ANC ‘veteran status’ needs urgent rescuing


The African National Congress (ANC) is struggling to give content to its 54th Conference’s aim of working for unity. Usually, in such difficult space, organisations rely on the confirmed wisdom and counsel of its true wealth understood in its veterans. Veterans are people who share an elongated period of time in the organisation. They make up those who have internalised and lived the values of the organisation and consistently strives to protect the organisational interest evidence in moral codes and standards in an unbiased fashion. 

Veterans are those who have no personal ambitions anymore, their interest is a form of custodianship of both values and always work for the unity of the organisation. However, the vocal ANC veterans prove the opposite of the aforementioned. The ones who have over the last few years emerged as the face of ANC veteran-status from a recorded history often acts in factional, immature and essentially in self-interest, when they advocate, they speak in the interest of the public. 

We will recall how not so long ago the same veterans insisted to instruct a democratically elected Zuma led ANC leadership, only because it had no respect for such. They berated the current chairperson, Mantashe for his attitude as Secretary General then, when they could not get their way in instructing and directing an elected leadership.  The aggregate commentary and input of the vocal veterans who at one stage boasted 101, attests an attention-seeking factional group who in their own right has captured the designation of what it means to be an ANC veteran. The most recent statement delivered by a group comprising the vocal veterans was in response to the comment Secretary General Ace Magashule made while campaigning in the Phillipi Western Cape area.  

Magashule during campaigning directed possible voters not support a ‘umlungu’ party. Magashule referred to the DA as a “umlungu” (white people) and urges potential voters not to vote for the opposition party based on the fact that it is a “white party”.  “Don’t waste your vote on the white man again,” Magashule is reported as saying.  The term umlungu in a colloquial sense is used to refer to the apartheid white identity. Yet, the development of the term in the SA community lexicon is today wider than that also point to people who have money. 

The veterans took issue with the statement as fuelling racism and not in the spirit of non-racialism fundamentals. In a normal setting this reference to the DA as a ‘umlungu’ party, would have attracted no real attention because the DA is often accused as a party that works for the defence of white interest. Nelson Mandela with his December 2000 statement on the DA leads a litany of ANC leaders that have equally identified the DA as a white party. Let us hear Mandela in his own words:  “You must not be misled by a party that only cares for blacks on the eve of the elections.” “No white party can run this country … no matter how they cover up by getting a few black stooges, they (the whites) remain the bosses … they remain a white party.”  Where were the veterans then to red-card Mandela for this categoric labelling of the DA as a white party? I guess they were silent and had not yet found the wisdom they today want to advance in glaring divisive agenda.

Notwithstanding a DA with apartheid defined black leader Mmusi Maimane, the DA has always struggled to shake this claim.  If the group of veterans were remotely sincere and consistent, they would have equally condemned the current ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, who back then as deputy president in November 2013,  urged a disgruntled Limpopo resident, Johanna Phala to vote or else the “Boers” will come back to power. The exact words attributed to Ramaphosa as cited by The Star, “If you don’t vote the Boers will come back to control us. If all South Africans don’t vote, we will regress. The Boers will come back to control us.”

If consistency was the order of the day the so-called veterans would have released a statement condemning Ramaphosa for defying and acting un-ANC citing his 2013 comment as necessarily a threat to the non-racial fabric of the ANC. Unfortunately, the same group of veterans was silent as they were on Mandela, but in hypocrisy can today issue a statement against the ANC Secretary general.

We may, therefore, conclude, this reference of Magashule in an election season is really a non-issue and is for cheap political reasons conveniently made a core issue to serve another agenda. It only became an issue because the so-called veterans really a factionalised group in the ANC who thrive on divisions and mirrors an ambivalent morality made it an issue.  For the record, the DA did not complain about Magashule on this score. The DA’s gripe as we read is an accusation it levels against Magashule as buying votes.

It becomes important to ask why would this group led by Mvuso Msimang, who is known for his divisive public views, find the Magashule’s ‘umlungu’ comment in reference to the DA so abhorrent and offensive? I wish I could give them credit for being sincere. The truth is the Msimang gang of veterans missed the bus on the recent Myburgh ‘book’ earmarked to destroy Magashule, and with this statement belatedly wants to muscle itself into an authoritative ‘ÁNC” voice to blackmail the ANC into calling for the Secretary-General   to be summoned before an integrity committee from where it hopes to have him removed. The removal of Magashule is the pipe-dream of many who have vested interest, they conveniently have entertained all sorts of accusations against Magashule while ignoring the same claims against others.  

