In a long open letter addressed to his “detractors and haters” and “those who try to undermine radical economic transformation as the official economic policy program of the ANC”, former ANC national executive committee member Carl Niehaus has reflected on his political history in the struggle and accused numerous white businesspeople of being the “real state capturers”.
Niehaus was the unofficial spokesman for Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to become president of the ruling party in 2017. He has also often been seen supporting former president Jacob Zuma at court during Zuma’s many appearances on corruption charges, mostly in Pietermaritzburg.
You can read his letter in full below:
OPEN LETTER BY CARL NIEHAUS TO MY DETRACTORS AND HATERS, AND THOSE WHO TRY TO UNDERMINE RADICAL ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION (RET) AS THE OFFICIAL ECONOMIC POLICY PROGRAM OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
The day when I was found guilty of High Treason, and sentenced to fifteen years of political imprisonment, because of my membership of the African National Congress (ANC) and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), I turned to the public gallery in the Johannesburg High Court, raised my fist and shouted “Amandla!”. Before the security police pushed me down the stairs to the holding cells, the crowd in the public gallery responded “Awethu!”.
Yes, Power to the People!, is the best description of the cause that I have, together with my fellow ANC comrades, dedicated our lives to. For me that commitment started in 1975, when as a 16 year old teenager I was offered a large empty oil tin to sit on by an elderly gentleman, who could have been my grandfather. It was the only available seat in the overcrowded, dark and dingy room in the mine workers hostel that I had entered as part of a group of young white teenagers, who had come to do so-called ‘missionary work’ in Soweto.
Thinking about the arrogance of what we were doing, still to this day, make me cringe. White kids thinking they could preach to older people, who could have been our parents and grandparents – just because they were black. The patronizing arrogance, which was nothing less than blatant racism, screamed to the heavens!
My personal journey of coming to realize this, started when the elderly man offered me the tin he was sitting on, and himself crouched down on the bare cement floor. As I sat down on that tin my face burned with embarrassment and shame. When I look back over the more than four and half decades that passed since that, for me, fateful Sunday morning, I see how through that humble gesture the elderly gentleman, whose name I never got to know, became the ‘missionary’ to me, and I his convert.
The life journey that started for me on that day, is certainly not yet completed. The early part of it took me to Alexandra township where I joined the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa of the Reverend Sam Buti and Dr. Beyers Naudé, after I resigned for the all-white Dutch Reformed Church (NG Kerk), in protest to exactly the kind of racism that earlier brought me, as such a misguided youngster, into the hostel in Soweto.
Going to church every Sunday in Alexandra, I was confronted with the Group Areas Act that made it illegal for me as a white person to enter a black township without a so-called ‘permit’. By then I understood enough about the scourge of racism, and how it was institutionalized into apartheid, that it was anathema to me to apply for such a permit. Every Sunday I was either arrested on my way to church, or if I was lucky and managed to get to church, I was arrested as I left. The cells in the Bramley police station, just outside Alexandra, became my regular Sunday afternoon and evening ‘residence’.
One experience led to another, and in 1979 I had reached the point where I realized, that if I had to be honest with myself about my abhorrence of apartheid, I had to join the African National Congress and the People’s Liberation Army, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). I
realized that I could not just talk about my opposition to apartheid, I had to fight it whole heartedly and without reserve. With the assistance of Dr. Beyers Naudé, I crossed the border to Botswana and joined the ANC and MK. After several more border crossings, and crash courses about how to assemble and use an AK47, and to prime limpet mines, I operated in the underground structures inside the country. The comrades that I worked mainly with in Alex were, among others, Obed Bapela, Vincent Tshabalala, Connie Bapela, Dipuo Mvelase, Paul Mashatile, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, and the Reverend Frikkie Conradie. Among various activities we identified targets, established arm caches and carried out a couple of bombings of police stations. I also helped to provide safe houses, and other infrastructure for MK liberation fighters who entered the country to carry out military operations against the apartheid regime.
As I got more and more involved, the personal price that I paid became heavier. My father chased me out of the family home, and declared that he no longer had a son, and that I was in fact dead to him. The rest of my family, and almost all whites, and most of my white friends rejected me. I was expelled from the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), and soon found myself jobless, without any income. I was totally ostracized by white South African society, and lost the advantages and privileges that apartheid so abundantly provided to whites, at the cost of black people.
