The ANC and the vulgarity of money and power, who will save the ANC?

September 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Originally appeared on News24, 2011-07-26 08:10

Malema should start a church and call it Tithes for Tenders Church. After all, the ANC is a broad church. This would be a lucrative church. There are already so many people who worship at the altar of the tender anyway.

In light of the recent allegations levelled against Malema, the suggestion of course is that Malema is unscrupulous, he’ll get you the tender whether you are competent or not. Let’s not forget that he also gets anywhere between 30% and 50% of the profits from the tender once awarded. Of course we don’t know how true the allegations are; they have not been tested before a court of law.

This might or might not go before the courts. Malema has many powerful enemies who would be happy to see him go. But he also has many powerful friends with vested interests who will do whatever they can to protect him, for if he goes down, so do they. For us outsiders, the reports make it look like the ANC is nothing but a sordid orgy of greed based palm greasing.

It is of course no surprise that there are many who are pleased to see yet another front page story about Julius Malema that goes to prove their point that Malema is a greedy principle-less entity. Because that’s what he is to them, not a human being, but just an entity to provide entertainment.

Purchasing favour with money

It seems to me that some powerful and influential people seem to believe that they can avert the wrath of the ANC by purchasing favour with money. That one will be looked upon favourably by those issuing tenders, very much like the Catholic Church forgiving people’s sins in exchange for money before Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis in 1517. There was a teaching by the church’s salesman, Johann Tetzel, who taught that one’s sins could be forgiven by God if they paid a fee.

The corruption of the church had reached Sodom and Gomorrah proportions. Johann Tetzel was working under the instruction of the Archbishop of Mainz, who had bought his position, the Archbishopric, from then Pope Leo X. The Archbishop encouraged these heretic teachings because money was coming in for him to pay the Pope. The Pope tolerated them too because money was coming to his coffers too, which would help him finance his vanity project, the renovation of the majestic St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The love of money is the route of all evil, even in the church.

If money can corrupt the church, how much more will it corrupt mere men? Especially men of politics?

The ANC has lost its soul. It lost it a long time ago, and those with the means to find it, do not want it to be found. Power and money. They are sinking in the quick sand of unscrupulous lust for all that is glitzy, all that will visibly impress. The ANC is being spat at and demeaned tender by tender, brown envelope by brown envelope. Slowly the great party sinks to stinking new depths. When you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

The ANC faces a crisis of morality and moral leadership. Worst of all, it faces a lack of outrage from its membership. Perhaps it fears losing that its sins will not be forgiven if it utters a word. I don’t know.

This is no fault of Julius Malema. He didn’t create this. The monster was already there when he got there. He had seen it done. The grownups, the ones who were supposed to guide him and show him the way (as I wrote in the Cape Times) have let him down. The seniors turned a blind eye because he must get something too. They are rewarding him for his hard word. The indictment is on the ANC, those who made him and others think that it is ok to do this, if the allegations are true.

Thabo Mbeki, when warning against what he foresaw, said: “We should not seek to emulate the demeanour of our oppressors, nor adopt their evil practices.”

Our turn to eat

The brown envelopes are a continuation of the oppression of the masses. They say to themselves there is no harm. They are just taking money from the government and helping other black people. It is our turn to eat. We must eat while we can and much as we can because the gravy might not be here for us for long. This is the thinking.

Taking money from the government is taking from the poor, whether one likes to admit it or not. They do not think that they are serving themselves, not the poor they claim to speak for. What is celebrated is the ease with which money comes as opposed to the hard work that one puts in to get the money.

Since I write about Martin Luther, a man of the cloth in his day, perhaps it is appropriate that I quote the book of Isaiah 10:1 – 3

1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
   to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
   and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
   and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
   when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
   Where will you leave your riches?

They steal from the oppressed and rob from the fatherless. They deceive themselves and say they are not stealing from anyone, and they harm no one.

The ANC is in desperate need of the RDP of its very soul. The Reconstruction and Development Programme of its very core. The ANC may be dead. It may be in need of mouth to mouth.

Who will be the ANC Martin Luther?

Who will stand up in the ANC and post the 95 thesis against what is unANC behaviour? Who will have the balls to do this? Who will be the ANC Martin Luther or is money and power far too great an incentive than to stand for what is right and true? Who is bold enough to make the ANC sit up and notice? Who will risk being called a heretic by the heretics?

One no longer has to work for the good of the people; one must merely appear to be working for the people in order to get votes, and then get the position, then get the financial benefits that come with it. Personal financial gain is valued over a legacy that one can leave behind. The generation before fought tooth and nail and even giving up their very lives for liberation.

In 1978, Thabo Mbeki delivered a lecture in Canada and said: “The capitalist class, to whom everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable. As part of the arrangement, it therefore decided that material incentives must play a prominent part.”

It appears that in South Africa today, we can change the wording from “capitalist class” to “political class”.

It is not all lost. At least we can still talk about these things. We can discuss them. The moment we are not free to discuss them we are in a bad place. There are still people within the political class in the ANC who uphold the values of the ANC. And I am not for a second saying that politicians must not make money. They should and must, but it should not be at the expense of the people, nor should it be because of undue influence. Money is good, but not when people think that it’s the most important thing.

Is the ANC missing Mbeki?

July 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

*Originally appeared on the Cape Times

It would appear as if the very same people who wanted Thabo Mbeki gone are the very same people who miss him terribly now. We all remember how Malema said, “Mbeki is the best leader the ANC has ever produced… the most educated and clever,” a few weeks ago. The irony of course being that the man Malema supported, “100% Zuma”, is in office and he’s busy singing the praises of his predecessor, the man he helped get kicked out of the presidency. A week is a long time in politics.” Harold Wilson once remarked when he was British Prime Minister those many years ago. If two weeks is a long time, then two years is a lifetime.

For Malema, a man who actively campaigned around the country against Mbeki for Zuma to say something like that speaks volumes. Louder than the trumpets that shook the walls of the Biblical city of Jericho. At one point after Zuma publicly lambasted him, Malema said Mbeki would never have done something like that, he would have taken him aside and spoken to him. Malema was excoriated for saying that because he was indirectly giving Mbeki praises above his current president.

When Thabo Mbeki was on Metro FM over the past week, the social networks lit up like I haven’t seen over him in a while. Many started calling him Dr Thabo Mbeki. Something I’ve never heard before. The comments on the social networks were going on about how intelligent he was, how great it was to hear someone who knew what he was talking about as opposed to someone who was saying what his advisors were telling him.

It is important I think to remember that the two presidents have two different styles. Mbeki didn’t live up to Mandela many said. Now that Zuma is president, they are saying he is not living up to Mbeki. Funny enough, Mandela was generous in his praise of Mbeki when he said, “No President or Prime Minister in the history of this country can claim to have done more for the people and the country than has been achieved by President Thabo Mbeki.”

What I always find interesting in regards to Mbeki is the reaction of white people when I say that Mbeki is missed. More often than not, one gets a rather violent reaction from white people. The favourite subject of choice is that Thabo Mbeki is a murderer because he killed thousand of people during the HIV AIDS crisis. He has been called an AIDS denier amongst other things. These are just some of the reactions one encounters when one starts singing Mbekis praises, particularly from white people. Remember, I’m not saying all white people, I know how reactionary we get when we mention race in SA.

What I find strange is that the people who were least affected by the HIV AIDS epidemic are the least forgiving.  Yet those who were most affected are the ones who seem to miss him more. The question then needs to be asked, do some of these white people say these things because they think we will agree with them because we were affected? Or do they think that there is something wrong with us for thinking that Mbeki is great despite his stance on AIDS? (His position was misrepresented by the way, and it’s not something I want to get into right now.)

One keeps hearing whispers in the corridors of influence from people who say, not too loudly, how much they miss the former president. He may not have been the best human being but he was a brilliant man they say.

It is clear that South Africa’s loss has been Africa’s gain. With the formation of South Sudan, and Mbeki having been at the forefront of the formation of that nation, it is clear that he has included his name on yet another page of history. This has made many people realize that they miss iZizi

Thabo Mbeki will have the last laugh

February 26, 2011 § 6 Comments

I wrote this column last year and it appeared on the Cape Times.

