I wonder why I feel so nervous about writing this article. All I am doing is finally admitting what I should have known over forty years ago, that the ANC is not only corrupt, not only cruel and greedy, not only incompetent and useless at serving the people of South Africa, not only power mad, but evil.
There is a strain of evil that runs through the very fabric of the modern ANC and stains all of its senior figures regardless of their race, and regardless of whether they are openly outrageous, like Winnie Mandela and Jacob Zuma, or plausible, like Naledi Pandor and Cyril Ramaphosa. Any person who looks honestly at the actions and utterances of the ANC since about 1978 knows this, although might be too scared to admit it publicly for fear of being called a racist.
The big lie is that the ANC was honourable until Jacob Zuma became its leader in 2007, after which it fell into bad ways. Many progressive commentators peddled this lie, including, I regret to say, the DA. The fact is that Zuma acted consistently with ANC aims and beliefs, and was by no means its worst leader. Thabo Mbeki was worse than him; he caused the deaths of over 300 000 people through his HIV/Aids madness, and he brought about terrible black suffering in Zimbabwe through his support for the racist mass murderer, Robert Mugabe. Oliver Tambo, the first ANC leader of the modern era, was the worst of all. Four years ago, the same commentators who had peddled the big lie now looked to the ANC’s next leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, to restore the ANC to its non-existent decency. All he did was continue to implement the same old ANC follies and crimes as Tambo, Mbeki and Zuma before him, although in a more charming way. (I’ll come back to Nelson Mandela.). The results of his presidency include 47% unemployment, Stage 6 load-shedding, widespread rioting and rising crime. They include the failure of South Africa to condemn Putin’s bloody invasion of the Ukraine, which continues the ANC’s dreadful record on international human rights.
I’ve gone numb. I stopped feeling any shock or outrage at the revelations of the Zondo Commission (although I admit that the commission itself was the most hopeful event in the 26 years of ANC rule). I don’t really care which factions of the ANC were the biggest crooks in the case of the stolen R60 million in cash at Ramaphosa’s farm. When I hear that another little black child has fallen into a pit latrine at a state school and died a lonely, terrified, stinking death in urine and faeces while the Minister of Education sends her or his own children to some very posh private or model-C school, I feel grief but no outrage; the evils of the ANC have anaesthetized the part of my mind that feels outrage. I don’t feel anger anymore when I hear the latest smiling speech from Ramaphosa promising Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! and oodles of clean drinking water and plenty of cheap reliable electricity. I know he has not the slightest intention of even trying to deliver these promises. I know he’s lying; but I feel only bleak emptiness.
The ANC of 1912 consisted of brave, decent, mainly Christian, black gentlemen. They were not revolutionary. They were liberals, asking for equal rights for all, asking for the basic freedoms within the British Commonwealth that liberal British philosophers had long argued for. They were treated disgracefully by various white governments, including the apartheid government, which came to power in 1948. They were shunned and humiliated. The ANC of 1978 was very different. It had turned to violence, seeking inspiration from the North Vietnamese communists; it waged a ruthless war of terror against ordinary black people in the townships, including the ghastly “necklacing” execution (where some wretched black person, accused of something or another by the ANC storm troopers would be burnt to death by a petrol-filled tyre around his neck).
Did the ANC change because it realised that non-violent protest against apartheid was useless? No, by the time it turned to violence, it was clear that non-violent protest could be effective. The reason for the change was the 1976 Soweto riots, which turned the course of South African history. After them the NP leaders knew that apartheid was doomed, and began clumsy, fitful attempts at reform, some which proved radical and lasting (such as the recognition of the black trade unions and the scrapping of the pass laws). The Soweto riots showed the horrified ANC they no longer controlled the black masses, who had turned to the black consciousness movement of Steve Biko and the PAC. The ANC then resolved to crush these rival black parties. It knew that if apartheid fell and there were free elections, a black party would win, since blacks are the majority, and it wanted to make sure it was that party. ANC leaders were not fighting to end apartheid; they were fighting to stop anybody else ending apartheid. The more apartheid reformed, the more violently the ANC attacked its black rivals, and when apartheid fell altogether in 1990, the ANC fell into a murderous frenzy against them. The ANC was not fighting for freedom; it was fighting for power. Oliver Tambo, who became acting ANC leader in 1967, had led the fight with utter ruthlessness and gruesome violence, almost always against black people. He presided over executions and tortures of rivals in the ANC at the infamous Quatro camp in Angola. He didn’t invent necklacing but saw it as a wonderful instrument of terror. While Winnie Mandela, the blatant one, was laughing and clapping loudly in favour of necklace burnings, Tambo, the plausible one, gave them his quiet approval.
Working-class black children in the townships were likely to be necklaced if they attended local schools, while Tambo sent his own children to posh private schools in England, paid for by European nations with the money they had given him for the liberation struggle. Today, the ANC leaders send their own children to private and model-C schools, while they condemn working class children to terrible state schools, where some might die in pit latrines. Their deaths are evil but accidental, whereas Tambo’s necklacing of working-class blacks was evil and intentional.
