Eric Naki
Political Editor
3 minute read
9 Nov 2017
5:20 am

Zuma is backward, tribal, says Ronnie Kasrils

Eric Naki

He said people must support the media, especially investigative journalists, who exposed shenanigans in the Zuma administration.

Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils receives the Platinum Class medal as President Jacob Zuma honours military veterans on August 2, 2012 at the Air Force Base in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Herman Verwey)

Former president Nelson Mandela opposed radical economic policies, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils said, suggesting the ANC should ditch its RDP programme and tone down its radical land redistribution programme.

Kasrils was addressing members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa during the launch of his new book, A Simple Man – Ronnie on the Zuma Enigma, in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Mandela convinced the ANC and its allies to abandon their radical policies, including the RDP, because if they did, South Africa would have been “frozen out” by the international community, Kasrils said.

Mandela had, at the time, returned from a meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he met heads of state and investors and held discussions with local business leaders such as the Ruperts and Oppenheimers.

Kasrils said the then ANC government had no option, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and labour federation Cosatu had to fall into line with that decision.

The SACP’s Joe Slovo, Chris Hani, Kasrils and the rest of the party accepted Mandela’s proposal as they wanted to prevent civil war.

“We believed, naively, that we would be able to seize control of the economy. We were mistaken,” Kasrils said.

During Thabo Mbeki’s presidency and Kasrils’ tenure as intelligence minister, there was never a threat to the media freedom. But when Zuma came to power, things began to change and journalists were always threatened and the media often accused of pursuing a foreign agenda.

“They are so desperate they want a media tribunal to punish the media,” he said.

He said people must support the media, especially investigative journalists, who exposed shenanigans in the Zuma administration.

Kasrils became active in the Right- 2Know campaign because he believed freedom of speech was sacrosanct and was highly in danger under the Zuma.

As a then SACP politburo member, he warned the SACP in 2005 against associating itself with Zuma, but the party leadership could not listen.

“I said: ‘Comrades, Jacob Zuma is not a working-class hero, Jacob Zuma does not have revolutionary morality, Jacob Zuma is backward, ethnic and tribal.’ I explained it all on the basis of experience from exile and from what we started seeing of his behaviour in South Africa,” Kasrils said.

In the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane ANC conference, he failed to convince the party against supporting Zuma’s bid to become the president, because they despised Mbeki.

Kasrils said he met Zuma in Maputo, in Mozambique and in Swaziland in the ’80s.

Zuma, who was not involved in Umkhonto we Sizwe in exile, showed worrying signs that he was a “Sgebenga Number 1” (thug).

“In the ’80s, I realised that he was not a simple man; there was something tricky about him,” he said.

Kasrils said he noticed a range of “faults in terms of the tribal aspect, the conservatism which he tried to hide when it came out, in terms of attitudes on gender, women, homosexuality and tremendous social backwardness, [and] secret in terms of he was always setting up secret structures”.

Kasrils encouraged Mbeki to seek a third term as ANC president because he wanted to stop Zuma from taking the position.

“It’s not that I went out [to] proclaim Mbeki a saviour, but it was certainly to oppose Zuma,” he said.

Kasrils said he dedicated his book to Fezekile Kuzwayo, or Khwezi, Zuma’s alleged rape victim, and to Mgcineni Noki, “the man in the green blanket” who led the mineworkers’ strike during the 2012 Marikana massacre.

“Fezekile is a reminder to us that we dare not abuse females,” Kasrils said. –


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