To further prove the reality of referring to the DA as a white or white interest defence party is not unique, may we remind the selective amnesia suffering veterans, of the words of the DA leader, Mmusi Maimane articulated on May 8, 2018 “We have to fight for the excluded black people. I am forcing them [DA leaders] to change the organisation. Some are uncomfortable but I am forging ahead… the project of bringing diversity to the DA and ensuring that we change our country so all can benefit will be something I continue to fight for.”  Why is the so-called ‘wise’ veterans not hearing hear Maimane when he laments the true state of his own party?

There is another dimension to the veteran’s that warrants being raised in order to make sense of their convenient statement. For the record, this vocal group of veterans are generally silent and seldom express any discomfort on the role, motives and ongoing control of the apartheid white identity of a South African economy. These are eerily silent when white led private sector entities collude,  as we have seen with the construction sector. They have no voice when bread cartels and data cartels fix prices to the detriment of the poor. 

They are voiceless when white racists claim a right to abuse apartheid defined blacks in the blackness of an exacted experience of segregation and discrimination. Yes, the ANC veterans are silent on black pain they are only apologetic for white pain. The veterans are silent. You will appreciate their silence when you realise how vested these veterans are in apartheid economy that has come to define the epoch. It is not far-fetched to claim white monopoly capital has dry-cleaned many of those who make up the vocal group who hides behind an ANC veteran status.

The bigger concern is the ANC veteran status is captured by a group of people who seldom are answerable for their actions. One must again ask as we did in 2017, who are these veterans? The question is who are the veterans and what is their individual and collective interest in the current political equation? If you thought these were wise men and women, selfless and totally absorbed in wanting to see ANC unity and therefore an ANC leading SA further, you may be violently mistaken.

If you think these are working for the unity and interest of the ANC, you are deceived. They have done nothing constructive to build unity in the Movement in the last 10 years. These are economically vested elite politicians, former officials and some who claim to be veterans – who sell us the sophism that they ran the ANC and South Africa in dignity and honour. These are leaders who believe SA is their constituency, that they were elected by SA when they were leading – a claim they deny others who by the same token equally were elected by that same SA constituency. So, we ask again, who are these so-called veterans?

Don’t be fooled, some of them remained very intimate friends with Atul Gupta enjoying dinners together. Others have spouses who worked as senior officials in a Helen Zille-led DA administration. Among these are those who for no apparent great entrepreneurial or business acumen, has come to earn the status of being the richest woman that Goldfields ever produced. Some stood accused as compromised in Multi-choice deals they made while leading. Some used to work for De Beers and were long captured by the Oppenheimer and Sol Pienaar’s of this world. 

Some, when they worked for Madiba, compromised him because they charged capital for meetings they organised where Mandela would attend. Some made extraordinary concession deals with Mervyn King when they led SARS. Some were arrested for knocking down a pedestrian while driving a vehicle in a state of inebriation. Some were implicated in a car scam while deployed as part of the diplomatic core in Kenya. Some were seriously implicated in gross financial irregularities collapsing the ECDC for millions, yet today their words threaten a final authority, used as one of the reasons for evidence of state capture. You tell us if these are not the signpost of true capture?

They will never tell us they make up the thin slice of very wealthy black individuals. They won’t tell us how their spouses and family members are serving for no reason but their political association in strategic boards that confirm the disparity and inequality of the SA societal expression. They won’t tell you that some of them as far back as 2009 followed former president Zuma to Europe to facilitate and almost force a meeting with Ariva, a French-based nuclear company. Clearly swayed in wanting the nuclear deal to go there. At the time the ANC had not even discussed the mixed-energy approach. They won’t tell us some of them privatised Telkom and sold the stake in Vodacom and today they are billionaires and philanthropists. They won’t tell you that some of them were dry-cleaned by the very multinationals of apartheid making.

Is it not time the designation ‘ANC veteran’ must be rescued from the abuse of this group of media attention seeking, self-serving individuals who attest a hypocritical morality? These hardly work for any unity of the organisation but spends energy on stirring division and self-promotion.


Clyde Ramalaine is a political commentator and writer.