JUST two days ago, our nation commemorated the 28th Freedom Day since the dawn of democracy. 27 April is a significant date on our political calendar, on which two divergent phenomena converged.
On one side, the disenfranchised and oppressed people of our country joined other freedom loving Peoples of the world, to celebrate the symbolic death of one of the most repressive and brutish system of Apartheid Colonialism that the world has ever seen.
Whilst on the other, adult South Africans of all persuasions, were for
the first time, allowed to exercise their right to vote for a government of their choice, in a free and democratic South Africa. A situation that was brought about by the tireless and relentless efforts and sacrifices made by amongst others, combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Today, we can declare without any hesitation, that our people owe their freedom to your sweat, blood and limb.
We are also meeting at a time when our nation is reeling from unprecedented scale and loss of life, as well as the destruction of infrastructure, following the devastating floods that mainly affected Kwazulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.
Just over 4 months ago, on the 16th of December 2021, we hosted an anniversary celebration of 60 years of Umkhonto we Sizwe, in Freedom Park, Tshwane.
During that occasion, many of us had hoped that the celebration of that crucial chapter of our heritage, would lay a foundation of the unification-project of all members of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Today I stand before you with a great sense of pride, that after six decades of selfless sacrifice by brave women and men of Umkhonto we Sizwe, whose history of courage and heroic deeds is written in blood and tears, that I have the honour and privilege of NOT only addressing you, but of doing so here in a Region that produced revered and gallant freedom fighters of a stature of no less than that of Comrades Chris Hani; WB Rubusana; Steve Tshwete; Steve Biko; Malcomess Johnson Mgabela Kondoti; Douglas Sparks; Washington Bongco; Mxolisi Jayiya; Parks Mankahlana; Skenjani Roji; Griffiths Mxenge and many more.
Today, I stand before Commissars and Commanders, Soldiers and
Operatives of the People’s Liberation Army, to bring you revolutionary greetings from the National Executive Committee of your mother body, the African National Congress.
As we mark this important milestone in the history of the liberation struggle, we must take off our hats in reverence of the mighty and courageous women and men, who were prepared to lay down their lives in defence of our people and our country. For this, we salute you!
You have chosen this day to mark the commencement of the final burial of our fractured and divisive past, as you take on a new journey towards renewal, discipline, welfare and unity. Under this theme, this conference bears testament to the true nature of an Umkhonto we Sizwe Cadre.
It bears testament of the fact that Cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe understand well, that they have a duty of disassociating themselves from factional squabbles that only serves to dislodge the ANC from prosecuting the National Democratic Revolution.
This conference has a duty to call upon all Cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, to stand in support of the overall Renewal Program, led by the African National Congress, much in the same way that the High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe declared its subordination to the political leadership of our Movement, back in 1961 when MK announced its existence.
This conference is testament of the fact that akin to military discipline, members of this constituency are capable of exercising high levels of discipline and restraint, as demonstrated by your acceptance of a decision taken by the National Executive Committee of your Movement in June of 2021, to disband both MKMVA and MK National Council, even though many of you may not have agreed with the decision.
You demonstrated your ability to exercise high discipline, and accepted this decision of the NEC, much in the same way that you agreed and consented to a decision by the Leadership of our Movement, to discontinue the armed struggle, back in 1993.
It is testament of the fact that members of Umkhonto we Sizwe are as determined as they were, back in the 1960s, to stand united against factionalism and ready to use their training and skills to promote unity and to assist branches of the ANC to re-orientate themselves in pursuit of the historic mission of our Movement, and to yet again become dependable instruments to transform our society.
You do all of this, because as members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, you understand too well that the role of defending our people and advancing transformation of our society, can only be achieved when ANC branches are recalibrated and strengthened.
As noted by President Oliver Tambo when he saluted you on the 25th anniversary of the birth of Umkhonto we Sizwe, “You are the flower of successive generations of our youth tempered in the crucible of battle”.
However, I must remind you that even with all your sterling efforts towards the defeat of Apartheid in 1994, the majority of South Africans continue to live in conditions of poverty, with an unemployment rate hoovering north of 45%. Ex-MK cadres continue to bear the main brunt of this unacceptable situation.