Mbeki has been plotting a great revenge since his resignation. Or as many believe, his ousting from the presidential office, where he didn’t even have time to clear his office and residence according to reverend Frank Chikane’s Chikane Files. After he received his marching orders many thought that he had gone back to the drawing board to plot his revenge. They were right. He was.

Not the kind of man to want to write a biography about himself as former American presidents are prone to, most knew that he wouldn’t be sitting at home doing that. His revenge was far larger than a mere autobiography can master. He would not justify his actions in a book. Instead he was working on a legacy far larger than just the simple act of writing a best selling autobiography. We all know it would have been some great reading. Many of couldn’t wait to read his ANC “blogs” every Friday. They made for some reverting reading.

He has been very quiet since the events of 24 September 2008 when he had to vacate his position as the most powerful man in South Africa. However over the past few weeks we’ve heard a lot about him and the launch of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, which is meant to deal with the implementation of policies for the betterment of Africa. Its main focus is people, to build capacity. This is his revenge.

His revenge would be of continental proportions. A legacy. In fact his revenge started long before even he knew that this would be his revenge. His “I am an African” speech, which made us all proud to be African, was a road map to his mind. If South Africa couldn’t appreciate him, then Africa would. As Jesus said according to the book of Luke 4:24, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown,” after he was rejected by his own in Nazareth where he had been brought up. This must have been how Mbeki felt. As he said in a recent interview, jokingly referring to his continental travels perhaps, “Even my wife calls me a visitor when I’m here.”

Now, now I’m not calling him the saviour of Africa nor am I comparing the man to Jesus. The man is a mere man, but his vision for Africa is not a mere vision. Mbeki is a controversial figure because he does at times hold unconventional views, the road less traveled. Some hate him for it. Some love him for it. Sometimes he is right, sometimes he is wrong, when he is wrong we throw stones at him. He is used to it by now.

According to the Mail&Guardian, the idea behind the Thabo Mbeki Foundation is to build capacity and capability to build an Africa that is capable and world class, “We felt that our weakness is people — we don’t have enough people to implement this programme of the African renewal. The foundation would, therefore, assist in developing people to implement policies.” He said. If he can own the minds that will be responsible for the renewal of Africa, surely, he will have the last laugh. He is building a future army for the betterment of the continent.

He may even be long dead or geriatric by the time the continent reaps the benefits of his programme. This reminds me Don Corleone from the Godfather, who set in motion plans that wouldn’t and could not be derailed even after he died.

By being the brains behind the plans to develop people for a noble cause, Africa’s renewal, there will be a new generation of future leaders on the continent who will lay the foundations to his legacy. His stamp on the African continent may not be realized just yet with his new venture, but it will live long after he is gone. This will be his revenge.

Mbeki’s AIDS stance explained brilliantly (Mbeki and the Big disease)

May 4, 2010 § 2 Comments

By David Kibuuka

So where does one begin?13 years into the democracy and uncertainty about the future is at an all time high but rest assured folks things are nowhere near as bad as people make them out to be.

Okay, where do we begin? Well let’s start at the top. Thabo Mbeki, esteemed President of the Republic of South Africa . He’s not often here which seemed like a bit of a joke at first but now it seems to have comeback to bite him in the backside.Thabo and HIV. On the face of it he did terribly but a more careful analysis of the situation may reveal that old Thabo is not as empty headed as one would believe. Oh let it be said now that Thabo has a very dictatorial style ala “its may way or the highway!” Anyway let’s examine HIV.

HIV first appears on the radar in the early eighties as a “homosexual disease” or so they thought. Alarm in the gay community. Not so much alarm in the heterosexual community so nobody really cares. Then it starts to affect heterosexuals. The general population in the first world are fairly alarmed but quite informed and since most people don’t know or didn’t know of anyone dying first hand its all a bit of a myth. Meanwhile the big pharmaceutical companies are licking their lips because a disease that is transmitted sexually, kills you and has no cure is the jackpot for them. Everybody has sex so huge amounts of people will get this disease, need treatment and make the drug companies stinking rich. Hallelujah!

So the companies start to pour billions of dollars into developing a cure based on a per person spread. For example if 3 billion people get it then they sell a cure or treatment for 20 dollars per person. That’s just an example. Then what happens?

Due to education, tradition, custom or who knows what, nobody in the main markets, that is USA , Canada , Western Europe , Japan , the Arab countries and Australia get the disease. When I say nobody gets it I mean nowhere near the huge numbers predicted by the companies when they started pouring billions of dollars into the development of a cure/treatment. Obviously some people have the disease in these territories.

Meanwhile in Africa and the poorer parts of Asia the disease is going wild. Everyone is getting it. Everybody died in Uganda . But the pharmaceutical companies can’t make any money from these markets because neither the people nor the governments have any money to pay for the treatments. The infected people in these regions die horrible deaths. Yes some aid was sent but for all intents and purposes it was misery all around. Then in the late eighties and early nineties South Africa slowly moves towards democracy, the borders open up and the disease heads southwards into SA.

At this point the big multinational (read US ) companies are crying crocodile tears because they invested all this money in trying to find treatments and a cure for this disease but nobody who has any money gets infected.

Then South Africans start to get infected. The drug companies heave a sigh of relief. South Africans have money or a least their government has money so the companies can sell their treatments to South Africans and make their money back. Smiles all around in the pharmaceutical company boardrooms. I will be able to buy that Bentley after all says the CEO”(It must be pointed out though that technically at the start of the new South Africa the country was bankrupt).

It’s around this time that the companies start to talk to Thabo. Thabo knows full well that HIV causes AIDS. They have high powered negotiations in fancy hotels in sophisticated parts of the world .Thabo wants the drugs. The companies want to sell them. Everything should be sweet. Only problem is the price.

Since South Africa is for all intents and purposes the only country the companies can sell too and get the money they invested back they want South Africa to pay exorbitant prices. South Africa is their only customer.

Imagine it like this for clarification.

A hamburger shop (the pharmaceutical companies) predicts that on Saturday afternoon it’s going to be very busy. They make 100 hamburgers in anticipation on Saturday morning. They have already paid the butcher for the meat and paid the staff at the shop etc, etc so they need to sell 100 burgers. Saturday afternoon arrives and nobody comes to the shop (i.e. none of the countries come to buy burgers).Then one customer comes in (South Africa) Instead of selling him a burger at R10 they try to sell it to him at R1000 because he has got to make up the shortfall since nobody else came to buy burgers. Hope its clear.

The pharmaceutical company bosses and Thabo are sitting in a swanky London hotel sipping cognac. Thabo lives in London so its easier for them to meet there. So now you’ll recall that when we first heard about HIV in South Africa the treatment was very costly, like R5500 a month. The companies want Thabo to pay this much per person.Thabo asks Trevor, who is sitting next to him, to do the calculations. Trevor’s in London to watch a test match between the All Blacks and England . He’s a die hard supporter of the Men In Black. Luckily he has a pocket calculator on him so he pulls it out and does the calculations. Trevor tells Thabo that if South Africa pays that much per person it will bankrupt the country. Thabo tells the companies he won’t buy the drugs at that price. The companies threaten Thabo telling him that he has no choice but to buy the drugs because if his population gets wind of the fact that he won’t pay to “save lives” he will lose power. Thabo refuses to be strong armed and tells them to lower the price. They refuse, they need to make their money back. Thabo says if that’s the price then he’s not hungry. He takes a last big swig of the cognac, stands up and excuses himself saying Sierra Leone needs him. Trevor follows but not to Sierra Leone .

Meanwhile the companies go to Bush who is on a golf course on holiday and they tell him that Thabo is not co-operating. Bush swings the club and turns to the companies. They tell him that if someone doesn’t buy their drugs they will be forced to fire a whole lot of people, which would increase unemployment. Although the number of people fired would be negligible compared to the whole population this would be terrible PR for the Bush administration. They also say they won’t be able to pay their taxes because they made no money. This gets Bush’s attention because he loves taxes. He sits down, wipes his brow and has a sip of lemonade.” Man I’d kill for a beer but you know how it is.” He thinks for a while then gets and walks to his ball and gets ready to take a swing. They watch him.

