you want from this comrade?

In fact you astound me because you were working in parliament during the major period of Mbeki's leadership as president of the country. You never said a dime when Mbeki committed such major blunders. You did not say anything until the momentum of Jacob Zuma's ascendency to power had gathered enough pace. Now you want to always project yourself as a paragon of virtue who must, from time to time, come up with interventions designed to convey the uncomfortable 'truths' about comrade Mbeki. I think that is rather opportunistic and divisive of you comrade Bopela.

I urge you to spare us your peace-time revolutionary mantra and engage constructively but fearlessly with the challenges facing the ANC and the current administration. Or will you wait until the current incumbent has become so unpopular to a point of no return before you raise your objections against him? That would be the worst opportunistic and populist approach that will surely kill the ANC in the long run.

So, who is the real Marc Anthony here comrade Bopela?

Mzukisi Makatse is a member of the ANC and ANCYL. He writes in his personal capacity.

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