However, I did not regret it, these were conscious choices that I made, and although one does not always realize what the demands and sacrifices will be when you embark on such a journey, I accepted the challenges and deprivations that I had to face with a deep gratitude that my fellow black South Africans afforded me the opportunity to be, in my own small way, part of this great human endeavour of courage and fortitude to fight the evil of apartheid. The one thing that I will always be immensely proud of – up to my dying day – is that I could be part of the liberation struggle against the evil apartheid system, which was nothing less than a crime against humanity.
My whole life was challenged and changed by these decisions that I took, and the consequences they had. Eventually in 1983 I was arrested together with fellow comrades, including my then fiancé, Jansie Lourens, and comrade Obed Bapela. We were kept in solitary confinement in detention in the notorious John Vorster Square, and subjected to intensive interrogation and severe torture for several months. This culminated in being charged with so-called ‘High Treason’, I was found guilty and given a fifteen year prison sentence.
This is a short summary, with some of the most important experiences, of what led me to find myself eventually in that court room at the Johannesburg High Court, punching the air defiantly with my clenched fist as I was descending into the belly of the prison beast, from which I was only to emerge after ten years, when the ANC was eventually unbanned, and the negotiations for a democratic South Africa commenced.
There is much more to tell, which cannot go into this short letter, and it will have to wait until I publish my long postponed second autobiography, titled: “Beyond the Pale”, in November this year (2020). In that book I will write about all of this in more detail. I will tell about the incredible Helen Joseph, and how through her I met uMama Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, and the massive influence that the Mother of our Nation had on my life; and how I continue to understand the challenges for full economic liberation, that we are still facing now. I was fortunate to sit at the feet of these great revolutionaries and learn the history of the ANC, and the struggles of our people not only from books, but directly from their lips, and the living examples of courage and dedication that their lives were. I will also tell about my friend and comrade Vincent Tshabalala, how I helped him and others to cross the South African border to join MK, and to go for military training, and how when I was already in prison he returned to South Africa on an MK mission, and was betrayed and killed close to his family home in Alexandra.
In that autobiography, I will also talk about people like comrades Frikkie Conradie, Jessie Duarte, Paul Mashatile, and many more – all of whom I have now know for well over thirty five years. The book will be no holds barred, especially about my experiences – good and bad bad – with all my comrades.
For more than five years I have now been holding back to publish this book, which will also deal with the terrible slander and character assassination, that I have personally been subjected to. I held back out of concern that I do not want to damage and destroy other people’s lives, no matter how much callousness they have shown, and the pain they have inflicted on me.
However, the more recent baseless – and racially defined – attacks that some of the very same so-called ‘comrades’, and their cohorts, have launched on me for doing nothing wrong, but only defending and promoting Radical Economic Transformation (RET), which is the official economic policy program of the ANC, liberated me from that concern. The time had come to publish, to call them out, and to expose them for the charlatans that they are.
Concern for the poor, and the empowerment of the black (especially African) poor, to escape from the consequences of colonialism and its direct derivative, White Monopoly Capitalism (WMC), was since the ANC was formed in 1912, at the revolutionary heart of our Movement. The day the ANC ceases to be a pro-poor revolutionary Movement, that strives to empower the majority of black (and specifically African) poor to liberate themselves from the race-based poverty that was engineered by apartheid, it will loose it’s very purpose and reason d’être.
It is with pain and deep sadness that I too often now feel that I find myself back in a court again, but as I now turn to the proverbial public gallery I am far too often faced with attacks, and having vitriol and abused thrown at me. After having walked the long road of struggle and sacrifice that I faced over the past, more than forty years, there sadly seem to be still those in the public gallery of our beloved country, South Africa, who see someone like me as nothing more than just another white man. It seems that what I – in my own humble way – have dedicated my life to, and sacrificed in our liberation struggle, mean nothing to them.
There are those for whom, when it suited them, I was part of the liberation struggle, and they cheered me along. However, now that I – together with many other fellow black (and especially African) South Africans – insist that the struggle that we have fought for has not ended, and will never end until black South Africans have also secured their own full economic liberation and empowerment, I have become a scourge to them. An apparent ‘enemy’, and it seems that I must at all cost be defamed and destroyed.
I ask myself by what perverse turn of logic has the return of the land to its rightful owners (the people from whom it had been stolen by the white colonists), become controversial, and even objectionable, for some comrades in the ANC? Have they forgotten that at the very heart of our liberation struggle was always the critical matter of the stolen land, that had to be returned to its rightful owners?!
Furthermore, have we forgotten the callous response of the white colonial racist government to the formation of the ANC when they ‘legitimized’ their wanton theft of the land, and actually stole even more, when they institutionalized that theft in the 1913 Land Act?