He shouts back as he lifts the club. ”You guys didn’t push Thabo hard enough. Call his bluff fellas. Tell the people of Nigeria that their president refuses to buy these life saving drugs for them and see how they’ll rebel. They’ll burn Zanzibar down and burn Thabo with it; you know how these Africans are. Call his bluff man. He’s a dictator and he doesn’t wanna lose power”. Thwack, he hits the ball.

The companies go back to Thabo.

Ok, Ok they have a plan. The thing is this is a negotiation you’ve got to be flexible. They say they won’t be greedy.R1000 of the R5000 was for bonuses for them to buy private jets and Ferraris. They’ll they forgo that and charge R4000 per person. This is the same as the hamburger seller saying you can buy a burger for R800.Thabo says no. They say” But you need the burger, you’re hungry”. Thabo says he won’t buy a burger for R800, it will bankrupt him (the country).They say he has no choice. This goes on until the companies say that they’ll sell the drugs for R2200.Thabo says this is still too expensive. The companies start to fume now. They tell Thabo they are doing him a favour and he is unappreciative and they reckon they’ll just go to the South African population and explain that Thabo does not value lives .He’ll be overthrown or resign due to pressure; another guy will come into power and probably buy the drugs for R5000 per person. That Leon guy he’s cool or that Zuma guy. He’s got a cool name and 99% of people with cool names are cool people.

Thabo won’t budge. Economically it doesn’t make sense to buy these drugs at this cost. The people who are getting this disease are not exactly CEO’s and actuaries. They are the lower classes who don’t generate enough to make it economically viable to pay for these exorbitant amounts. Socially and morally it makes sense but economically it doesn’t at least not at face value. Crude and sad but true.

What does Thabo the famous chess player do now? He makes one of the boldest political moves in modern history. He tells his population that “HIV doesn’t cause Aids. Pause. The population believes him, or a huge segment of it does. Think about it. They want Mbeki out now with all this drama with Jacob but no-one wanted him out when he made this crazy statement except the liberals like the DA. The companies are in trouble. What do they do now? Any normal population would fire Thabo for saying this crazy stuff. Thabo says poverty cause AIDS not HIV. Same as saying that eating before you come to a restaurant cures hunger, the burger that you buy at the shop won’t cure hunger.

The companies can’t sell the drugs to the South African government now. Basically their only customer left the shop without buying anything. Talk about bad customer service. They go back to Bush who is shooting ducks on his ranch .The say they are gonna have to fire people and this would be bad PR for Bush’s administration. Bush says “You guys said that already, what? Do you think I’m an idiot?” They stare at him blankly then roll their eyes not wanting to answer the question. Bush shoots a deer instead of a duck but says he was aiming for it. He then thinks hard. Nothing comes to mind.

One of Bush’s people hatches a plan. They’ll donate 15 billion dollars to the fight against HIV in Africa . What this means in non-political speak is that they will buy 15 billion dollars worth of drugs from the crying companies (such babies) thus saving them and the companies will basically donate the drugs to Africa. Bush gets good PR and taxes, companies get their money back and Africans get HIV treatment. Bush is glad he thought of this plan.

So now in South Africa you can go on ARVs at a government hospital for a minimal amount, nowhere near the huge amounts from the old days. If they really thought that HIV didn’t cause Aids there’s no way they’d be giving away ARVs at government hospitals. This is a dictatorship after all. Shrewd move Thabo, shrewd move. One problem thou is the Health Minister who does not understand the nuances of international business and politics. She genuinely believes garlic can cure AIDS. Please whisper the truth into her ear Thabo.

Thabo the chess player came through. Sadly many people had to die while all this political and business maneuvering happened.

It’s difficult being the president of a country. Very difficult!

David Kibuuka is a writer and comedian.

He holds a Honours degree in Insurance and Finance from the University of the Witwaterand

“The pursuit of wealth” Thabo Mbeki lecture (speech) at Nelson Mandela Memorial

February 22, 2010 § 27 Comments

This is one of my favourite speeches by Thabo Mbeki as he addressed the dangers of the pursuit of wealth at all costs. The lecture was televised. I recall seeing Tokyo Sexwale smilling and shifting uncomfortably as Mbeki spoke.

*you can watch the video below if you want

I believe I know this as a matter of fact, that the great masses of our country everyday pray that the new South Africa that is being born will be a good, a moral, a humane and a caring South Africa, which, as it matures, will progressively guarantee the happiness of all its citizens.

I say this as I begin this Lecture to warn you about my intentions, which are about trying to convince you that because of the infancy of our brand new society, we have the possibility to act in ways that would, for the foreseeable future, infuse the values of Ubuntu into our very being as a people.

But what is it that constitutes Ubuntu – beyond the standard and yet correct rendition – Motho ke motho ka motho yo mongoe: Umuntu ngumuntu


The Book of Poverbs in the Holy Bible contains some injunctions that capture a number of elements of what I believe constitute important features of the

Spirit of Ubuntu, which we should strive to implant in the very bosom of the new South Africa that is being born – the food of the soul that would inspire all our people to say that they are proud to be South African!

The Proverbs say:

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

“Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.”

The Book of Proverbs assumes that as human beings, we have the human capacity to do as it says – not to withhold the good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of (our) hand to do it, and not to say NO to our neighbour, come again, and we will give you something tomorrow, even when we can give the necessary help today.

It assumes that we can be encouraged not to devise evil against our neighbours, with whom we otherwise live in harmony.

It assumes that we are capable of responding to the injunction that we should not declare war against anybody without cause, especially those who have not caused us any harm.

It urges that in our actions, we should not seek to emulate the demeanour of our oppressors, nor adopt their evil practices.

I am conscious of the fact that to the cynics, all this sounds truly like the behaviour we would expect and demand of angels. I am also certain that all of us are convinced that, most unfortunately, we would find it difficult to find such angels in our country, who would number more than the fingers on two hands!

It may indeed very well be that, as against coming across those we can honestly describe as good people, we would find it easier to identify not only evil-doers, but also those who intentionally set out to do evil. In this regard, we would not be an exception in terms both of time and space.


To illustrate what I am trying to say, I will take the liberty to quote words from the world of drama. I know of none of Shakespeare’s Tragedies, except Richard III, that begins with an open declaration of villainy by the very villain of the play.

This well-known play begins with an oration by the Duke of Gloucester, who later becomes King Richard III, in which he unashamedly declares his evil intentions, in these famous words:

“Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;…

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other…”

This open proclamation of evil intent stands in direct opposition to the directive in the Proverbs, which said, “Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.”


Surely, all this tells us the naked truth that the intention to do good, however noble in its purposes, does not guarantee that such good will be done.

Nevertheless we must ask ourselves the question whether this reality of the presence of many Richards III in our midst, dictates that we should, accordingly, avoid setting ourselves the goal to do good!

Many years ago now, Nelson Mandela made bold to say that our country needs an “RDP of the soul”, the Reconstruction and Development if its soul.

He made this call as our country, in the aftermath of our liberation in 1994, was immersed in an effort to understand the elements of the Reconstruction and

Development Programme that had constituted the core of the Election Manifesto of the ANC in our first democratic elections.

That RDP was eminently about changing the material conditions of the lives of our people. It made no reference to matters of the soul, except indirectly. For instance, the RDP document said:

“The RDP integrates (economic) growth, development, reconstruction and redistribution into a unified programme. The key to this link is an infrastructural programme that will provide access to modern and effective services like electricity, water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and training for all our people…This will lead to an increased output in all sectors of the economy, and by modernising our infrastructure and human resource development, we will also enhance export capacity. Success in linking reconstruction and development is essential if we are to achieve peace and security for all.”

All of these were, and remain critically important and eminently correct objectives that we must continue to pursue. Indeed, in every election since 1994, our contending parties have vied for the favours of our people on the basis of statistics that are about all these things.

