Dear Onkgopotse JJ Tabane… let’s talk frankly

It appears EFF leader Julius Malema has chosen to ignore your recent open letter to him. Damn, I wish he had asked me to response to it but he didn’t but I will respond anyway…

Sorry this seem quite longer than Moloto Mothapo’s open letter to Gareth van Onselen.

Following the launch over the weekend of Economic Freedom Fighter manifesto for the 2014 elections, I have witnessed the kind of political intolerance that left me worried, wondering whether this is the very same democracy struggle icons fought to. While it is understood that this (mis)behaviour is likely to continue even after May 7 – a day apparently declared a holiday by President Jacob Zuma – it is worrying that it is so prevalent. Of course this is not the first time we have seen these territorial and intolerance tendencies. Over the years, many of these have been witnessed in many parts of the country. Intolerance is not only in terms of a failure to allow others an opportunity to organise as it constitutionally allowed, but it can also be in the form of censorship: in that persons are limited and or restricted to what to say, how, when, where and why.

A couple of years ago when the now seemingly defunct Congress Of the People split from the ruling African National Congress, there were those who had apparently done this because they failed to accept the decision taken by the conference: a resolution to recall former ANC and SA president Thabo Mbeki who was then replaced by Jacob Zuma. There was also criticism why this group chose to split and not rather remain in the liberation movement from within which it was likely to have more leverage should it want to see change and be part thereof. Of course Cope has since that time been marred by leadership battle between Mbazima Shilowa and Mosioua Lakota factions.

This kind of political intolerance was also witnessed when National Freedom Party split a few years ago from the Inkatha Freedom Party, result in apparently 14 members of the former being killed five months after its formation. NFP leader Zanele Magwaza-Msibi said at the time that she “believe(d) that the killings [were] an attempt to deter people from joining the NFP”. This, in my view, is pure political and intolerance too. Recently, an IFP Women Brigade chairperson, Nonhlanhla Biyela, for Durban’s Ward 40 was shot dead outside her home in KwaMashu, according to Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane. A few days before, two NFP supporters were reportedly shot at and wounded at a hostel in KwaMashu, according to KwaZulu-Natal community safety MEC Willies Mchunu. All these murder happen at a time when the elections are due. Isn’t this some kind of criminal activity as a result from these political intolerance tendencies we have seen over the years even long before Cope was born?

When she chose to enter politics last year, AgangSA leader Mamphele Ramphela asked all South Africans to give her a chance – like they did the ANC (emphasis). And they did but of course she disappointed them earlier this year when she accepted leading opposition Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidacy – a decision she later regretted and did not pursue following the resistance from her party after she dismally failed to get approval from it, especially its constituency. Ramphela has not, in my view, received the same level of intolerance that the EFF has received to date except those that have raised her failure to transform the many organisations, including the University of Cape Town, whose leadership she was part of. Of course she has been criticised (and I did too) for her ridiculous decision in accepting DA’s presidential candidacy, which she later admitted was a bad decision especially that both parties had not informed its constituencies nor sought their approval (emphasis). At the time one was close to even suggest this unfair criticism against her was because she is a woman – a sign that maybe South Africans are still as sexist as the ruling party (which has never had a female president to date and seems set for another hundred years without one given the many male leaders that are seemingly lined up to take over from Zuma, who, it appears, it ready for a second term as the ANC and SA President after this year’s elections).

But this intolerance can also be witnessed in your open letter last week on Daily Maverick in which you called Malema a “gimmick” and a “conman extraordinaire” with a “shortsighted populism” (implying Malema is a fraud); someone who could hardly pass woodwork (as if Zuma himself ever completed his secondary school); that ANC was always going to be too small for his “big ego” (forgetting that you yourself left Cope and only to return a few years later to the ANC with Phillip Dexter, among others); and that EFF is “nothing but a group of disgruntled former ANC members” (again, forgetting that you are an ex-Cope-now-turned-ANC-member). You alleged Malema is as corrupt as they come and has mastered the art of denial – seemingly forgetting that Zuma’s corruption charges were bizarrely dropped by Mokotedi Mpse in April 2009 despite majority of the NPA top prosecutors allegedly overwhelmingly in favour of pressing with the charges against him as exposed by the Sunday Times on 18 Nov 2012 – a ridiculous decision that the DA has since taken to Court for a review – one that later cost Vusi Pikoli his job twice, the second time at an auditing firm, SizweNtsalubaGobodo mainly for the same political reason he was fired by National Prosecuting Authority in the first place.