I had a personal experience with Oliver Tambo’s memory, and I feel ashamed of it. This happened in 2007 in a court case where Martin Williams, then editor of The Citizen, and I were sued by Robert McBride, the ANC hero who had killed three innocent women and injured 69 other people with a bomb in Magoo’s bar in Durban in June 1986. (This was a rare occasion where the ANC killed white people.) We had written articles against McBride when it was proposed that he should be given high office in the police. He sued us for defamation. He had planted his bomb a month after the NP Government had proposed legislation to end the pass laws. Brave black women had marched against these evil laws in 1956, and now at last their heroism had been rewarded. It seemed to me that McBride was spitting in their faces. Nobody quite knew what the defamation case was about since we had written nothing that was untrue. During my examination, McBride’s lawyer put in front of me a bundle of notes (which I had not seen before) and asked me to read a statement by Oliver Tambo, where Tambo had suggested the struggle should be extended to innocent civilians. He asked me if this implied that McBride’s bomb was justified. Taken by surprise, I mumbled that I didn’t know. But here’s the thing: why was I cowed at the mention of Oliver Tambo?
I realise, looking back, that I then saw Tambo as some sort of figure of moral authority. If Tambo had authorised McBride’s bomb – which McBride himself denied to protect Tambo – well, then, they must be righteous murders. (It now seems that Tambo had authorised the bomb.) Actually Tambo had no moral authority at all but was a ruthless, violent political activist prepared to kill anybody if it advanced the ANC march to power. Somehow there was an aura of sanctity over Tambo, and indeed over the whole ANC. That aura emanated from a single being, Nelson Mandela.
I believe Nelson Mandela is the main reason it has taken us so long to recognise the essential evil in the modern ANC. Mandela’s natural grace, courage, dignity and generosity of soul made him stand apart from other men. Whether by luck or design, the ANC used him as a symbol with great success at home and abroad. But Mandela had sufficient gifts of leadership to be more than their lackey, and he took charge of many proceedings in the negotiations between his release in 1990 and his becoming South African President in 1994. Thereafter he was no more than an important figurehead, bringing soothing balm to a troubled nation but leaving the work of power and policy to his ANC ministers, who set about enriching themselves, destroying the South African economy and betraying the poor black people who had voted for them.
Pure greed has played a major part in the corruption of the ANC since taking power in 1994. Our infrastructure, including our electricity supply, has been ruined. ANC leaders have chosen to spend vast sums of money on themselves rather than the country. They have decided to have a huge government cabinet with everybody earning enormous salaries rather than spending the money on improving the living conditions of poor people. They could have spent money on decent sanitation in township schools but instead chose to send the money on luxury cars, expensive imported clothes, large farms, business class travel and huge fees for private education for their own children. This has resulted in misery, even starvation, for the poor. This represents evil, although evil as a byproduct of greed. But sometimes the ANC’s evil seems evil for its own sake.
Why did the ANC support Mugabe when it knew perfectly well about his Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland between 1983 and 1987? Here Mugabe had killed over 20 000 black people in carefully planned, cold-blooded, systematic, government-ordered, racial slaughter. Mugabe sent his extermination squads into Ndebele villages to kill black men, women and children who spoke Ndebele rather than Shona. They ripped unborn babies out of the wombs of Ndebele women. ANC leaders knew all about Gukurahundi since they had supported ZAPU, the Ndebele liberation movement, until Zanu-PF took power, when they hastily changed sides. They knew exactly what was happening, and they never spoke a word against it. When the ANC came to power, it never spoke a word of criticism against Mugabe’s government for this atrocity, although it shouted and screamed against the lesser crimes of apartheid South Africa in the past.
At the 2003 Commonwealth meeting on Zimbabwe, the South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Dlamini-Zuma (now Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs under President Ramaphosa), said the ANC Government would never condemn the Zimbabwean Government. She was obviously referring to Gukurahundi since this is by far the most well-known of all Mugabe’s actions. When Mugabe lost the 2008 election by a landslide, the ANC under President Mbeki, enthusiastically supported by ministers such as Ronnie Kasrils, went out of its way to help Mugabe to deny the electorate and to restore his tyranny, as his thugs tracked down, beat up, tortured and killed black people who had voted against him. Why?
The ANC had nothing to gain by its support of the atrocities of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party. So why did all the ANC leaders cheer him? Why did they help him to persecute the people of Zimbabwe and destroy the Zimbabwean economy? The answer is pure evil.
Now the ANC under Cyril Ramaphosa wants to withdraw the visas of wretched Zimbabwean immigrants who fled from Zanu-PF persecution and deprivation, and who are leading useful, law-abiding lives in South Africa. Ramaphosa wants to drive these decent people back into the hell of Zanu-PF Zimbabwe, which the ANC helped to bring about.