All revolutions, which, by definition, seek to replace one social order with another, are, in the end, and in essence, concerned with human beings and the improvement of the human condition. This is also true of our Democratic Revolution of 1994.

Assuming this assertion to be true, we must also say that human fulfillment consists of more than “access to modern and effective services like electricity, water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and training for all our people”, to use the words in the RDP document.

As distinct from other species of the animal world, human beings also have spiritual needs. It might perhaps be more accurate and less arrogant to say that these needs are more elevated and have a more defining impact on human beings than they do on other citizens of the animal world.

Thus do all of us, and not merely the religious leaders, speak of the intangible element that is immanent in all human beings – the soul!

Acceptance of this proposition as a fact must necessarily mean that we have to accept the related assertion that, consequently, all human societies also have a soul!

To deny this would demand that we argue in a convincing manner, and therefore with all due logical coherence, that the fact that individual human beings might have a soul does not necessarily mean that the human societies they combine to constitute will themselves, in consequence, also have a soul!

I dare say that this would prove to be an impossible task. Nevertheless, we must accept that, as in the contrast provided by the Proverbs and Richard III, and with regard to the construction of a humane and caring society, we must accept that this entails a struggle, rather than any self-evident and inevitable victory of good over evil.

The question must therefore arise – for those among us who believe that we represent the good, what must we do to succeed in our purposes!

Since no human action takes place outside of established objective reality, and since we want to achieve our objectives, necessarily we must strive to understand the social conditions that would help to determine whether we succeed or fail.

What I have said relates directly to what needed and needs to be done to achieve the objective that Nelson Mandela set the nation, to accomplish the RDP of its soul.

In this regard, I will take the liberty to quote what I said in 1978 in a Lecture delivered in Canada, reflecting on the formation of South African society, which was later reproduced in the ANC journal, “Sechaba”, under the title “The Historical Injustice”.

“The historic compromise of 1910 has therefore this significance that in granting the vanquished Boer equal political and social status with the British victor, it imposed on both the duty to defend the status quo against especially those whom that status quo defined as the dominated. The capitalist class, to whom everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable. As part of the arrangement, it therefore decided that material incentives must play a prominent part.

“It consequently bought out the whole white population. It offered a price to the white workers and the Afrikaner farmers in exchange for an undertaking that they would shed their blood in defence of capital. Both worker and farmer, like Faustus, took the devil’s offering and, like Faustus, they will have to pay on the appointed day.

“The workers took the offering in monthly cash grants and reserved jobs. The farmers took their share by having black labour, including and especially prison labour directed to the farms. They also took it in the form of huge subsidies and loans to help them maintain a ‘civilised standard of living’.”

Of relevance to our purposes this evening, the critical point conveyed in these paragraphs is that, within the context of the development of capitalism in our country, individual acquisition of material wealth, produced through the oppression and exploitation of the black majority, became the defining social value in the organisation of white society.

Because the white minority was the dominant social force in our country, it entrenched in our society as a whole, including among the oppressed, the deep- seated understanding that personal wealth constituted the only true measure of individual and social success.

As we achieved our freedom in 1994, this had become the dominant social value, affecting the entirety of our population. Inevitably, as an established social norm, this manifested itself even in the democratic state machinery that had, seemingly “seamlessly”, replaced the apartheid state machinery.

I am arguing that the new order, born of the victory in 1994, inherited a well-entrenched value system that placed individual acquisition of wealth at the very centre of the value system of our society as a whole.

In practice this meant that, provided this did not threaten overt social disorder, society assumed a tolerant or permissive attitude towards such crimes as theft and corruption, especially if these related to public property.

The phenomenon we are describing, which we considered as particularly South African, was in fact symptomatic of the capitalist system in all countries. It had been analysed by all serious commentators on the capitalist political-economy, including such early analysts as Adam Smith.

Specifically, in this regard, we are speaking of the observations made by the political-economists that, since the onset of capitalism in England, the values of the capitalist market, of individual profit maximisation, had tended to displace the values of human solidarity.

In despair at this development, R. H. Tawney wrote in his famous book, “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism”:

“To argue, in the manner of Machiavelli, that there is one rule for business and another for private life, is to open the door to an orgy of unscrupulousness before which the mind recoils…(Yet) granted that I should love my neighbour as myself, the questions which, under modern conditions of large-scale (economic) organisation, remain for solution are, Who precisely is my neighbour? And, How exactly am I to make my love for him effective in practice?

“To these questions the conventional religious teaching supplied no answer, for it had not even realised that they could be put…Religion had not yet learned to console itself for the practical difficulty of applying its moral principles, by clasping the comfortable formula that for the transactions of economic life no moral principles exist.”

In his well known book, “The Great Transformation”, in a Chapter headed “Market and Man”, Karl Polanyi went on to say:

“To separate labour from other activities of life and to subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence and to replace them by a different type of organisation, an atomistic and individualist one.

“Such a scheme of destruction was best served by the application of the principle of freedom of contract. In practice this meant that the non- contractual organisations of kinship, neighbourhood, profession, and creed were to be liquidated since they claimed the allegiance of the individual and thus restrained his freedom.

“To represent this principle as one of non- interference, as economic liberals were wont to do, was merely the expression of an ingrained prejudice in favour of a definite kind of interference, namely, such as would destroy non-contractual relations between individuals and prevent the spontaneous reformation.”

In a Foreword to a recent edition of this book, Joseph Stiglitz says: “Polanyi stresses a particular defect in the self-regulating economy that only recently has been brought back into discussion. It involves the relationship between the economy and society, with how economic systems, or reforms, can affect how individuals relate to one another. Again, as the importance of social relations has increasingly become recognised, the vocabulary has changed. We now talk, for instance, about social capital.”

With reference to this Lecture, the central point made by Polanyi is that the capitalist market destroys relations of “kinship, neighbourhood, profession, and creed”, replacing these with the pursuit of personal wealth by citizens who, as he says, have become “atomistic and individualistic.”

Thus, everyday, and during every hour of our time beyond sleep, the demons embedded in our society, that stalk us at every minute, seem always to beckon each one of us towards a realizable dream and nightmare. With every passing second, they advise, with rhythmic and hypnotic regularity – get rich! get rich! get rich!

And thus has it come about that many of us accept that our common natural instinct to escape from poverty is but the other side of the same coin on whose reverse side are written the words – at all costs, get rich!

In these circumstances, personal wealth, and the public communication of the message that we are people of wealth, becomes, at the same time, the means by which we communicate the message that we are worthy citizens of our community, the very exemplars of what defines the product of a liberated

South Africa.

This peculiar striving produces the particular result that manifestations of wealth, defined in specific ways, determine the individuality of each one of us who seeks to achieve happiness and self-fulfilment, given the liberty that the revolution of 1994 brought to all of us.

In these circumstances, the meaning of freedom has come to be defined not by the seemingly ethereal and therefore intangible gift of liberty, but by the designer labels on the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the spaciousness of our houses and our yards, their geographic location, the company we keep, and what we do as part of that company.

In the event that what I have said has come across as a meaningless ramble, let me state what I have been saying more directly.

It is perfectly obvious that many in our society, having absorbed the value system of the capitalist market, have come to the conclusion that, for them, personal success and fulfilment means personal enrichment at all costs, and the most theatrical and striking public display of that wealth.

What this means is that many in our society have come to accept that what is socially correct is not the proverbial expression – “manners maketh the man” – but the notion that each one of us is as excellent a human being as our demonstrated wealth suggests!

On previous occasions, I have cited statements made by the well-known financier, George Soros, which directly confront the crisis to social cohesion and human solidarity caused by what I have sought to address – the elevation of the profit motive and the personal acquisition of wealth as the principal and guiding objectives in the construction of modern societies, including our own.

With your permission, and because it is relevant to what I am trying to communicate, I will take the liberty to quote this paragraph once again, believing that it resonates with a particular sense of honesty, because it emanates from one of the iconic figures of late 20th century capitalism.