To this end, we must therefore take bold steps, and place on terms, all instruments of our Government, including those who are employed in critical spaces and assigned to render services to military veterans, and to demand of them to observe the fact that our Government is enjoined by the Constitution of South Africa, to recognize contributions that have been made by those who dedicated their lives, in order to bring about the democracy that we enjoy today.
Our attitude in this regard is fittingly amplified in the Preamble of our Constitution, which reads;
“We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
In this context, we must move with speed to distinguish and recognize in more tangible ways, those who were part of liberation forces that mobilized and fought against Apartheid South Africa in order to bring about the new Democratic South Africa.
Comrades, I do not have to remind you that the Armed struggle was BUT one pillar of the struggle that complemented three other competent pillars, namely; (1) mass mobilisation, (2) underground organisation and (3) international solidarity work.
The political freedom that we won when we forced the nationalist regime to its death knell in 1994, demonstrates the effectiveness of a well-calibrated and collaborative prosecution of all four pillars of our struggle. It is indeed the contribution by all pillars of the struggle and NOT any single pillar on its own, that finally brought Apartheid to its knees.
Similarly, as we drill deeper into the pillar of Armed Struggle, we must recognise the specific roles that different Detachments of Umkhonto we Sizwe played at different times. We must recognise the trailblazing role played by the;
- a) Luthuli Detachment, covering those who joined between the periods 1960 – 1970
- b) The June 16 Detachment, covering the periods 1970 – 1977
- c) The Moncada Detachment, covering the periods 1978 – 1979
- d) The iSandlwana Detachment, covering the periods 1979 –
- e) The Madinoga Detachment, covering the periods 1981 – 1984
- f) The Young Lions Detachment, covering the periods 1985 –
- g) The Barney Molokoane Detachment, covering the periods
1987 – 1992 The Internal Machinery, that covered the entire
period from 1961 – 1994
- h) As well as the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution
including the Self Defence Units , covering the periods 1985 –
The establishment and composition of these detachments is largely
generational and arises as a response to the various tactical
challenges that our struggle faced at different times.
With this understanding, and in the context of this conference’s theme of renewal, unity, welfare and discipline, it is therefore important for you to embrace the fact that none of these detachments was more MK than the other.
We must acknowledge and celebrate the role that different
detachments played in their own way, to advance the objectives of the struggle a little further down the line, for; all these detachments are but successive groups of combatants born of our people, and called upon at different stages, to perform different roles, as demanded by the tactical situation at a given time.
This All Inclusive Conference takes place just 6 month after the 2021 Local Government Elections. As you will know, our performance in these elections was less than inspiring.
It is for this reason that in the back of its mind, this conference should reflect on the performance of its mother body during the preceding local government elections, so that you can identify areas where you can plug-in your support, in order to assist the mother body to identify and rectify weaknesses that are responsible for its declining electoral fortunes.
An analysis of both the campaign and results of these elections will reveal a number of factors that contributed to the actual decline of the ANC’s electoral performance.
In general, it is important that we note and take seriously the unequivocal message that voters are conveying to the ANC, to the effect that they are increasingly losing confidence in the capacity and integrity of the ANC, to advance their aspirations.
It is important to note that this decline is congruent with an increase in the peddling of an excruciating narrative that the ANC is corrupt.
A narrative that is regrettably fuelled by the fact that some of our Cadres continue to be implicated and found guilty of corruption, and thereby visiting a substantial burden to the political integrity and reputation of the ANC.
It is in times and circumstances like these, that Cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, renowned for superior revolutionary morals, should seize the moment to support and participate in anti-corruption and renewal programs driven by the mother body.
It is in times like this that every Cadre of Umkhonto we Sizwe must report to the Forward-Base, which is the nearest branch of the ANC, to congregate with local branch members around the sand-table, and to assist each other to assess the challenges that we face, and to thereafter craft a new battle plan for a new battle.
A new battle plan that will prioritise and spell out the role that former members of Umkhonto we Sizwe should play in the fight against the demon of factionalism that pits one comrade against the other.
A new battle plan that prioritises and spells-out the role that former members of Umkhonto we Sizwe should play in the fight against the demon of corruption that subverts our electoral fortunes, stunts economic growth and drives away new investment, and ultimately undermines the realisation of socio-economic rights and the capacity of the economy to create additional jobs that our people so desperately need.
