Testifying in his R1 million defamation suit against Kebby Maphatsoe, the deputy defence minister and national chairperson of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils testified that allegations that he was an “agent”, a counter-revolutionary and an enemy of the people were not only untrue, but embarrassing and endangered his life.
The damages claim stems from reported remarks by Maphatsoe that Karils was behind the rape allegations against President Jacob Zuma and that he was a counter-agent and an enemy of the people who had fired MK cadres from Intelligence Services because he “wanted to sell information to the imperialists”.
Kasrils, who had trained many top ANC cadres, was once part of MK and the ANC’s top structures and had served as cabinet minister under both President Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki but resigned in 2008 after Mbeki was ousted. He is also a well-known activist involved in the conflict in the Middle East and an acclaimed author sought after as a speaker and lecturer all over the world.
Kasrils testified that he had received awards not only in South Africa but also from the Soviet Union and Kuba, and enjoyed a great deal of popularity and a very high reputation in countries all over the world. He said when some members of the ANC began calling him an agent, some of his close friends began questioning him, which was very embarrassing.
Although those close to him did not believe the allegations, he noticed a strain in his relationships, even with close friends from the struggle period. He said as someone who was proud of his reputation, this was extremely hurtful and there have also been veiled threats by people who say he should know what happens to people who say wrong things about their movement.
He also encountered that some people, even a close family member who remained a diehard and would never transform, would “gloat” over his situation. Kasrils said that he had developed a thicker skin as a politician, but some things crossed the line.
“You’re a human being after all and these sort of things strike deep, particularly when you see the hurt in the eyes of your family,” he said. He testified that the allegations, although untrue, affected his reputation and credibility as an author ,and he had noticed that invitations to act as a speaker at events had dried up, putting a dent in his extra income.
He said it was “extremely damaging” to be called a counter-revolutionary and an enemy of the people, as it not only tarnished everything he had done and sacrificed for over the years but carried with it a grave threat to his security. He could no longer move around freely in the townships as before, felt that he was under surveillance, and had to move from the rural place in the Cape where he had planned to retire, and now always had to take security concerns into account.
He said a narrative had developed in South Africa that all those who had left the ANC and were critical were part of a counter-revolutionary plot, accompanied by a growing climate of political killings.
“There is a phrase of the revolution eating its own children. Unfortunately one sees this happening when revolutionaries become drunk with their own power and turn on people they see as not toeing the line,” he added.