Among other things, George Soros said that in an earlier epoch, “People were guided by a set of moral principles that found expression in behaviour outside the scope of the market mechanism…

“Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value. What is more expensive is considered better…People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reversing the relationship postulated by economic theory. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles. Society has lost its anchor…

“The laissez-faire argument against income redistribution invokes the doctrine of the survival of the fittest…There is something wrong with making the survival of the fittest a guiding principle of civilised society…Cooperation is as much a part of the (economic) system as competition, and the slogan ‘survival of the fittest’ distorts this fact…

“I blame the prevailing attitude, which holds that the unhampered pursuit of self-interest will bring abou tan eventual international equilibrium (in the world economy).”

(All quotations from: George Soros: “The Capitalist

Threat”. The Atlantic Monthly, February 1997.)

The critical concern that George Soros has expressed is what he describes as “market fundamentalism”, the dominance and precedence of the capitalist motive of private profit maximisation, which has evolved into the central objective that informs the construction of modern human society in all its elements.

Nothing can come out of this except the destruction of human society, resulting from the atomisation of society into an agglomeration of individuals who pursue mutually antagonistic materialist goals.

Necessarily, and inevitably, this cannot but negate social cohesion and mutually beneficial human solidarity, and therefore the most fundamental condition of the existence of all human beings, namely, the mutually interdependent human relationships without which the individual human being cannot exist.

I am arguing that, whatever the benefit to any individual member of our nation, including all those present in this hall, we nevertheless share a fundamental objective to defeat the tendency in our society towards the deification of personal wealth as the distinguishing feature of the new citizen of the new South Africa.

With some trepidation, advisedly assuming that there is the allotted proportion of hardened cynics present here this evening, I will nevertheless make bold to quote an ancient text, which reads, in Old English:

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”

I know that given the level of education of our audience this evening, the overwhelming majority among us will know that I have extracted the passages I have quoted from the Book of Proverbs contained in the St James’ edition of the Holy Bible.

It may be that the scepticism of our age has dulled our collective and individual sensitivity to the messages of this Book of Faith and all the messages that it seeks to convey to all of us.

In this regard, I know that I have not served the purposes of this Book well, by exploiting the possibility it provides, to say to you and everybody else who might be listening – “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise…”

Everyday, the ant, one of the smallest inhabitants of our common animal world, goes about her ways in search of sustenance, depending on nature’s harvest in all seasons, as well as her own little ways, to provide her with meat in the hot summer months.

To consider her ways means that we too, who unknowingly squash to death the miniscule pygmies of the world, as we tread the common earth as giants of the universe, means that we must develop the wisdom that will ensure the survival and cohesion of human society.

It assumes that we have the humility to understand that “a little folding of the hands to sleep”, travel and service in the defence of the nation, might impoverish us by depriving us of our regular meals, but simultaneously make us “happy (as) the man that (finds) wisdom, and the man that (gets) understanding.”

It would be dishonest of me not to assume that what I have cited from the Book of Proverbs will, at best, evoke literary interest, and, at worst, a minor theological controversy.

My own view is that the Proverbs raise important issues that bear on what our nation is trying to do to define the soul of the new South Africa.

I believe they communicate a challenging message about how we should respond to the situation immanent in our society concerning the adulation of personal wealth, and the attendant tendency to pay little practical regard to what each one of us might do to assist our neighbour to achieve the goal of a better life.

I must also accept that many among us might very well think that, like the proverbial King Canute, I am trying to wish away the waves of self-aggrandisement that might be characteristic of global human society.

To return to the Holy Bible, the Book of Genesis says, “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return”. (Genesis 3:19).

This Biblical text suggests that of critical importance to every South African is consideration of the material conditions of life, and therefore the attendant pursuit of personal wealth. After all, what interpretation should be attached to the statementthat “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread”!

Perhaps strangely, this could be said to coincideexactly with a fundamental proposition advanced by the founders of Marxism, expressed by Friederich Engels at the funeral of Karl Marx in the followingwords:

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”

Putting all this in more dramatic language, Marx had said: “Man must eat before he can think”! In this regard, Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, said: “Before we perceive, we breathe: we cannot exist without air, food and drink”.

In the context of this Lecture, and what we will say later, we must state that Marx and Engels represented a particular point of view in the evolution of the discipline of philosophy, and were not asserting any love for the private accumulation of wealth. They were “materialists”, who were militantly opposed to another philosophical tendency described as “idealism”.

One of the most famous expressions of this “idealism” was stated by the French scholar and philosopher, Rene Descartes, who wrote, in Latin: “Cogito, ergo sum.” (“I think, therefore I am”, and, in the original French rendition, “Je pense, donc je suis”.)

In the context of our own challenges, this “idealism” must serve to focus our attention on issues other than the tasks of the production and distribution of material wealth.

The philosophers in our ranks will have to engage the old debate of the relationship between mind and matter expressed in the statements, “Man must eat before he can think.”!, and “I think, therefore I am.”

I am certain that our country’s philosopher- theologians will continue to be interested in these discussions. After all, some of the earliest expression of “idealism”, as a philosophical expression, is also contained in the Holy Bible.

In this regard, for instance, St John’s Gospel says: “In the beginning was the Word…”

I am certain that many in this auditorium have been asking themselves the question why I have referred so insistently on the Christian Holy Scriptures. Let me explain.

I believe that it is obvious to all of us that economic news and our economic challenges have come to occupy a central element of our daily diet of information.

Matters relating to such important issues as unemployment and job creation, disbursements from the national budget and expenditures on such items of education, health, welfare and transport, the economic growth rate, the balance between our imports and exports, the value of the Rand, skills development, broad based black economic empowerment, and the development of the “second economy”, have all become part of our daily discourse.

Nevertheless the old intellectual debate between “materialists” and “idealists”, whatever side we take in this regard, must tell us that human life is about more than the economy, and therefore material considerations.

I believe that as a nation we must make a special effort to understand and act on this, because of what I have said already, that personal pursuit of material gain, as the beginning and end of our life purpose, is already beginning to corrode our social and national cohesion.

Clearly, what this means is that when we talk of a better life for all, within the context of a shared sense of national unity and national reconciliation, we must look beyond the undoubtedly correct economic objectives our nation has set itself.

In this context, I must say that, most unfortunately, there is much trouble in the world. Much too regularly all of us are exposed, daily, to news of human-made conflict and death, and the disasters caused by poverty and natural disasters.

In reality I must confess that I have hardly ever heard of conflicts caused merely by low economic growth rates, currency movements and balance of payments problems, except to the extent that these produce a crisis in society.

Currently, none of us can avoid being extremely concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. What is happening in this region constitutes a tinder box that has the potential to set the whole world aflame. As a country and people, we surely know that the highly negative events in the Middle

East are of direct and immediate concern to us.

It seems tragically clear that here we are confronted with an impending catastrophe that is almost out of control. Nothing that has been done and said during this period of high crisis that has produced the necessary agreement which would pull humanity back from the brink of an escalating conflict that can only feed on itself, leading to a further fanning of the terrible fires that already seem to be burning out of control.

In this regard we must pose the question whether, even in the medium term, we are not ineluctably progressing towards the situation when the centre cannot hold. I refer here not only to the serious problems in the Middle East but to the phenomenon of social conflict everywhere else in the world.

As Europe and the world sowed the seeds for the catastrophe later represented by the Second World War as in a Greek tragedy, the eminent Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, like other European thinkers, sounded alarm bells that nobody seemed to hear.

What he said survives today as outstanding poetry. Hopefully, the warning he sounded so many decades ago will be heard today, so that, by our acts of commission and omission, we do not condemn humanity to an age of extreme misery and death that could have been avoided.

In an appeal to the Muses, when all else seems to be failing, I take this opportunity humbly to summon from the grave an extraordinary human mind, to inspire the living to focus on the dangers ahead, and strive to ensure that, emanating from Jerusalem, the acre of the fountain of many faiths, no monstrous beast slouches out of Bethlehem to be born!

Thus do I appeal that all of us, the mighty and the lowly, hear the words of the poet not only with our ears, but also with our minds and our hearts, as he spoke of “The Second Coming”!

