Faith Muthambi: How the tables have turned against forces of resistance
If we thought the political struggle was hard, we must brace ourselves for an even bigger struggle. The challenge for economic and cultural hegemony is likely to be intense.
Reporting on the goings-on at 24th years' commemoration of Chris Hani’s death, the Huffing Post headline screaming Hani Memorial: SACP Booed, Zuma Praised, And Limpho Hani takes a Swipe at Anti-Zuma Protesters said it all.
The report went further to note, “If Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial events were used to campaign against Zuma, the Hani event was used to do the opposite.” But this is half the story. The Ahmed Kathrada Memorial in Durban, which took place the day before the commemoration of Chris Hani in Ekurhuleni, was not any different. Pravin Gordhan, who was already accustomed to being hero-worshipped, got a rude awakening when he got a hostile reception from the assembled crowd. The difference between the leafy suburbs and the township couldn’t have been sharper.
What separates the group is their material and class location. Gordhan had assumed messianic celebrity among the historically privileged and the upper class. In the township setting he became a symbol of resistance to radical economic transformation. Indeed, the ANCYL in KwaZulu-Natal made it clear that it welcomes his removal from Cabinet.
At the commemoration of her late husband in Ekurhuleni, Limpho Hani made common cause with the downtrodden. Taking a swipe at the anti-Zuma zealots, she pointed out:
“I do not belong to a faction. I’m a member of the ANC and there’s only one ANC. I refuse to play into the hands of those who say, ‘What would Chris say?’ What I know is, Chris was a loyal and disciplined cadre.”
For Limpho Hani, the hypocrisy of Save SA is out in the open. Where black lives are involved, the campaign doesn’t give a hoot. It registered no outrage when news broke of black women being gang-raped, she reminded the audience. No outrage greets the daily exploitation of workers asking for a decent wage. If anything, their demands for a living are met with disdain. Nor was there a protest following the Esidimeni crisis which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 patients at care facilities. Instead of seeking white and media approval, Limpho Hani spoke of, and to the experience of, those for whom poverty and exploitation are not a theoretical construct but a lived reality.
For his part, President Jacob Zuma did not disappoint. In his characteristic measured tone, the President reminded the country that “in their actions, the killers of Chris Hani sought to sow division among the people of South Africa so that they could protect minority interests”.
The President urged the assembly that “in his [Hani’s] memory we must fight racism wherever it rears its ugly head ... there is a resurgence of racism in our country. It is also clear that racists have become more emboldened.”
Perhaps picking on Cosatu’s press statement that the real enemy is white minority capital, President Zuma noted that “the leadership of President Nelson Mandela rose to the occasion and called on all of us not to allow minority interests and the actions of disruptors to shift our focus”.
For President Zuma the focus is radical economic transformation that both the Save SA and minority interests want to suppress. Interestingly so, this is the very mantra that got the former President Thabo Mbeki into trouble when he reminded all and sundry that South Africa remains a country of two nations.
Former President Mbeki (on 29 May, 1998) noted:
“We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure... The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled. This reality of two nations, underwritten by the perpetuation of the racial, gender and spatial disparities born of a very long period of colonial and apartheid white minority domination, constitutes the material base which reinforces the notion that, indeed, we are not one nation, but two nations.”
Perhaps unbeknown to him, former President Mbeki was prophetic in noting that “neither are we becoming one nation. Consequently, also, the objective of national reconciliation is not being realised.”
President Zuma was to return to this theme 19 years later when in his 2017 State of the Nation Address he observed:
“Twenty-two years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered. They are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation. The gap between the annual average household incomes of African-headed households and their white counterparts remains shockingly huge. White households earn at least five times more than black households, according to Statistics SA.
“The situation with regards to the ownership of the economy also mirrors that of household incomes. Only 10% of the top 100 companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are owned by black South Africans, directly achieved principally through the black empowerment codes, according to the National Empowerment Fund.”
The articulation of this reality is at the core of President Zuma’s challenges. It is worth reminding ourselves that before his two nations speech, President Mbeki was the darling of the whites who he’d dazzled with his penchant for quoting dead English writers. Following the now infamous “two nations speech”, former President Mbeki became a source of derision. Unfortunately, his misguided policies on HIV did not help. President Zuma was not so lucky. He was disliked from the onset. He shared little, if any, cultural affinity with beneficiaries of apartheid. Never doubting his Africanness and remaining unapologetic about his African tradition. Nothing invites hatred than this bold assertion of one’s humanity. Evidently President Zuma’s restatement of the racial economic inequality has taken the hatred to the stratosphere.
It is therefore ironic that the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have teamed up with incorrigible racist outfits like the De Klerk Foundation. Indeed times are changing.
The ganging up by the foundations against President Zuma could arguably be attributed to the fact their founders are a relic of the past. Some cannot come to terms with the fact that they are historic rejects that cannot come to terms with loss of political power.
One only hopes that President Zuma’s closing remarks will jolt the SACP to sober up. Indeed, there is something politically unsavoury when so-called communists find common cause with imperialists and ultra-racists.
President Zuma concluded, “[He (Hani) was] an example of what a revolutionary was supposed to be but also an example of what a communist was supposed to be.”
If we thought the political struggle was hard, we must brace ourselves for an even bigger struggle. The challenge for economic and cultural hegemony is likely to be intense. For now the tables have turned against the forces of resistance to transformation. DM
Muthambi is Minister of Public Service and Administration