Since when is it ‘factional’ to recall these historical facts? Since when has the derivative of white colonialism, as it morphed itself into White Monopoly Capitalism (WMC), now become unrecognizable to some so-called comrades in the ANC? Why are there now those who want to say that the concept of WMC is not part of the ANC’s lexicon, and make ridiculous claims to the effect it was developed by a British PR firm, with the name of Bell Pottinger, while they know very well that the term White Monopoly Capital had been used in the ANC and SACP since the 1940’s. Similarly they try to discredit the concept of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), as having been coined by the same Bell Pottinger, in order to defend the Gupta family.
Both White Monopoly Capital (WMC) and Radical Economic Transformation (RET) have been the standard and critical analytical tools of the ANC for many decades, in order to analyze and understand the brutal white colonial exploitation that had been internalized and domesticated, to become White Monopoly Capital. It was the insights delivered by these analytical instruments that assisted the ANC and the SACP to understand our socio-economic situation as colonialism of a special type, and to appreciate that apartheid was not only racist, but first and foremost a racially defined system of economic exploitation.
This is how I understand these critical concepts, and that is how I have used them throughout my long political career. I have never engaged with anyone coming from Bell Pottinger, a reactionary British PR company who promoted the rightwing racist Margaret Thatcher, and also worked for Johann Rupert. As far as I am concerned they should never have been touched by as much as a barge poll. That the Guptas tried to defend themselves by cynically abusing these two critical revolution analytical concepts on the advice of Bell Pottinger, for their own purposes, I have always found deplorable. In the process they damaged important revolutionary analytical conceptual tools, and this should never have happened. Those comrades who cooperated with them to do so, should actually be ashamed of themselves.
It should also be said that uncouth, and ham-fisted, as the Guptas are, they were never the real state capturers. They were merely a spaza shop compared to the real grand-scale white state capturers, since the earliest days of colonialism. We continue to be captured by the likes of the Ruperts, the Oppenheimers, the Christo Wieses, the Stephen Kosseffs, the Brian Joffes, the Koos Bekkers, the Stellenbosch mafia, and their companies Anglo American, Bidvest, Nasionale Pers, Investec, the big banks and insurance companies etc. It is not necessary to provide a comprehensive list, they and their strangle-hold grip on our economy, are well-known and glaringly visible for all who want to see the truth.
These are the real state capturers, and must we ask ourselves why they are not appearing in front of Deputy Chief Justice Zondo at the Commission of Enquiry into State Capture? The Zondo Commission is in danger of becoming a diversion from, and cover-up, for exposing those who are the real state captures, and white monopoly owners, of our South African economy.
Let me be clear: I have never held any brief for the Guptas at all. I have made it a deliberate effort to avoid ever meeting them, and I am glad that I have managed to do so.
I have often been called in a derogatory manner a ‘Gupta’, mainly because I have not shied away from using the media platforms of ANN7 and The New Age to state my views. I am unapologetic about having done so, and I have always maintained that I will utilize all opportunities, and media platforms, available to advance the views I hold dear. The irony of course is that I am not called names (such as a ‘Rupert’ or a ‘Johnny Copeland’), when I appear on other news channels such as eNCA, or NewzRoom Afrika, where I have recently quite often been interviewed. Let me make it clear, throughout my whole adult life and political career I have only been loyal to, and worked for, the ANC.
My loyalty and service to my Liberation Movement, the ANC, is well known and beyond reproach. I have no intention to do anything different now, or in the future. In doing so I have been absolutely consistent in the ideals that I have pursued throughout my life. I am proud to be an ANC veteran with 41 years of uninterrupted service to, and membership of, the ANC in good standing.
I always find it ironical when there are those who think they can undermine me by saying that I was a ‘good man’ years ago, but that I have now changed. My response to those who say so, is to ask them to do some serious introspection, because it must have been them who changed. As for me, I have been consistent to the point of being utterly predictable.
Those, especially those among my black ANC comrades, who now have a problem to see the glaringly obvious that our South African economy is still in the strangle grip, and control, of monopoly capital that is overwhelmingly white, are the ones who have to explain their newly acquired ‘blindness’. While doing so they must also please explain why they now suddenly have a problem with fighting that the land, that had been stolen by the white colonists, be returned the black (especially African) majority, who the ANC had since 1912 always acknowledged as the rightful owners. Why they now suddenly go through all kinds of contortions to reinterpret the Freedom Charter, so that it’s clear declarations that “the people shall share in the country’s wealth”, and that “the land shall be shared among those who work it”, to the point that it is so watered down, that they have become utterly powerless to effect any fundamental economic transformation.