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand…

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds…

…but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at

last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I believe that for us to ensure that things do not fall apart, we must, in the first instance, never allow that the market should be the principal determinant of the nature of our society. We should firmly oppose the “market fundamentalism” which George Soros has denounced as the force that has led society to lose its anchor.

Instead, we must place at the centre of our daily activities the pursuit of the goals of social cohesion and human solidarity. We must, therefore, strive to integrate into the national consciousness the value system contained in the world outlook described as Ubuntu.

We must therefore constantly ask ourselves the question – what is it in our country that militates against social cohesion and human solidarity? I believe that none of us present here tonight would have any difficulty in answering this question.

I am therefore certain that we would all agree that to achieve the social cohesion and human solidarity we seek, we must vigorously confront the legacy of poverty, racism and sexism. At the same time, we must persist in our efforts to achieve national reconciliation.

Mere reliance on the market would never help us to achieve these outcomes. Indeed, if we were to rely on the market to produce these results, what would happen would be the exacerbation of the deep- seated problems of poverty, racism and sexism and a retreat from the realisation of the objective of national reconciliation.

Then indeed would we open the door to the demons that W.B. Yeats saw slouching towards Bethlehem to be born – emerging from the situation where the centre could not hold, in which mere anarchy would be loosed upon the world.

We must therefore say that the Biblical injunction is surely correct, that “Man cannot live by bread alone”, and therefore that the mere pursuit of individual wealth can never satisfy the need immanent in all human beings to lead lives of happiness.

The conflicts we see today and have seen in many parts of the world should themselves communicate the daily message to us that the construction of cohesive human society concerns much more than the attainment of high economic growth rates, important as this objective is.

As we agonise over the unnecessary killings of innocent people and the destruction of much- needed infrastructure in Iraq and Palestine, in Lebanon and Israel, we have to ensure that we do not slide into an era when the falcon cannot hear the falconer, when things fall apart and the centre cannot hold.

Indeed, as we, South Africans, grapple with our own challenges, billions of the poor and the marginalised across the globe see the world ever evolving into a more sinister, cold and bitter place: this is the world that is gradually defined by increasing racism, xenophobia, ethnic animosity, religious conflicts, and the scourge of terrorism.

In this context, we have seen the rise of rightwing formations, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance in France, Germany, Holland, Russia and many other European countries. This, in part, is a reaction to the relentless development of complex and varied forms that societies are ineluctably assuming due to the processes of globalisation.

It nevertheless also points to the absence of an integrative thrust – some reconciler – the institutionalised processes that would end the sense of alienation and marginalisation that leads to social conflict.

Indeed even in these developed societies, rising levels of poverty and insecurity have invariably conspired to fertilise the ground from which germinates ignorance about the ‘other’, and portend a bleak future for the prospect of what has been called a dialogue among civilisations.

In many European countries, immigration from the South is seen as an intrusive force that is bound to create ‘impurities’ in local cultures and in many instances, put a burden on available resources. In this regard, I am certain that all of us have been dismayed to see the way in which many in Europe have responded to the African economic migrants, who daily risk their lives to escape the grinding poverty in our own African countries.

Fortunately, in our case, I would say that our nation has begun to exhibit many critical common features deriving from a unified vision of a society based on non-racialism, non-sexism, shared prosperity, and peace and stability. Yet, at the same time, we still display strong traits of our divided past, with the debate about our future quite often coalescing along definite racial lines.

Despite this, and despite the advances we have made in our 12 years of freedom, we must also recognise the reality that we still have a long way to go before we can say we have eradicated the embedded impulses that militate against social cohesion, human solidarity and national reconciliation.

We should never allow ourselves the dangerous luxury of complacency, believing that we are immune to the conflicts that we see and have seen in so many parts of the world.

At the very same time as a ray of hope shone over our country and continent with the liberation of our country in 1994, and as you, Madiba, declared to the world that “the sun shall never set on so glorious a day”, our fellow Africans, the Rwandese people, engulfed in a horrific genocide, lamented in unison that: ‘the angels have left us’.

In a Foreword to the book of the same name, Archbishop Tutu said: “When we come face to face with ghastly atrocities we are appalled and want to ask: ‘But what happened to these people that they have acted in this manner? What happened to their humanity that they should become inhumane?’

“…Yes we hang our heads in shame as we witness our extraordinary capacity to be vicious, cruel and almost devoid of humanness.”

The imperative we face is that we should never permit that our country should witness the actions devoid of humanness of which Archbishop Tutu spoke, some of which were a feature of our long years of colonialism and apartheid.

Indeed, in a world that still suffers from the blight of intolerance, wars, antagonistic conflicts, racism, tribalism and marginalisation, national reconciliation and reconciliation among the nations, will remain a challenge that must occupy the entire human race continuously.

In our case we should say that we are fortunate that we had a Nelson Mandela who made bold to give us the task to attend to the “RDP of the soul”, and lent his considerable weight to the achievement of the goal of national reconciliation and the achievement of the goal of a better life for all our people.

Ten years ago, Madiba travelled to the Republic of Congo to assist the people of the then Zaire, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo, to make peace among themselves. In this regard, he was conscious of the task we share as Africans to end the conflicts on our Continent, many of which are driven by the failure to effect the RDP of the African soul, to uphold the principles of Ubuntu, consciously to strive for social cohesion, human solidarity and national reconciliation.

Tomorrow the people of the DRC will go to the polls to elect their President and Members of the National Assembly. Everything points to the happy outcome that these democratic elections, the first in more that 40 years, will produce a result that truly reflects the will of the people of the DRC.

We must therefore say that we have arrived at a proud moment of hope for the DRC and Africa, and wish the sister people of the DRC unqualified success.

Yes, the Middle East is engulfed in flames that are devouring many people in this region, and cause enormous pain to ourselves as well. But this we can also say, difficult as it may be for some fully to accept, what the people of the DRC have done and will do, is also helping to define a world of hope, radically different from the universe of despair which seems to imprison the sister peoples of the Middle East.

I can think of no better birthday present for Madiba than tomorrow’s elections in the DRC, and no better tribute to the initiative he took 10 years ago to plead with the leaders of the Congolese people that together, as Africans, we must build a society based on the noble precept that – Motho ke motho ka motho yo mongoe: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu!

Once again, happy birthday Madiba!

Thank you.

ANCYL should heed Mbeki’s warning – politicians and the persuit of wealth

February 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

In the last week we have been reading newspaper reports about Julius Malema’s two houses which are worth a cool R4.6 million and cars worth R1.2 million on a reported monthly salary of R20 000. Since he is a politician people are curious to find out how he was able to accumulate this wealth. He is not a member of parliament and is not obliged to disclose. According to Sunday newspaper reports such as the Sunday Times, City Press and others, he is able to pay for his lifestyle because of a stake he has in certain companies which have been awarded government tenders worth R140 millions.

We should not question the fact that he has been able to accumulate his wealth, what should be questioned is the manner in which the tenders were awarded. Was the tendering process fair? This is not to say that his companies did not deserve them, rather, was the process legitimate? Those are the question that need asking. Like anyone else he has the right to make money. If there is nothing wrong with the manner in which the contracts were awarded then we can sit back and applaud his business acumen, if however there is something not so kosher we have every right to know and demand answers.

We should not however jump to conclusions that they were awarded improperly simply because we don’t like the guy, or assume that he can’t accumulate wealth simply because he got a G at Woodwork.

Having said that, I would like to point out to an address by then president Thabo Mbeki at the Nelson Mandela Lecture, 29 July 2006, where he discussed the dangers of the new money chasing society we have become accustomed to. It has to be said that this is a system he helped create even if it was unintentional on his part. I quote from the next paragraph his prophetic warning…

He says, “Thus, everyday, and during every hour of our time beyond sleep, the demons embedded in our society, that stalk us at every minute, seem always to beckon each one of us towards a realizable dream and nightmare. With every passing second, they advise, with rhythmic and hypnotic regularity – get rich! get rich! get rich!

