Z Pallo Jordan
This (untitled) lecture was an address to the Eastern Cape legislature in September 2012, the 10th anniversary of the Bhisho shootings, but also just weeks after the Marikana massacre.
The credibility of the ANC is probably the lowest it has been since 1990! The leadership has been stripped of its dignity! The best advice one can offer our movement caught in a hole is: “stop digging!”
How we emerge from this terrible tragedy will depend on how seriously we take the challenges it has placed before us.
It demonstrates the determination of the government to get at the truth that the president appointed a Judicial Commission of Inquiry within days of the shootings.
Commendable as the appointment of the commission is, its primary concern will be to establish legal matters of fact relating to the specific events of that fateful day, August 16th. We are confident that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry will conduct its investigations with the appropriate rigour and uncover all the relevant facts.
But Marikana is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise. The all too easy recourse to lethal violence on the part of the police tells its own terrifying tale. Besieged by new forms of violent crime perpetrated by criminals armed with military hardware, the South African Police Service has been exhorted to meet fire with fire by more than one minister and national police commissioner. This might have had the unfortunate consequence of encouraging the use of lethal force.
The sources of the tensions that led to bloodshed on August 16th, go far deeper than the specific events that unfolded that day. I want to use this platform to call upon the leadership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions to organise a workers’ commission of inquiry into the Marikana tragedy. Cosatu should invite the other two union federations to participate in such a workers’ commission that should investigate, among other things, the return to South Africa’s mining industry of the “native labour touts”, who pitted workers against each other for their own profit in yesteryear, in the shape of labour brokers. The “outsourcing” of recruitment was through labour brokers prevalent in Marikana played a notorious role in piling up the dry tinder of conflict. It should also shed light on the manner in which the mining industry is evading its responsibilities to its work force who live in shanty-towns around the mines.
A workers’ commission should also be tasked with investigating the shockingly high levels of violence in our society. An aspect of this violence is the alarmingly high incidence of private gun ownership in this country.
The close correlation between high levels of gun ownership and gun-related crime is now well established.
The best way to curb gun-related crimes is to move towards a gun-free society. The police service in a gun-free society will have no need to carry firearms.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comrades and friends,
Does it sit easily with the membership of the ANC? Does it sit easily with the millions of ANC supporters here at home, and in the world at large that during its centennial year, the government, led by the ANC presided over the first post-democracy state massacre?
How do we explain to the shade of Uncle JB Marks that today it is bullets fired from the automatic weapons of our democratic police service that are creating widows and orphans in the villages of the eastern Cape, of Lesotho, of the North-West province?
Who will explain to the martyrs of Bhisho that the police service they laid down their lives to create, also fires live ammunition at demonstrators?
The tensions that erupted in the continuing strike that led to the events of August 16th are in many respects the result of the compromises the movement made to attain the beach-head of democracy in 1994. We substituted BEE for wealth redistribution; we persuaded ourselves to be content with less than what we had fought for, because it was much more than what we had had.
In another context, I once raised the question: Will our Black captains of industry behave like the Randlords who incited the Anglo-Boer war and the atrocities of the concentration camps? Or will they behave like the latter-day white monopolists who mouthed liberal sentiments, voted for the UP while they profited handsomely from collaborating with apartheid? Or, would pioneer a new path of corporate responsibility by promoting better working conditions and wages for workers?
Regrettably, it would appear the emergent black capitalist class have bought into and are being incorporated into the culture of white capital. It might be unpleasant, but the current ANC leadership and the government it leads must accept that it has probably presided over the years of the ANC’s most profound crisis. Which poses the matter of the quality of the movement’s leadership at this moment.
Every movement for political transformation has arrived at this moment of truth sooner or later. During the French Revolution it came on the 18th Brumaire; during the Russian Revolution it was Kronstadt.
Has that moment also arrived for South Africa in the shape of Marikana?
Let Marikana be the moment when to once again take hold of the movement of our people and steer it again towards the sound and sober strategies of the past.
The elective conference that the ANC holds at the end of this year must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that has the will, the moral courage and moral standing to take on task of cleaning the Augean stables of corruption!
The elective conference of the ANC must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that will restore the credibility of the movement amongst its friends and opponents.
The elective conference of the ANC must rise to the challenge of producing a leadership corps that will restore the movement’s reputation and record of compassion.
Only by correcting itself in that manner, will the ANC regain the confidence of the democratic forces of this country and take us all on a higher trajectory to a better life for all our people!
— Letters to my Comrades: Interventions and Excursions by Z Pallo Jordan with consulting editor Colin Bundy is compiled by Keorapetse Kgositsile & Mothobi Mutloatse. The book is published by Jacana Media and has a recommended retail price of R330. It is available at all good bookstores.