ANC Today 23 January 2004
Volume 4, No. 3 23-29 January 2004
* Letter from the President: Reconciliation and social change must go together
* ID Documents: Seize the opportunity to determine your future
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
Reconciliation and social change must go together
A few years ago, a senior member of one of the European royal families told me a very moving story. For a number of years during the Second World War, her country was occupied by Nazi Germany. During this period, some of her compatriots collaborated openly with the Nazi army of occupation. They rendered various services to the Nazis.
The latter reciprocated by extending various benefits to the collaborators. At the same time, of course, they conducted a campaign of repression against the rest of the population, which was already suffering from the indignities and privations of war. They also deported the local Jews to the German gas chambers.
Naturally, all this resulted in intense popular hostility towards the collaborators. These were ostracised by their neighbours and local communities.
The resistance movement also attacked and killed some of them. Ultimately the Nazis left and the war ended.
She told me that, nevertheless, the attitude of the population towards the Nazi collaborators did not change. The campaign to isolate and ostracise them continued, spreading to all local communities that were informed of the war behaviour of their fellow citizens. 50 years after the end of the Second World War, this campaign was still in place, visiting social isolation even on people who were not born when the war ended.
She felt that the wounds inflicted by the war and the occupation had been allowed to fester for too long. She thought that her people should have used the natural gift of forgiveness some time before.
This had not happened. All she could do was to wonder when and how a miracle could happen enabling her people to forgive without forgetting the past.
She then spoke in praise of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She expressed her deep regret that her country and people had not elected to convene their own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
She had resigned herself to the inevitable reality that all that could be done was to respect the words of an English poet - they also serve, who only stand and wait!
It seemed clear to me that deep within her being, she, too, carried the wounds and burdens of both those who had suffered under Nazi occupation, and those who had decided to lessen the pain by serving the occupiers as quislings, seeking such personal gain as the regime of genocide was willing to extend.
The only available response to her pain and burden was to stand and wait.
Perhaps at that moment, I understood how priceless the gift was that the generation of 1994 had prepared for all future generations of our people. In truth, I cannot remember that this is how I felt.
But now and again I have thought about this conversation in Europe, and I believe, gained a deeper understanding of what it means to speak of the gift of forgiveness, of what the poet meant when he said the quality of mercy is not strained.
I have understood the nobility of the human spirit better, and gained a deeper insight and appreciation of the capacity of our people to manage their pain and suffer their wounds in silence.
I have learnt to imprint on my mind the knowledge that our people are capable of acting almost instinctively to give practical expression to the ideal that obliges all of us to treat one another as our bothers' and sisters' keepers. In my lifetime, I have seen what the ancients might have meant when they spoke of the greatest good.
I have written this Letter to thank Judge Joost Hefer for the service to the nation he discharged, when he presided over the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Spying, Against the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr B.T. Ngcuka.
I also extend a word of sincere appreciation to all those who helped him as his assistants, including the Leader of Evidence, Advocate Kessie Naidu, the Secretary to the Commission, Mr John Bacon, and the Assistant Secretary, Mr Solly Ngwenya.
I must also thank all those who participated on the proceedings of the Commission, as witnesses, legal representatives, the representatives of the media who kept our people continuously informed, and all others who played other roles.
One of the remaining great tasks is for all of us, as a people, to determine what lessons we should learn from the entire process, and create the space in all our hearts and minds to allow those lessons to inform our behaviour in future.
In his Report, Judge Hefer dealt most adequately with one of the matters at the heart of the Inquiry. In this regard, he observed that "anything which may discredit either the institution or the office of the National Director or the person holding the office, is manifestly of constitutional significance and indubitably of public importance."
The charge that the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, had been an apartheid spy and that consequently he had abused his office to advance the cause of counter-revolution was to make the assertion that he was misusing his position to shred our democratic constitution, to defeat the democratic revolution, and with it the hopes of our people.
By any measure, these outcomes are manifestly of constitutional significance and indubitably of public importance, to use Judge Hefer's carefully chosen words.
Accordingly, we could never have received them lightly. Neither would they ever allow of a flippant response.
But then, they should also never be made without the certainty that they are true. The "Ngcuka affair" must teach all of us the important lesson that all of us must stop speculating about non-existent lists of apartheid spies. None of us should ever again seek to win whatever battles we are waging by labelling others as having been apartheid spies.
The ANC knew of the allegations against Bulelani Ngcuka even before we returned from exile. We never took any action to isolate him or otherwise break his links with the movement. When we returned, we did nothing to exclude him from our ranks or stop him assuming senior positions both within the movement and, later, the state institutions.