“And thus has it come about that many of us accept that our common natural instinct to escape from poverty is but the other side of the same coin on whose reverse side are written the words – at all costs, get rich!

In these circumstances, personal wealth, and the public communication of the message that we are people of wealth, becomes, at the same time, the means by which we communicate the message that we are worthy citizens of our community, the very exemplars of what defines the product of a liberated

South Africa.

This peculiar striving produces the particular result that manifestations of wealth, defined in specific ways, determine the individuality of each one of us who seeks to achieve happiness and self-fulfilment, given the liberty that the revolution of 1994 brought to all of us.

In these circumstances, the meaning of freedom has come to be defined not by the seemingly ethereal and therefore intangible gift of liberty, but by the designer labels on the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the spaciousness of our houses and our yards, their geographic location, the company we keep, and what we do as part of that company.

In the event that what I have said has come across as a meaningless ramble, let me state what I have been saying more directly.

It is perfectly obvious that many in our society, having absorbed the value system of the capitalist market, have come to the conclusion that, for them, personal success and fulfilment means personal enrichment at all costs, and the most theatrical and striking public display of that wealth.

What this means is that many in our society have come to accept that what is socially correct is not the proverbial expression – “manners maketh the man” – but the notion that each one of us is as excellent a human being as our demonstrated wealth suggests!”

To read the complete speech click here

I am an African, Thabo Mbeki’s speech. Possibly the greatest African speech ever.

June 18, 2009 § 85 Comments

Today, the June 18 is former president Thabo Mbeki’s birthday. Perhaps it would be prudent to famaliarise ourselves with his great speech, “I am an African”.

On 8 May 1996, then deputy president Thabo Mbeki made a speech to the people of Africa and the world. The speech tells of President Mbeki’s belief in the capacity of all people from Africa.

“On an occasion such as this, we should, perhaps, start from the beginning.

So, let me begin.

I am an African.

I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.

At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.

A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say – I am an African!

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and dependence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.

In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind’s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.

I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my stomach yearns.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African.

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls in the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.

And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.

They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.

The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.

Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes and unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender of historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.

Bit it is also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness.

But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a super-human effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!

Today it feels good to be an African.

It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe – congratulations and well done!

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now!
Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!
However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!

Thank you


If you disagree with me, know that you are an enemy

March 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

When I wrote the post about making friends with Julius Malema I was making a larger point on agreeing to disagree.
I am disturbed by the manner in which we conduct debate in this country. Disagreeing with a politician or someone in a powerful position earns one unflattering labels. When anybody raises views contrary to our own, we react emotionally and go on the attack. We don’t sit back to consider the possibility that the opposing view might have some value, even if we don’t agree with it. If you happen to work for a government institution and happen to support COPE for example, the days of your employment might be numbered. Our consciences are being bullied – the stomach is used as a weapon.

In our disagreements we are disagreeable. We seem to hold the view that he who disagrees with me must be an enemy. This is how COPE has been treated by the ruling party since it’s inception. And so we employ words most vile, demeaning and, if at all possible, humiliating. We saw examples of this when President Thabo Mbeki wrote his letters attacking the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu a few years ago. Of course the president had the best things to say about the archbishop as soon as they shared the view that Jacob Zuma could not be president. Those of you who have read any of my blogs know that I think highly of our former president, just because hold him in high regard ] does not mean I found everything he did or said agreeable.  As citizens we should not be afraid of criticizing our leaders, nor fail to praise them when it is deserved. Not only do you owe it to yourselves but your country and the ideals of democracy and free speech.

I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln, who said during his first inaugural address, perhaps addressing the man he defeated: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” It is my hope that as we debate and comment on the state of the nation, we will be virtuous enough to heed Lincoln’s call for these bonds of affection that should not be broken in the heat of debate. The truth is many of those who left the ANC for COPE are friends with people in the ruling party. So I urge you, whatever side of the fence you are on, let not the bonds affection be broken by the pettiness of politics.

COPE’s presidential candidate Mvume Dandala put this very well during a radio interview when he said, “When you are building an alternative voice you are not trying to create enemies, but to get more people involved in making the country work better.” I hope the members of the ruling party understand this.

In politics, I have come to realize, the virtue of humility seems to have no place; it is seen as a weakness, and arrogance as a strength — how far off the truth that is. He who shouts the loudest is smartest and the strongest. It is sad indeed.

If we carry on this way, it won’t be long before we get to a point where questioning views held by those in leadership positions are regarded as unpatriotic. We have seen this happen in the United States; anyone who spoke up against the war in Iraq was called unpatriotic. We are coming dangerously close. Some comrades in the mass democratic movement have began to use the term “counter-revolutionary” with liberal ease in order to stifle debate. The possible firing of Dr Barney Pityana will set a dangerous precedent. Opposing views are not allowed, or you will be left in the wilderness – that seems to be the message.

As a consequence, men and women of this country will cease to heed their consciences, but rather worship at the altar of the state tender. A friend of mine who disagrees with the ruling party on almost every level cannot and will not admit this in public because he said, “My conscience will not feed me, tenders will.” His life depends on tenders. People like this support the ruling party without any sense of irony. The altar of the tender is that powerful. Can we blame him or judge him for this? We cannot. But what we should try to do to people like this is to convince them that “coming out” preserves the greater good.

Many of us are patriots who love this nation. We say what we think is wrong as one would tell someone one loves dearly, because love dictates that one doesn’t shut up if one thinks that the loved one is driving down a cliff at high speed — even at low speed, for that matter.

Unfortunately some of us have misguided ways of demonstrating their affection for this, the southern-most country on the African continent. It reminds me of an abusive husband who belittles his wife by telling her that she is nothing without him. The cruel lover says this in order to control her. (In our case control is in the form of government jobs and contracts.) When she does leave and manages to succeed, the jealous ex-husband has only unflattering things to say about her.

Since many of us profess to love South Africa, I want to know the following:

How would we treat her if she were a lover?

How would we help her reach her goals?

Would we gloat if she failed and say, ‘We knew you couldn’t do it’?

We need to ask ourselves: How would we treat South Africa if she happened to be our true love?

I am saddened that we strive to feed our obese egos instead of finding ways to improve debate. The more we focus on our fragile egos, the less we focus on how we can help improve the nation.

We have to look deep into ourselves. No one is innocent. Not COPE, not the ANC, or any of the other parties. Our hands aren’t clean. I am a sum of all who agree with me. Those who disagree with me build my character. They are the ones I have to thank for helping me think the way I do.

What will destroy this country is an army of uniformity when it comes to its thinkers. We will die a painful, intellectual death if people perpetuate a certain school of thought because they want to preserve jobs, or because they are too afraid that they might not be able to find employment because they might have expressed an opinion contrary to that of some powerful figure.

We have forgotten the principles on which the country was founded. Instead we spend our days fighting petty battles. We have become a nation of the petty and arrogant. We slice and dice one another. Our internal battles have become so intense that we are slowly forgetting that we are still trying to fight for our position in the global arena. We have become so inward-looking that we have forgotten that we are competing in a global field. Since president Thabo Mbeki left the scene, our global standing has shrunk at an incredible pace. To this day, AU still sends president Thabo Mbeki to the UN to represent it. Those outside our borders see his value. Jesus Christ was right, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

Our inward-looking extends to the economy we’re trying to grow. We make it virtually impossible for foreigners to work here. One of the reasons America became such a force to be reckoned with is because it embraced immigrants with open arms. Immigrants come with different ideas. According to Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, 25% off all high-tech businesses in the US and 50% of all venture-backed companies were started by immigrants.

Dubai is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies because it has no qualms about getting foreign skills. It knows that to be the best, one must get the best. In his book, Florida points out that economies that open up to diverse peoples, immigrants and the likes are much more likely to be innovative and grow because they embrace different ways of thinking.

I am not unmindful of the fact that some will call me idealistic in my thinking. That is the beauty of youth. I am not old enough to know my limits. The reason I have hope for this country is because there are many more young people than older people. We don’t see a reason why we should doubt and limit ourselves.

Please, you are welcome to disagree with me.

Should Mbeki publicly endorse Cope but remain an ANC member?

