From the first days after the Marikana massacre there has been little evidence of the ANC, its allies and government being willing to commiserate with the family of the dead. In the past what distinguished even some of the most controversial ANC figures was that they were always there at a time of tragedy, and in the case of many of the leaders of the ANC, its allies and ANC-led governments, they believed it was important to share grief with the people. In this case, even if their deceased partners joined a union, which is not allied to the ANC, the bereaved are amongst the poorest of the poor. This is the constituency that the ANC has, historically, represented.
I must confess to a sense of astonishment that the ANC, its allied partners and the present government absented themselves from the memorial held in Marikana on Friday. Every other party appears to have been there. Surely the government ministers concerned appreciate that this is a matter of grave public concern and that it was part of their duty to be there or be represented?
From the outset it has been striking how callous the ANC, its allies and government’s response has been. From the beginning the real crime has been, in their eyes, the displacement of NUM by AMCU, now described by SACP leaders as a vigilante union.
All of this is happening at a time when not just vigilantism, but wholesale assassinations have become a regularised way of deciding on leadership and access to wealth within the ANC and its allies. This is a time when lawlessness is widespread. Consequently one should have realistic expectations and recognise that these events are part of some years of repudiation of the values on which democratic South Africa was established. This period has seen the undermining of constitutionalism and the distinction between public and private wealth being blurred.
I was part of the struggle for liberation. I joined a movement, which I believed to have a strong moral component. Perhaps with the possibilities of acquisition of wealth on an unparalleled scale, it changed and we see what is happening now. Possibly, I and many others misread what was happening at an earlier stage. Perhaps some were preparing for what is unfolding now.
Where to from here? Certainly the ANC and its allies cannot lead us out of the mire into which they have taken us. While it is urgent to try to set the country on a course where some of our hopes can potentially be realised, it is important that we recognise how difficult this task will be. A broad movement needs to be built, not with antagonism to any party as its starting point, but a recognition that all freedoms are indivisible and must be safeguarded and advanced. This will mean joining hands across previous divisions. These are just ideas. It requires the weight of numbers behind an agreed programme.