We sat in the National Cabinet and accepted the recommendation of the then Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, a highly respected leader of our people, that Bulelani Ngcuka should be appointed our National Director of Public Prosecutions.
He would exercise powers we had described in a law that we, the constitutionally mandated National Executive authority of the Republic, had drafted and approved for submission to parliament as the constitutionally-mandated National Executive authority of the Republic.
If the leadership of our movement had allowed all these things to happen, all the time knowing that it was wilfully permitting a known secret agent of the forces against which we had waged a protracted and relentless struggle, to place himself in positions of power, that leadership itself would have been guilty of a great deal more than a dereliction of duty.
It would not have been able to answer the charge that it had acted as an accomplice to the preparation of conditions for the defeat of the very revolution for whose victory it had called on the masses of our people to be ready to sacrifice their lives. Its actions would not have been less than treasonable.
The fact however, is that this leadership was certain that it had never been presented with such convincing evidence as would have required it to act against the person accused, in defence of the revolution.
Indeed in all instances that I know, when we had convincing evidence of sponsored and conscious betrayal of the revolution, we acted as justified by the case in question and as circumstances would allow in terms of our movement's code of behaviour.
We appointed the Hefer Judicial Commission of Inquiry because we had no information that created any basis on which we could conclude that either the National Directorate or the Scorpions had been transformed into a base of counter-revolution.
At the same time, given the gravity of the charge, we had to ensure that we do not allow the situation to persist according to which things should continue to be said that served to discredit the institution or the office of the National Director or the person holding the office.
During the negotiations, we proposed the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We hoped that by the end of its life, the TRC would have helped to create the conditions for all of us to put the past of arrests, detentions, bans and banishments, torture, legalised murder and secret assassinations, behind us.
We understood that we had a duty to address what had been categorised as "white fears". Nelson Mandela in particular engaged in high profile activities intended to allay these "white fears".
We proposed that the Interim Constitution should include a provision addressing the issue of "self-determination". This was in response to fears of sections of the Afrikaner population.
At some stage, we came to understand that we were making no progress in the negotiations with the NP government because many in its ranks feared a non-racial democracy. For this reason, we proposed that the Constitution should provide for the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU) to give comfort to the NP that it would continue to participate in our country' s National Executive.
We knew then, as we do now, that we needed all the space all of us could create to enable us to tackle the difficult task of working together to eradicate the legacy of apartheid and racism. We knew that our country could not but undergo a very serious process of fundamental social transformation.
We were conscious of the fact that this process would best be carried through by ensuring that all our people act together willingly and consciously. We had to try to ensure that all of us were motivated by a shared sense of engagement in a genuine and inclusive process of national reconciliation that would inspire optimism about the future of all our people, both black and white.
As part of this, early in the life of the GNU, we asked the leaders of the intelligence agencies, all of them carried over from the apartheid years, to give the names of the informers/spies they had used in their struggle against the democratic movement to the newly elected President of the Republic, Nelson Mandela.
We assured them that the President would communicate with each of these to tell them that they would not be used any longer as spies. The President would also inform them that the fact that they had served as spies would not be disclosed or used against them in any way.
All this was intended to ensure that those of the former apartheid "handlers" who still entertained hopes of engineering a counter-revolution would have no possibility to blackmail their erstwhile informants to participate in such a counter-revolution. The truth, however, is that, to all intents and purposes, the then leaders of the intelligence agencies refused to supply the requested information to President Mandela.
I have mentioned all this, including the TRC, the various provisions in the Interim Constitution and other initiatives to address the issue of "white fears", to come to the second important lesson we must draw from the events that led to the appointment of the Hefer Commission and the publication of its Report.
We must continue the struggle successfully to address the deeply entrenched legacy of colonialism and apartheid. In this regard, we will persist in our rejection of the criticism by some that to refer to this legacy is to "play the race card."
But in addressing this legacy, we must also be guided by the centrally important strategic objective to promote and achieve genuine national reconciliation. This is reconciliation not only between black and white, but also between those who fought on opposing sides across the barricades. As we have said so many times before, our strategic task is to combine the two inter-connected objectives of social transformation and national reconciliation.
The pursuit of one of these related goals should not constitute the effective marginalisation of the other. The cement that binds our strategic goals together, those of social transformation and national reconciliation, is the human solidarity, which a member of one of the European royal families desires for her country and people.
We have begun our journey to the building of a humane and caring society very well. Nothing whatsoever will force or persuade us to abandon the road that the masses of our people have so wisely chosen, with the "ragged-trousered philanthropists" demonstrating a remarkable nobility of spirit.