January 28, 2009 § 6 Comments

Imagine a scenario where former president Thabo Mbeki decides to announce his endorsement and intentions to vote for Cope but decides to remain a member of the ANC. I cannot imagine a situation that could rattle the feathers of some of the over inflated egos at Luthuli House more. Some of those egos are “too big, too wide, too strong, won’t fit they’re too much and they talk like this but they can’t even back it up.” “Quoting” Beyonce while discussing politics seems a tad out of place. Perhaps I should make a better analogy. Let me point to the most widely followed election in recent memory. The US elections.

(Just an aside here. I was commenting on someone’s status on Facebook about something they had said regarding the ANC. In my comment I quoted Dr Martin Luther King; someone then commented saying, “Trust Cope to quote Martin Luther King who, at the time, was speaking about equality during the 1960s. What relevance does Dr King have to our democracy,” as if there was something wrong with quoting people from other countries. I’m afraid if that person sees this blog post I will be taken to task for making references to America.)

Two weeks before the American general elections in 2008 a very well respected Republican sat before Tom Brokaw, the host of MSNBC’s much-respected Meet the Press TV programme. This particular Republican, according to opinion polls, had been the most respected American for years. In fact, had his wife not forbidden him from running in 2000, would most certainly have been the Republican nominee for president, meaning that he would have ended up president of the United States instead of George Walker (Dubya) Bush. He would have been America’s first black president.

This Republican gentleman and former National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State, General Colin Luther Powell endorsed Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, for the presidency of the United States. During his endorsement he mentioned that he was and still is a member of the Republican Party but felt that Obama would make a better president than his fellow party man, John McCain. Although he endorsed an individual, it was essentially an endorsement of the Democratic Party’s platform.

General Powell made that endorsement fully aware of the impact it might have on the fence sitters. Here was an established, highly respected man going out of his way to make known his intentions of voting for a member of a different party to that of his own. Although he allowed himself to be used to bring falsified evidence before the United Nations, which led to the invasion of Iraq, perhaps the endorsement was a way of correcting that error.

He was not hounded out of the Republican Party after his announcement. Of course they were not happy with the endorsement. It was his right to express his preferences. Some tried to spin it by saying he was only endorsing Obama because he is black. Maybe it is time our country matured enough to allow people to express their preferences without fear or favour.

Unfortunately I don’t see Luthuli House viewing Mbeki’s endorsement of Cope as his democratic right. He would most likely be called a traitor at first. Then names and a host of animals that can be found in a zoo. The endorsement would then be ridiculed. They would say that he wants to rule from the grave. They would accuse him of bitterness. They would say that people aren’t going to switch from the ANC and vote for Cope simply because Mbeki decided to do so. The funny thing is they would spend an awful lot of time telling us how insignificant the endorsement was. They would also appear on every SABC station telling us how it would not make a dent in the ANC’s support base, which would make you how wonder: is it really inconsequential? Fikile Mbalula would say that he was right all along; Mbeki was behind Cope all along. Then Julius would call for him to be disciplined or call for his expulsion.

I had the rare opportunity of seeing Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula at a wedding I too had the privilege of attending some time last year. While all the guests were having tea before the reception, they stood together and talked, like two lonely figures. No one really walked up to them, to talk to them. Then later at the reception the master of ceremonies made the following pronouncement, “I see Mr Malema is also here.” There was much laughter. Make of the laughter what you will. But I digress, as usual. Excuse the ADD.

Should senior members of the ANC who might be sympathetic to Cope publicly announce their intentions to vote for Cope even though they remain members of the ANC? Should they come out and say that they are doing so in order to strengthen democracy and not necessarily weaken the ANC? Will a stronger opposition not in fact strengthen them? Maybe not in terms of numbers, but in strengthening the democratic processes within the party?

Members of the ANC should have the freedom to endorse and to state their intentions of voting for Cope even though they are still senior members of the ANC without the fear of being suspended.

If the rumours are true that the ANC is busy denying – President Motlanthe’s intentions of refusing the position of deputy president should Zuma become president, then it is difficult not to view his discomfort of serving as deputy to Zuma as a vote of no confidence in his presidency.

If, in the next few weeks and months, people decide to go public and announce that they will vote Cope but will remain members of the ANC, then the ruling party should understand one thing — these people do not love the ANC any less. It’s just that they love their country more.

Fear, hypocrisy and the abuse of Mandela in the ANC*

October 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

I read a rather hypocritical article penned by former Limpopo premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi in the Sunday Times where he decried the treatment of former president Nelson Mandela during an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting in 2002.

Mr Ramatlhodi was present in that meeting. In the article he details how NEC members called Madiba divisive for having told the NEC that certain of its members had approached him to let him know that dissent was not allowed in the ANC. Madiba was then asked to name the people who made those claims. In his attempt to protect these individuals, he refused to name them — for this he was called a liar. Some even said he wanted to rule from the grave. He was taken to task for this, as we say in Xhosa, bakhwela bezehlela kuye.

Ramatlhodi details how speaker after speaker went after Madiba while Terror Lekota chaired the meeting. He was so insulted that that he never attended another NEC meeting, according to Ramatlhodi.

To quote Ramatlhodi: “The tragedy of the episode is that senior leaders, who today are vocal about the recall of Mbeki as president, were there when Madiba was being violated in the most brutal manner by junior leaders of the movement.

“None of them had the courage to stand up and defend an innocent old man, our former president and icon of our struggle. They must have been genuinely afraid of Mbeki, a president who has somehow turned out to be the ANC itself. He has become larger than the movement. They were scared; I was scared.

“It was, indeed, a very sad day for those of us who were unfortunate to be there as witnesses.”

Obviously, it was not sad enough six years ago for him to speak out; he only realised six years later how sad a day it was. Now that it is politically convenient to speak out, he does.

It’s easy to show courage when you are part of a majority and part of the winning team. True courage is standing for what you believe even when you know in your heart that you have a 100% chance of losing everything you’ve worked for. I have no respect for one who only speaks out when it is easy to do so. He should have spoken out when it wasn’t.

If Ramatlhodi was such a man of honour, why then was he silent? Why did he not stand up for Madiba then? We can only deduce that his silence meant that he agreed with every single word that was said to Madiba.

In his open letter to Terror Lekota, Minister Jeff Radebe savaged Lekota for having presided over that meeting and for having allowed Madiba to be treated in the manner he was. If Ramatlhodi and Jeff Radebe were so concerned at the treatment of Nelson Mandela, why did it take them six years to speak out?

Indeed, if Terror Lekota presided over a period in the ANC where dissent was not permitted, then why should we trust this new party? How different are they going to be from the ANC?

But back to Ramatlhodi: Should we suddenly applaud him for taking a moral stance now? We should all be equally appalled at the manner in which Madiba was verbally attacked by the NEC members. I don’t know who was at the meeting, but we know who the members were: Terror Lekota, Jacob Zuma, Trevor Manuel, Thabo Mbeki, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Sam Shilowa and many more. None of them said a word in defence of Madiba. Not one according to Ramatlhodi. How dare now they use his name now to get what they want!

This whole saga clearly shows us that no one is innocent. No one has clean hands.

This is clearly an attempt by the ANC to use Nelson Mandela’s name in order to shore up support for itself. What can we make of these leaders who seem to have a moral compass of convenience?

There is no courage in speaking out when it is safe to do so. There is no honour in defending a man’s honour only when it benefits you. Ramatlhodi and Jeff Radebe should have demonstrated their moral fortitude when Madiba was viciously attacked in that meeting, precisely because it was not the politically safe thing to do then. Their political careers were more important than standing up for what was right apparently.

What I have never been able to understand was how Thabo Mbeki, as one man, was able to stifle debate. The men and women who were there, who sat and allowed that to happen from day one, can only blame their lack of courage.

What is the point of speaking out when the majority is speaking out? Courage is not when you speak out when it is safe or beneficial for you to do so.

We need to have leaders who are able to do so especially when it is unsafe to speak out. Right now they are in short supply.

* first published 20 October 2008 on

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