It is incumbent on this conference to demonstrate that you, Cadres of Umkhonto we Sizwe, are indeed the Spear and Shield of the nation. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you understand fully well that the ANC belongs to all People beyond our card-carrying members.
As you engage each other during this conference, I implore you to desist from basking in the false assumption that the ANC will somehow miraculously self-correct, but to consciously insert and immense yourself with daily activities of your ANC branch, and to ensure that the character and standing of the ANC as leader of society, is restored.
I implore you to consciously insert and immense yourself with daily activities of your ANC branch, and to ensure that the perception of an ANC that is less concerned about problems and challenges faced by our communities, but constantly preoccupied and consumed by interests of power and positions to facilitates their wicked desire to access public resources, is defeated.
The erosion of trust in ANC leaders calls for you and this conference to re-imagine extraordinary measures that you should take, in order to support the call for the organisation to fall-back into a path of renewal.
Commissars and Commanders,
Since its inception, Umkhonto we Sizwe has never pursued exclusive programs of its own, that were unrelated to programs of the mother body. The success and impact of this all-inclusive conference of ex-Umkhonto we Sizwe Cadres will therefore only resonate if its outcomes will demonstrate a resolve to support programs of the mother body.
Comrades, as you know, the January 8 Statement issued by the NEC of our movement has set-out specific tasks that members of the ANC should engage with and should be seized with during the course of this year of unity and renewal.
In light of the fact that the existence and purpose of Umkhonto we Sizwe has always been premised on the support that Umkhonto we Sizwe could provide to the political program of our Movement, the relevance of this very conference will therefore depend on the connectedness of its resolutions to current political programs of the mother body, the African National Congress!
It is therefore imperative that delegates to this conference debate the nature of support that they can give to braches of the ANC, in order to assist branches to move beyond the anti-corruption calls, and to begin to decisively tackle corruption at branch level, and thereby regain confidence of local people.
Delegates must debate the nature of support that they can give to branches of the ANC, with a view of assisting branches to fix local government, to re-commit to serving the people, to close the social gap and to interact honestly and transparently with our communities.
Delegates must debate measures that can assist branches of the ANC, to avoid being disproportionately consumed with internal squabbles about who should be deployed in what positions, as this will feed into the unfortunate narrative that the ANC is disrespectful of the community that votes-it into office in the first instance.
Delegates to this conference must recommit to the rejuvenation of vibrancy in the ANC branch, as branches present valuable platforms through which the ANC can organise and mobilise society towards a common course in the building of a better life.
We must commit to the rejuvenation of the ANC branch, for, it is within branches where we run campaigns, recruit and empower members to become even better and disciplined members that are committed to serving society with integrity.
We must call on delegates to this conference, to commit themselves to fight the tendency by scrupulous individuals who seek to commodify members of the ANC, by reducing them to mere commodities to be bought as voting fodders, in order to propel them into positions of influence for self-serving purposes of no relation to the revolution.
Our voters expect you, being a trustworthy enabler of the revolution, to do all in your power to obliterate foreign and self-serving tendencies that have creeped into the ANC. They want you to reassure them that you are determined to cause the ANC to revert to its original architecture of a vibrant and caring ANC branch that is firmly focused on serving the community.
Our communities expect you, being a trustworthy enabler of the revolution, to ensure that the ANC branch immerses itself fully in community issues, mobilising and leading society towards a better life. They want nothing less than an ANC branch that is capable of marshaling the delivery of services to communities.
I call on you to stand close and alongside the leadership of the ANC as we tackle challenges that face our organisation today.
I call on you to support and to strengthen our resolve of building a people-centred organisation, whose sole focus is to serve society and deliver a better life for all.
I call on you to vigorously engage one another, and to explore additional ways of advancing the revolution.
But above all, I call on you to summon revolutionary courage and discipline; to stand united with each other; to recommit yourself to the renewal of the ANC, and to support the creation of 1(one) ex- MK formation; we call on you to commit to the reinvigoration of
discipline within your membership and to always stay alive to the reality that, in your hands, lies the future and destiny of our country and our People!
- This is an edited version of ANC Deputy President David Mabuza’s opening address to the All Inclusive Conference of former Umkhonto we Sizwe members held in the Eastern Cape.