About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

ANC & race-stiffling criticism

Some interpret Mbeki's response as his believing that Tutu had personally attacked him (See footnote page 454/455) and was accusing him of being dictatorial (Mathatha Tsedu 'Is criticism an archetypal sin?' City Press 5 December 2005) and was only exercising his right to respond. ('I have made it clear that I will join public debate, exercising the same right as other South Africans to speak out.') Others were less charitable in their views. Suffice to say that after black South Africans less 'eminent' than Tutu saw the mauling that he was subjected to, which saw him in the end pull back rather than get engaged in a series of polemical and divisive exchanges with the president, they would think twice before questioning the ways and the intent of the ruling party. Another high profile South African who felt the wrath of Mbeki's lash was the CEO of Anglo American Anthony Trahar (See [] maharaj/footnotes/ [] 455) For periods of time Mbeki seemed obsessed with the notion that some South Africans, perhaps exclusively white, were engaged in a campaign to spread bad news about SA in the west, that it was crime ridden, unsafe and unstable.

In December 2005, Xolela Mangcu, a  frequent critic of both Mbeki and the ANC for pandering to Africanism in his column in Business Day, and executive director of the Society, Culture and Identity programme at the HSRC, resigned abruptly. He said that the new director, Dr Olive Shisana told him that a number of cabinet ministers were not too happy with what he wrote in his columns in Business Day. When he asked for the names of the ministers she refused. He then asked her to tell them 'to back off.' She replied that she couldn't do that as the HSRC relied on them for work. Feeling that his intellectual independence was being comprised he resigned. See his columns in Business Day on 8 and 15 December 2005. The HSRC had no comment except to say that it was unfortunate that he had felt it necessary to deal with the matter through the media.

The Secretary General of the ANC, Kgalema Motlanthe, makes no secret of his distain for the Democratic Alliance, calling them collectively racist & out to undo all the gains South Africa since 1994. In the course of an interview with me in 2005, he said:

POM I want to go back to your thing on attitudes. Let's look at the Democratic Alliance. Do you think that the DA as a party comes at issues from still what would be even a subliminally racist attitude?

KM Yes because they have said to themselves that anything that is bad for SA is good for them, it's good for them. Anything that is bad for SA as a country is good for the political fortunes of their party. That's how they see it. That is why to them it is important that this country is seen to be failing so that gives them the platform for presenting themselves as potentially better placed and qualified to do a better job with the country, for the country. Now they also, you see, language in itself, just language is not a sign of intelligence actually or capability. If English is your mother tongue, that's your mother tongue, you can speak it, you can read it if you like. If it is not your mother tongue it means you must learn it and you can very well find that that an intelligent, very talented brain, is not articulate in English at all. But they would regard command of the English language as a sign of intelligence and capability: well you qualify to be very close to where we are but we are quite superior. So it borders on the old problem of white supremacy.

POM Where would you place, say, Helen Suzman?

KM You know Helen Suzman of old opposed apartheid but was for qualified franchise for blacks.

POM When you 'qualified', you had to be educated or you had to be not for - ? When you say qualified, she wasn't – ?

KM No, no one person, one vote democracy.

POM She wasn't?

KM She wasn't. No she wasn't. She opposed apartheid, yes, but she was not prepared to go the full hog so for her at that time precisely because she would oppose apartheid she came across as a radical liberal, so to speak. But the DP at the best of times was actually in terms of if you were to use British politics they were actually Tories. It's just that they were in a setting with such a right wing.

POM In comparison?.

KM Yes, in comparison to the National Party. They actually qualified to be not only really radical liberals but they stood for the correct positions. But of course they were not prepared to go the full hog, the full distance. That's why even now they would adopt a position that says whatever is bad for SA is good for us as a party.

POM But they would say, no, we are for a basic income grant for everybody, we are for better education, we are for getting rid of the skills differential. We go into the townships and we try to do the best we can establishing contact. They would say you're misreading us.

KM No, no. Many black people who have gone into the DA and all of them, without exception, say they are racists, when they leave there. Throughout. You must speak to Professor Themba Sono.

POM Oh yes, he was with the Institute of Race Relations. I know that.

KM Yes, you must speak to him. He was there in the DA, a senior person. He is one of those I'm speaking of and he had to leave and he can tell you horror stories.

POM I'll make a point of that. So you would see them as still being for the maintenance of white privilege?

KM They are worse. I was saying at the best of times the DP, which preceded the DA, DA remember was an amalgam of the DP and NNP, at their very best when they say this was now the liberal grouping in SA, they were in fact in terms of outlook and value systems the closest thing to the Tories in England. Now as the DA they are now home to the conservatives who left the NNP, the National Party, so in fact now they are even more.

POM So you would see them still calling for the maintenance of the status quo, for the maintenance of the residual ties of white privilege?

KM Well it's not possible now. It is not possible and they know it. They would love to be in a controlling position.

POM But they know that's not possible.

KM They think it is possible with the majority taking their cue from them and taking leadership from them.

POM Do you really believe they want SA to fail, for joblessness to grow, for economic growth to come to a halt, for foreign investment to dry up?

KM Oh yes.

POM You do? KM I do. I do. Because to them that would offer them a possibility of – they could then present themselves as an alternative. You see they're looking at it from the point of view of supplanting the ANC, that if the ANC is seen to have failed or if this country is visited by major setbacks under the stewardship of the ANC government, to them that would be of great benefit, an opportunity to position themselves as people who can save the country and lead it better. But you must speak to people in the Western Cape when the DA was in charge there because it's not as if they never had an opportunity to be in charge. They were in charge in the Western Cape, go and chat there. Carol Paton in the Sunday Times at that time wrote a very interesting piece in the Sunday Times on assessing the performance of that DA led government of the Western Cape.

POM I'm trying to position things here. In Britain at the moment the Tories are hoping that everything goes wrong in Iraq for Blair, that it gets screwed up, they're hoping that the economy will start – they're hoping the other party will fail to govern well so that they can say, "We'll govern better." What's the difference between - ?

KM At the political level it's logical that an opposition, it's not unpatriotic in fact for an opposition to wish for the ruling party to commit major blunders that would benefit them. But that's different from saying what is bad for SA is good for us.

POM Now who says that?

KM  The DA.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.