While those who share your views in that open letter have criticised Malema and EFF and continue to call him names and accusing him of being corrupt (emphasis) – you all seem to forget the many controversies, including the Spy Tapes and recently Nkandla, that have always followed Zuma – our Dear President. These include, again, an expose report by the Mail & Guardian on 7 Dec 2012 that a KPMG audit report laid bare how a wide range of benefactors funded his “reckless” lifestyle by more than R7-million. By the way, I wonder, come to think of it, whether SARS has ever bothered to do a random assessment of his SARS affairs to see if they are in order just as it has done with Malema and many other high profile persons in SA.

I am surprised you may be the same (or you’re not?) Tabane described by former Cope and now ANC colleague, Dexter, as a one of the “selfish individuals” who abandoned “all responsibility, passing the buck, as usual” that contributed to the demise of Cope. Whatever truth there is to these allegations, Dexter, however, said this about you: “In truth, these problems in COPE are as a result of the factional fight waged by some members of the party [and] Tabane was a central figure in this narrow agenda to oust the current leadership of the party, in particular its President. In pursuit of this agenda, Tabane and his cronies were prepared to ride roughshod over every democratic principle, the party constitution and any sense of comradeship. In this campaign, it has been Tabane’s associates who have behaved badly, including disrupting CNC meetings, even stealing ballots and stopping democratic processes. Tabane was central to organising the failed St Georges coup, where he and his cronies attempted to fake a Congress to install their preferred candidate as president of the party.”  He said you however dismissed attempts by Cope to ensure accountability as a “witch-hunts and lies, when [you yourself]… failed to account for [your] own alleged misuse of funds”. Given how your colleague has described you, your character assassination of Malema is very rich. Or maybe not. Or that’s just pure intolerance?

Many, especially those whose views reflect those of ANC members, have dismissed EFF as a fly-by-night organisation that is only interested in destroying what has been built from 1994 after the ruling party took over – exactly the same criticism Cope was subjected to following its split from the ruling party. Some of them took to the social networks like Facebook and Twitter to air their disapproval and somewhat intolerance of the new kid on SA politics. They, like yourself, accused the economic fighters of “misleading those are who (sic) ignorant” while others said the party’s promises will never be realised, that they are just pure lies. Unfortunately, the very same people seem to forget that millions of South Africans – like those thousands of EFF’s potential voters – have been lied to before. For 20 years to date. As to whether the EFF is telling the truth or not in its manifesto – whatever that is to each of us – we will have to wait and see. If those who believe the EFF are as ignorant as they come – then so are ANC (voters and or) members who have been loyal to the ruling party for years.

Mine is not a character assassination on you as yours was on Malema but an attempt to look at this character described  by his former political colleague both at Cope and now in the ANC. I could be wrong, but it appears the very same accusations you levelled at Malema are almost similar to those levelled against you in that you were seen as someone who was “prepared to ride roughshod over every democratic principle, the party constitution and any sense of comradeship.” Among others, you were accused, together with your apparent “associates” – whoever those were – of having disrupted CNC meetings and “even stealing ballots and stopping democratic processes”. Writing on Politicsweb on 25 Nov 2012, just a few years or so before he himself also defected to the ruling party, Dexter claimed your behaviour at the time was of someone who lacked vision, leadership and good ethics – the very same qualities you have chastised Malema of lacking, one of the things you said led to his dismissal from the ruling party. Additionally, he further likened you to someone who did not practice the very qualities of leadership you demanded Cope leadership to demonstrate and even referred you to a scripture in the Bible on Luke: 40b-42, The New Testament, that you should “Remove the log in [your] eye before the splinter in [your] friends”. Ouch!

So allegations against Malema are still underway and he has shown interest in settling the matter in court – as he has repeatedly said – it seems you forget that your boss at the ANC has used every trick in the book (for now and at our expense, in some instances) to try and avoid his day in court. I am not saying Malema is perfect. Nor am I suggesting Zuma is guilty. But people who live in glass houses should be very careful when they throw stones forgetting they live in glass houses themselves just as you do (in ANC) by throwing allegations against Malema (in EFF) as if Zuma himself (in the ANC) is clean. That is wrong. This tendency, among others, goes to show how intolerant we South Africans are or can be.

