South Africa’s ANC: A vision lost


Jacob Zuma: What happened to the ANC’s vision?

[South Africa: Analyses]

WHAT was the fundamental objective of the ANC when it was formed in 1912?

Are the current ANC leaders pursuing that primary goal? Is the present ANC 100 years old or 57 years old?

On January 8, 1912, when opening the inaugural conference of the ANC (then called the South African Native National Congress) Pixley ka Seme, said: “Kings of the royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme my colleagues have decided to place before you … In the land of our birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The whites have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa in which we have no voice.”

African kings had fought many wars of national resistance against colonialism for over 2OO years until their spears succumbed to the guns of the colonial aggressors. All had their lands forcefully taken from them.

Two pieces of colonial legislation, the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913, precipitated the formation of the ANC in 1912.

In 1909, there were five million Africans in Azania (South Africa) and, according to the 1904 census, 349 ,537 colonial settlers.

The five million indigenous Africans remained helpless spectators as the tragedy of their land dispossession unfolded before them. The Native Land Act 1913 allocated 93% of the African country to the 349, 537 European settlers and seven percent to five million Africans.

On July 20, 1914, the leaders of the newly formed ANC, armed with a mandate from the kings and African people of this country, went to England to present a petition to King George V, protesting the land dispossession of the African people. They were President John L. Dube, Secretary Sol Plaatje, Reverend Walter Rubusana, Thomas Mapikela and Saul Msane. They achieved nothing except for a favorable report published in a London newspaper.

The issue of land dispossession is at the core of why the present ANC is not 100 years old. It abandoned the fundamental objectives of the 1912 ANC in 1955; 57 years ago.

In 1955, a section of the 1912 ANC leadership was captured by a section of the white ruling class. Despite the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913, in 1955 the authors of the Freedom Charter preamble falsely proclaimed: “We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white … and therefore, we the people of South Africa black and white together, equals, countrymen and brothers adopt the Charter.”

This was a colossal colonial fraud. Today, 57 years after this deception, there are two “nations” in South Africa. One is an extremely rich white minority and the other is an extremely poor 80% African majority.

In 1943, 1944, 1948 and 1949, the Congress Youth League had formulated four freedom documents and the 1912 ANC had adopted these documents as its policy implementing them under presidents Alfred Bitini Xuma, James Moroka and Albert Luthuli. The Freedom Charter defectors threw them into the political dustbin and replaced them with the 1955 so-called Freedom Charter.

On the economy, the 1944 document had proclaimed: “The Congress Youth League holds that political democracy remains an empty form without substance unless it is properly grounded on a base of economic democracy … Land: The re-division of land among farmers and peasants of all nationalities in proportion to their numbers … The improvement of land, the reclamation of denuded areas and conservation of water supplies …”

ANC President Albert Luthuli admitted he did not know who drafted the Freedom Charter. “I can only speak vaguely about its preparations that went before,” he wrote in Let My People Go. “The main disadvantage from which it suffered was that the branches submitted materials for the Charter at a very late hour  —  too late in fact, for the statement to be boiled down into a comprehensive statement. It was not possible for the National Action Committee to circulate the draft carefully …The result is that the declaration in the Charter is uneven.”

Luthuli, who was elected according to the fundamental objectives and policy of the ANC as founded in 1912, said the Freedom Charter was open to criticism and vague. The year 1955 marks the moment when there was a fundamental change in the policy of the ANC as founded in 1912.

A section of ANC leaders and members who stood by the fundamental objectives of the ANC as constituted in 1912 declared: “In 1949, we got the African people to accept the nation-building program of that year. We have consistently and honestly stuck to that program which according to us is in irreconcilable conflict with the 1949 program of action seeing that land no longer belongs to the African people …

“In numerous ANC conferences, we have made it clear that we are committed to the overthrow of white colonial domination and restoration of land to its rightful owners. We are now launching openly on our own, as custodians of the ANC policy as it was formulated in 1912 and pursued up to the time of ‘Congress Alliance’.”

In 1955, the ANC became a civil rights movement and in 1994 it negotiated “democracy” and not equitable redistribution of land and resources according to population numbers. The Native Land Act 1913, through which Africans were dispossessed, is entrenched in Section 25(7) of the “new South Africa”  Constitution [“A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.”]

This civil rights movement and “Freedom Charter” ANC government has laws for issues the dispossessed people of this country never asked for. Some of them are on homosexuals, same-sex marriages, abortion on demand, prostitutes, who are now called sex workers, and so on. Their government is infested with endemic corruption that is destroying the country because the Charterists have lost the 1912 ANC vision for this country.

The negotiations the ANC pursued at Codesa with the apartheid Nationalist Party in 1994 were not in accord with the fundamental objectives of the 1912 ANC. In September 1985, the Freedom Charter ANC leaders met a group of whites in Lusaka, led by the chairperson of the Anglo-American Corporation, Gavin Reilly. The Johannesburg stock market had crashed and the apartheid regime defaulted on its debt and the chieftains of South African capital took fright. Their message to the ANC leaders in exile was that transition to a black-governed liberal democracy was possible, only if order and stability were guaranteed. This was in reference to a free market state where social justice would not be a priority.

What followed later were secret meetings that took place in England. The very place where King George V had ignored the land dispossession of Africans brought to his attention by the founders of the ANC. This time the meeting was with the Afrikaner elite.

As journalist John Pilger put it: “The prime movers who had underpinned and profited from apartheid, such as the British mining giant Consolidated Fields, picked up the bill for the classical wines and malt whisky scoffed around the fireplace at Mells Park House. The aim was that of the Pretoria regime to split the ANC bet­ween the exile moderates with whom they could do business and the majority who made up those resisting in the townships.”

In his book A History Of Inequality in South Africa 1652- 2OO2, Sampie Terreblanche observes: “The ANC’s core leaders effectively sold its sovereign freedom to implement an independent and appropriate socioeconomic policy for a mess of pottage when it entered into several compromises with the corporate sector and its global partners. These unfortunate transactions must be retracted or renegotiated.”

If the leaders who founded the ANC in 1912 and who presented a petition on land dispossession to King George V were alive this year, what would they say? How would African kings and those warriors who died in those many battlefields to defend this country against colonialism feel when they see that for 57 years the land question in South Africa has not been a fundamental issue with this ANC since 1955? It is now buried in the miracle Rainbow Nation.

If “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white … equals, countrymen and brothers …” why is the ANC spending billions of rand it has not got, buying land for blacks from whites on a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis. This is getting the ANC government deeper into debt without resolving the land question in South Africa.

The demand that was made by the 1912 ANC leaders “that the Africans must be put into possession of land according to their numbers” has not been met.

This primary demand of the African national liberation struggle was betrayed in 1955. Section 25 of the new South Africa Constitution is the same thing as the Native Land Act 1913. No sane nation has ever commemorated its genocide or spat on the graves of its ancestors.

Motsoko Pheko has been a member of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), since 1960 and has held several offices including president. He is the author of several books including Apartheid: The Story of the Dispossessed People, Betrayal of a Colonized People and the Hidden Side of South African Politics.

This article was written in Janaury 2012

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