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Sad farewells and the SADC ruling parties lists

By Paul T. Shipale
A few weeks ago, the ANC of South Africa released its Parliamentary Candidate List which has retained more than half of its MPs, but with some notable exclusion.

Among those excluded from the list is former Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale who was relegated to the back bench after last year's Cabinet reshuffle when he unsuccessfully vied for the Deputy Presidency at the party's elective conference in Mangaung in 2012.

Also absent from the list is the current Vice-President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe , the Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel and veteran ANC stalwart Ben Turok who said their goodbye to Parliament and public life. It is reported that Motlanthe had a teary goodbye as he is known to shed tears rather readily in moments of grief and sadness. According to Ebrahim Harvey, his autobiographer, such poignant moments easily tug at Motlanthe's heartstrings and reveal a vulnerable softness not characteristics of leaders in the rough, tough, hurly-burly world of politics.

Barney Mthombothi, a reporter of the South African Sunday Times, said it will be amiss of South Africa not to celebrate the contribution of these giants especially during the dark moment that the country is going through when scoundrels haunt the corridors of power as good men bow out.

Another reporter of the South African Sunday Times, Redi Tlhabi, said it seems the ANC is no longer the party of John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Sol Plaatje, Albert Luthuli, Lillian Ngoyi, Dorothy Nyembe, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo as well as the iconic Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and all the luminaries whose brilliance, selflessness and wisdom shaped this once colossal movement, not because of its size, but because of its moral depth.

The reporter then asserted that now on the list are names of those who range from those who defrauded parliament and signed admissions of guilt to those who have violated their oath of service and loyalty to the constitution. On the list are also those who lied over and over again in the face of damning and irrefutable evidence of their iniquity. Instead of being fired, they were merely "relieved of their duties" and given protection and succour, concluded the reporter.

In view of the upcoming elections in many SADC Member States governed by former liberation movements, a point has to be made that each phase of the struggle imposes new demands and tasks for the parties across the world and their members alike. Therefore new requirements are necessary tools for building dynamic organisations to tackle new challenges that confront our countries.

I once wrote that not all members of a movement are cadres. In this regard, Ernesto Che Guevara in his article titled 'The Cadres: Backbone of the Revolution', states that "a cadre is an individual who has achieved sufficient political development to be able to interpret the extensive directives emanating from the structures of the movement, make them his, and convey them as orientation to the masses, a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations".

He goes further to describe a cadre as "an individual of ideological and administrative discipline, who knows and practices democratic centralism and who knows how to evaluate the existing contradictions in the society and to utilise fully the method of analysis in many facets; who knows how to practice the principle of collective leadership and to make decisions on his own and take responsibility in the growth of the organisation; whose loyalty is tested, and whose physical and moral courage has developed along with his/her ideological development in such a way that he/ she is always willing to give his life for the good of the revolution. Of course this type of a cadre is not necessarily readily available but it is carefully produced in the course of a revolution.

This crop of membership is the one who understands and has integrated into their thinking and daily lives the politics of the movement and will help it to address its wide-ranging immediate challenges, including membership recruitment and retention, social distance of the movement from its traditional base of the indigenous African masses, ill discipline, institutionalised factionalism and perceived disunity.

As reporter Barney Mthombothi aptly said, today's cadres seem to all have read from the same moral script that basically says "anything goes". Little wonder, nowadays it depends on who you know, which language you speak and what are your interests to be considered a cadre, even if you have no rudimentary notion of what it means in the first place. We should not be surprise that tested cadres are left out in the cold while the Johnny - come - lately are considered as cadres and put on the parties' lists and think tanks.

This year offers the ruling parties of the former liberation movements an opportunity to pause and reflect on the road ahead as well as look at themselves from the vantage point of hindsight. Against this background, we are reminded that the formation of National Liberation Movements were a culmination of our people's struggle against colonialism to bring together the resistance waged by our forbearers into a common national struggle against oppression and foreign domination.

We are also reminded that organizations are sustained through long-term visions resulting from conscious actions taken today in the interest of present and future generations. As such the ruling parties of the former liberation movements must remain loyal and faithful to their defining culture and stay committed to their role as leaders in society to fulfil their historic mission.

They must also uphold their founding principles while at the same time keeping tabs on the epochal imperatives. The last two key thematic areas I posited above are crucial for the realization of the strategic goal of creating a united, egalitarian and prosperous society.

By understanding their role as leaders in the society, the ruling parties of the former liberation movements will be able to provide a clearer vision, manage societal contradictions and unite the nation in common action. The parties therefore need to continue to act in a manner that upholds their history and prestige while at the same time taking active steps to renew themselves.

Thus, there is a need for the parties to re-emphasize their traditions and core-values to prevent them from being corroded. Consequently, the SADC ruling parties of the former liberation movements should ensure that they emerge fully consisted in outlook and orientation with the culture of modern, inclusive and progressive parties. In the past, they overcame all the challenges and obstacles in their way as they accommodated the particular phase of the struggle by avoiding the dangers and pitfalls of right and left deviations.

To the revolutionary Ho ChiMin, right deviation meant adaptation to objective circumstances and losing the will to continue with the struggle to change such conditions for the better. On the other hand, left deviation denotes being intoxicated by past victories with the result that the people become reckless and lose patience. Experience teaches us that each age has its own needs such as the rise of a political force that seeks to put paid to the order and in its place create a new socio-economic system, often by re-arranging socio-political and economic processes.

In this regard, it has often been argued that former Nationalist Liberation Movements have a cosmetic political agenda in that they are only meant to defeat political and racial oppression but do not concern themselves with changing relations of production but simple continue with clientelist relations, leaving intact the legacy of colonial conditions.

The key tasks of the SADC ruling parties of the former liberation movements therefore is to address the injustices of the past such as the land issue and the oppression of women who were triply exploited in their homes, at their work place and in the society as a whole, as well as fight against tribalism and the return to homeland politics, including the exclusion and discrimination of minority groups.

The way forward to remain relevant is to do introspection and avoid self-adulation to reach the goals of transforming the whole society including the formerly advantaged whites because ultimately, the success of the parties would rest on their abilities to raise a new generation with equal access to opportunities as they pause to consider their approaches to new circumstances. After all, the new struggle is not about colour, creed or tribal affiliation but about class between the haves and the have not.

In this regard, the reporter T.O. Molefe aptly reminds us that the moral philosopher Peter Singer said "we have a moral obligation to act to save lives instead of carrying blithely when know thousands of children die every day from preventable, poverty-related cases and millions of others are marked for life by its effects.

Molefe further said Dr Cornel West describes bling as the "paraphernalia of suffering"- an attempt to distance oneself from the suffering of the past by wearing masks of accumulated wealth, including that obtained by ill-means and instead of combating the materialism of the bling culture, he/she has become its embodiment.

This is a blackmail resting on a Faustian bargain: "keep me in power so I can accumulate billions and guarantee you the trinkets." What I mean is that, our country should not drift away from its moral, legal and constitutional moorings. Above all, let us keep our eyes on the ball and address real issues and the legacy of apartheid.

As much as it is dialectical for the old guard to leave, it is also imperative that the transition is managed carefully to avoid what the Italian political theorist, Antonio Gramsci called "The time for monsters" or what others call "The morbid symptoms in the interregnum of a crisis" when the old world is going and the new world struggles to come forth. Let us continue to maintain peace and stability in our region and meet each other half way in order to make the SADC region a shining beacon of hope when other countries are struggling to reach the rare commodity of peace.

Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to write them.


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