Seize the opportunity to determine your future
For all South Africans to enjoy the benfits of freedom, they need to ensure they have a bar-coded ID book, the basic enabling document needed to vote and exercise other important rights.
As South Africa prepares to celebrate its first decade of freedom, attention is turning to the challenges the country will face in the next 10 years. The government discussion document 'Towards a Ten Year Review' correctly observed that "South Africa is at the confluence of major possibilities arising out of progress that has been made in the First Decade of Freedom." The report further notes that a key challenge should be identified in each area of endeavour to help act as a catalyst towards ascending to a higher trajectory of development.
Based on the observation made in the review, the country needs to ponder and respond decisively to the challenges of ensuring that the country ascends to a higher trajectory of development. However, it would be practically impossible for South Africans to lift the country into a higher trajectory of development if our actions, deeds, conduct and perceptions are not geared towards the consolidation of democracy that we fought so hard for many decades.
A central thrust of the government's programme of action is premised on the clarion call to build a people's contract for a better life for all. This call imposes an obligation not only on government, but also on all South Africans to become conscious and active participants in social transformation in order to improve the quality of their lives.
Notably, South Africa's third democratic elections are due to take place at some point during 2004, the tenth year of democracy. The democratic breakthrough of 1994 was a decisive moment that liberated us from a history of oppression, conflict and neglect and created the possibility of reconstruction and development through the building of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist state based on the will of the people.
This underlines the role of this year's election in consolidating our democracy.
The IEC voter registration weekend on 24-25 January is of critical importance in preparing the country for a successful election with a high level of participation. All South African citizens should use this chance to register or to check if their names are on the voter's roll.
However, to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote, all South Africans who are 18 years and above should have bar-coded Identity Documents. An identity document is the legitimate enabling document needed for the casting of a vote in South Africa's democratic elections.
Many of our people are unemployed and live in conditions of poverty. They find it difficult to afford the payment of photographs for Identity Documents. In order to respond to this challenge, the Department of Home Affairs has waived the costs for photographs and re-issues until the closure of voter registration to facilitate easy accessibility of IDs.
As a result of this decisive intervention at the beginning of 2003, more than 2.6 million IDs have been dispatched. This success can be attributed to the efficacy of more mobile units in which Home Affairs officials in partnership with other stakeholders worked hard for long and irregular hours and in many instances extended the days of rendering services. Undoubtedly, this is a concrete reflection of the government's commitment to the spirit of Batho Pele - 'People First' - in the provision of qualitative, effective, efficient and professional service.
A bar-coded ID also enables South Africans to access other opportunities and services brought by democracy. It is an important document in determining one's future. It is one of the requirements for one to apply for and obtain a drivers license; apply for child support grants; foster care grants; disability grants; old age grants; grant in aid; housing; education; health-care; job opportunities; enroll for learnerships; obtain passports, visas and so forth.
While government is committed to providing IDs to South Africans, citizens are advised take individual responsibility and look after and value their documents.
While the ANC-led government is making qualitative progress in addressing the plight of the poor, there are other fundamental challenges facing the country.
The government's decision to waive the costs for the application of IDs has brought change in the lives of millions of South Africans. But thousands of IDs remain uncollected. This means that South Africans must collect their IDs in order to use the opportunity to register and exercise their inalienable right to vote in the elections.
All South Africans who have applied for ID books are therefore urged to collect their IDs from the offices of application, including mobile units in cases where people have changed their residential addresses. The Department of Home Affairs has entered into a partnership with the Post Offices to maximise the distribution of identity documents to applicants with unserviceable addresses.
As we continue to work within the broad framework of reconstruction and development we have to address problems of implementation; of limited resources, and of the impact of factors beyond our control. We are learning from experience and refining our approach as circumstances change to improve the quality of lives of all South Africans.
To succeed we need to build a partnership of all sectors of our society to ensure that they become active and conscious participants in the process of social change and consolidation of our nascent democracy. As we prepare for the next voter registration period, we would like to call upon all South African citizens who are in possession of a green bar coded ID to come in their numbers and register to ensure that they appear on the voters roll.
Voting in elections is a fundamental and hard-won right and citizens have a responsibility to exercise it and keep our democracy strong. The progress that freedom has brought can be sustained and extended only if all of us use our democratic right to participate in shaping our country. Participation is the lifeblood of democracy and the only way to ensure continued progress in pushing the frontiers of poverty. Applying for a bar coded ID and registering are some of the critical steps to contribute to the entrenchment of democracy in the first decade as well as shaping the future of our country. Our participation in the voter registration process is one of the catalysts towards ascending to a higher trajectory of development.
Department of Home Affairs
Independent Electoral Commission
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