It was interesting to see South Africa’s history – and, in particular, the struggle against apartheid – reflected in the ageing faces who gathered this week under the banner of the ANC stalwarts and veterans.
These are the faces we saw on Pretoria’s “most wanted” lists before 1990, the ones being bundled into police vans or wearing chains as they were led away to jail.
They are the ones who led the “people’s power” protests in the streets which were a major factor in the National Party government eventually losing its nerve and conceding that separate development was not sustainable.
They were the people who sat around negotiating tables in Kempton Park in the early 1990s, hammering out a peaceful solution which pulled the country back from the brink of a civil war.
That is by way of acknowledging that they are anything but “yesterday’s people” as some critics might label them; they are, in fact, the reason we have a today.
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Therefore, what they say carries weight and we, as a society, should pay close attention to their wisdom. After the three-day conference, the group talked about what it called “an unprecedented political crisis” within the ranks of their beloved ANC.
“We are deeply hurt by what we regard to be a betrayal of our people’s long-standing support and trust in the ANC,” they said.
The current leadership of the party, they said, “is paralysed and unable to deal with ill-discipline, incompetence and corruption that point directly to the highest office in the land”.
It doesn’t get stronger than that – and the finger of accusation points squarely at President Jacob Zuma.
These people are not prepared to see the hard-won gains of the struggle fall victim to venality.
We hope the ANC leadership and its ordinary members were listening.