Of course I do acknowledge that your open letter came just a few days before he launched EFF manifesto this past weekend. Understandably, the launch was met with some scepticism from many commentators, ANC members and members of other political parties and of course the usual economists, with the latter group saying policies that EFF seeks to implement should it rule SA one day – God knows when – are very likely to drive away investors. At the same time, others went far as to suggest that EFF is another of Malema’s vehicle to self-enrichment – something you touched on in your letter. This unfair criticism of EFF and Malema does smack on unfair criticism.

It is however my view that EFF is not interested nor is it looking into making these changes now especially after May elections as clearly it will not get the majority votes. Nor does it want to rule SA after the elections. All it seeks to do is eye 2019 at which time it will have garnered majority votes more than at least DA. Depending on what majority it will have in parliament at that time by the way – which will take a very long time before that happens – it is only then that the party can use its majority (like the ANC now does) in passing certain legislations despite opposing views to it. As noted earlier, there is a seeming dismissal by many of any alternative views and or suggestions – however crazy they may seem to you lot – of/by EFF and other opposition parties to the ruling ANC. Many seem to think the ruling ANC is the be-all and end-all but it is not. That the ruling party has been in existence for about 102 years is acknowledged but that may mean nothing to those who have over the years been promised a “Better Life For All” – something they are yet to see to date – as anything can happen come May 7. Or even better, some 2019.

Frankly, I could not give a toss what happens to EFF, whether it wins elections or does not. However, I am perturbed by the manner in which the party has been portrayed and how Malema’s character as its leader and those of his colleagues has been attacked. By the way, it appears the same people that have attacked him are suffering from what I call selective political amnesia for they fail to acknowledge (of course they wouldn’t) that it is from the very same the ANC – the liberation movement – where Malema comes from. It is in fact the leaders of the ruling party that have turned him into the rebellious and militant political monster – or “gimmick”, as you put it – he is today because he became their political weapon when they needed him most and when it suited their political ambitions for leadership – something he’s since apologised for (but you obviously do not believe his apology was genuine, whatever that is).

It is important to make it very clear that – just as those of other parties worry me for we have seen the same thing over and over again in the past 20 years, huge changes and developments notwithstanding – I am also concerned about some of the issues on the EFF manifesto. For example, it is silent on the tribalism and the abuse of women and children, among others. But that’s no reason for me or anyone for that matter to dismiss it as just “another” political party. As Mojalefa Moloto wrote on Political & Current Affairs on Facebook on 23 Feb, EFF “is not some piece of nothing, even if some people wish it was”. It is, he said, the level of “arrogance and denial [that may] have led to some dismissing it as a mere drop in an ocean”, with some even likening it to “just another COPE”. To quote Mankwane Kgotle who wrote elsewhere on Facebook this weekend: “I always wonder why people criticise other organisations for trying to out vote the current government for changes they aspire to bring to the country. The ANC did exactly what these organisations wish to do, they fought for changes since they believed the former government was not doing justice to all. What is worse is this time around, we claim to be democratic. Or is this the true meaning of democracy?”

“Whatever [our views about] its weaknesses,” wrote Moloto, “however misguided its actions at times, the EFF is a force to be reckoned with.” This means we should be tolerant of other political parties irrespective of how ridiculous their policies may be. These include the DA, Cope, IFP, UCDP, UDM, NFP, FF+, Kenny Kunene’s, AgangSA, etc.  That’s what democracy is about. Right? If not, then what of the tolerance you ANC members always claim one of your former leaders, Nelson Mandela, promoted and expected all South African to show? So this character assassination of Malema is not helpful at all. Like it did wonders for Zuma a few years ago when he seemed a lone-ranger at which time many felt pity for him, and the likes of Malema came to his defence – your letter may be doing exactly that: making majority of the South African youths who have since been neglected by the ANCYL, mainly its mother body, the ANC, to come to his defence against your likes and anyone who tries to attack him, leading to their voting for EFF and not the ANC.

In conclusion, it is important that you and those who share your views heed Dexter’s advice which I thought you would have heeded by now as this was done in 2012. But in case you missed, it says: “Remove the log in [your] eye before the splinter in [your] friends”. In other words, whatever flaws there may be in the EFF manifestos – or however many corruption accusations have been levelled against Malema – do not let yourselves to be the first to cast the stone until you have gotten your ANC house and its leaders in order especially those who appear to have more controversies and corruption allegations against them than Malema.

I hope you find time to read this.

Oh, by the way, excuse Malema’s failure to read and or respond to your open letter. I hope he finds time to read it but with EFF having launched its manifesto, I doubt, though, he will.

Yours in frankness,

Akanyang

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