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Letter to the ANC from a black ‘born free’

My name is Malaika Mahlatsi, better known as Malaika Wa Azania. I am a 21-year-old woman residing in the township of Dobsonville in Soweto. I am non-partisan, though a few months ago I had a short stint with the Economic Freedom Fighters – an organisation I served efficiently in the very short period of time that I was in it, and in whose cause I continue to believe.

I grew up in Meadowlands at the dawn of the democratic era. I knew not a single other political party in my childhood besides the ANC. My entire family, from my grandmother right down to my young uncles, were loyal members of the organisation, influenced largely by my mother, who had began her activism as a militant leader of Congress of South African Students. I grew up being carried on my mother’s back as she attended one branch meeting and political rally after another. By the time I was in my early teens, I could recite the Freedom Charter by heart.

Until I was introduced to Black Consciousness (BC) literature in my mid-teens, it would have been inconceivable to even begin to contemplate the possibility of ever belonging to any other organisation but the one that I was raised to believe was inscribed in my DNA. Not forgetting the glorious leader of the congress movement, an organisation that played a critical role in the struggle for the emancipation of our people.

However, an intensive study into the philosophical outlook of BC and the ideology of pan-Africanism birthed in me a passionate interest in the Africanist bloc, shifting me away from my inherent interest in politics of the mass democratic movement.

Throughout my teenage years I have been on a quest to find a political home, primarily because I want to contribute actively to the architecting of a liberating pedagogy for our people, who remain shackled to poverty and unemployment.

This has not been an easy quest, for it has borne no fruit. And this is where the problem lies. Why is it that as a black child who grew up in a township that knew no other politics but those of the national liberation movement of OR Tambo? I am out in the abyss searching for a political home when the ANC ought to have been an obvious choice. The reality of the situation is that the ANC is, in fact, no longer an obvious choice for many of South Africans who, in the not-so-distant past, were being groomed to become revolutionary members of the organisation.

I have witnessed over the past few years the decay of the ANC, which has effectively managed to undermine some of the revolutionary gains that we accomplished through the efforts of warrior men and women who led the movement at the most difficult of times.

The ANC of Alfred Nzo and Pixley kaSeme, the one that inspired the toiling masses of our people to rise against the injustices of a savage system, the one that dared to stare the monster of apartheid in the eyes, the one that produced some of the finest and most astute intellectuals of our time, the most fearless and selfless cadres of the African struggle, is now a caricature of its former self.

It is an ANC that has undergone a Damascus Conversion right before the eyes of us, the “born frees”, who grew up having faith in its ability to serve this country that we so dearly love. We have seen, in our lifetime, an ANC that unashamedly uses state machinery to settle scores with factions existing within itself; an ANC that doesn’t blink twice when it appoints incapable ministers; an ANC that steals money from the poor and subjects our people, already reeling from the brutality of apartheid, to collapsing RDP houses, the bucket system and abject poverty born out of maladministration and misappropriation of state resources.

We have witnessed, in our lifetime, an ANC that subjects our people to violence in the hands of an exploitative system, an ANC that has ceased to be coherent and revolutionary in the posture and orientation of its policies.

We continue to witness, in our lifetime, an ANC that has no regard for the war against heteropatriarchy, an ANC that fails to take decisive actions against the scourge of corrective rape in our working class townships, an ANC whose Women’s League stands against women in times of crisis, to a point where its leadership declares women unfit to lead the country.

We witness the crisis of the merging of institutions of higher learning, a crisis most evident in the diabolical situation at Walter Sisulu University, an ANC that, in nearly two decades, is still to move beyond rhetoric about the delivery of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, an ANC that is deaf to the demands of free education. And all this we witness in the midst of a growing Black comprador bourgeois elite that was created through the corrupted tender system stemming from regressive BEE policy. But more than this, we witness an ANC that lacks the political will to radically engage the land question, a fundamental issue that is at the heart of the formation of the organisation.

I will never shift to the right, for I can never identify with organisations like the Democratic Alliance, but equally, I cannot see myself in this ANC. I cannot champion a National Development Plan (NDP), at whose heart lies a simplistic interpretation of the prevailing realities for the working class majority. An NDP whose regional development proposals employ a neo-liberal model that positions SA as a Big Brother of the SADC.

I may be a “born free”, but struggle credentials alone won’t win me over. I need a visionary ANC that inspires confidence, an ANC with uncompromising left biasness and a leadership with integrity and principle. Sometimes I believe this ANC can still be reborn. Then reality strikes: tender scandals, maladministration, failure to deliver services to the poor, cronyism, corruption, incoherent policies … and I find myself suffocating in nostalgia, drowning in melancholy.