Yes, indeed the time had come for honesty! Those who have, like Esau in the Bible sold their birthright for a bowl of lentil stew, must tell us that they have done so, and why? They must stop masquerading as so-called revolutionaries, spouting revolutionary phrases that they have hollowed out with their selfish greed to the point of being empty, shattered calabashes. These Judases must stop selling us out with their fake revolutionary embraces and kisses. Like Jesus was betrayed, and sold to the Pharisees, by Judas with a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane, we know they have sold us for the equivalent of their thirty pieces of silver.
Fronting for white monopoly capitalists, and making a mockery of Black Economic Empowerment, for luxury SUV’s, and debt over their heads to white owned banks to whom they are slaves for bonds of suburban homes, and ‘platinum’ credit cards that are perpetually in overdraft. Slaves to white capital, and the crumbs from the banquet of the white master’s table. Beholden as they are to white monopoly capital for the lives of fake prosperity that these sellouts live, they are in perpetual fear that the facade of so-called ‘prosperity’ and ‘power’ that they live, will come tumbling down all over them, if fundamental and radical economic transformation would ever be achieved. Thus, they have become even more vicious and vitriolic in their defense of the WMC status quo.
I have little hope that we will get honesty from such sellouts, they will continue to subvert and abuse the language of our revolution to try and cover up their shamelessness, and to protect their scam appearances of ‘empowerment’, and pathetic little ill-begotten gains. These pseudo revolutionaries will not drop their faux gilded masks voluntarily, and reveal themselves to the poor and exploited of our country. Those of us who see them for who they are, will literally have to pull the masks off their faces, and expose them.
I ask myself why I am now being called all kinds of names, even racist insults such as ‘white pig’, by some fellow black South Africans when I call for our government to ensure that the necessities that are required to fight the scourge of the coronavirus are procured from truly black owned companies? Am I wrong to point out that there are black communities that do not have even clean drinking water, and if government calls on them to wash their hands regularly, urgent measures must be undertaken to provide the water required to do so? Having made these perfectly reasonable calls, I have been threatened that my throat must be cut and my eyes gauged out, and that I am a ‘rat’ who should be infected with the coronavirus.
Is what I ask for not ANC economic policy? Why do I have to suffer vitriol and abuse when I insist that the RET Resolutions of the 54th National Conference of the ANC must be implemented? Is the return of the land to the black (specifically African) people who are the rightful owners, also not ANC policy? Suddenly all of this is called ‘factionalism’!
However, it is crystal clear where all of this comes from. From a counter revolutionary self- absorbed small group of self-enrichers, who are callously anti-poor, and the antithesis of everything our revolutionary ANC had ever stood for.
I am all for unity, I am all for fighting factionalism in the ANC, but when we talk unity in the ANC it must be principled, and based on our historical founding principles and documents, these are all pro-poor and emphatically in favor of the empowerment of the majority of black (especially African) South Africans. The foundation of, and pre-condition for, unity in the ANC must be an unambiguous commitment to fight the twin scourges of poverty and unemployment.
I dare any one inside the ANC, or for that matter anyone in South Africa, to show how I have deviated from the founding principles and historical founding documents of the ANC. I dare anyone to show how supporting the RET Resolutions of the 54th National Conference of the ANC, which is the highest decision making body of the ANC, is factional. Furthermore, I dare anyone to show what is wrong, and so-called ‘anti-ANC’ to call for an inquiry into the mounting, and very serious allegations, that huge amounts of money had been used to influence the outcome of our leadership elections at the 54th National Conference at Nasrec. If any of this happened should it not be exposed, is it not fundamentally alien to every principle that the ANC stands for, and should stand for? How have concerns about all of these issues, in pursuance of protecting the very essence of what our ANC should be, now suddenly become ‘factional’?
I challenge anyone who has seen it fit to attack me, and my fellow comrades, for defending the very essence (the true revolutionary heart) of the ANC to an open/public debate on any forum, television, radio, print media, any electronic media platform, and social media to show that in defending these historically principled inalienable ANC positions, we have deviated in any way whatsoever from what the ANC should be.
I dare them to have the courage to do so, and I will expose them for the charlatans that you are. Those of us who call for Radical Economic Transformation are not a faction in the ANC, we are the core and true backbone of our 108 year old Liberation Movement.
We will not waver nor falter, we will continue to fight to defend the true revolutionary heart of our beloved ANC!
VIVA ANC! AMANDLA!