Fidel Castro: Inspiring through defiance and compassion

I will not deny that there is something emotional in my reaction to Fidel Castro (referred to as Fidel by Cubans and others who admired him) and now his death.  For me and many others he represented something more than what we have come to expect from leaders. I do not pretend to have made a full study of the strengths and weaknesses of the Cuban revolution and the uneven recognition of sexual diversity, the machoism that goes with military emphases, the unresolved issues with black Cubans, the limits of debate and other issues.  I never had proper discussions with Cubans on these questions and have not made a full study. So, I am willing to accept that not everything done under the aegis of Fidel was perfect and there may have been some inadequacies of the Cuban revolution


Fidel was a voice that the dispossessed of the world needed because vulnerability tends to lead people to lose their agency. Fidel advanced the power of defiance and inspired others to defy


But Fidel was not simply bold and defiant in the face of an enemy located a very short distance from the island of Cuba. He was a powerful intellectual. No one who reads his speeches can fail to be impressed by this.  When one reads of his relationship with people like Hugo Chavez their conversations are filled with discussion of what books they were reading.


Fidel was not a dogmatist and he engaged with liberation theologians, amongst other non-Communists and this is recorded in books.


Fidel was compassionate. It was under his leadership that Cuban solidarity gave meaning to the word internationalism, whether through 400,000 Cuban soldiers volunteering (not being drafted and many more wanting to go but not able) to fight in defence of the people of Angola and ultimately defeating the apartheid defence force and turning the tide of Southern African military history.



The internationalism was manifested in Cuban educational, and health work all over the world and in providing a home for many students from Africa, acquiring skills there, something continuing to this day.


Cuban medical solidarity is legendary. As it is said, despite their limited resources, they are always the first to arrive for a medial crisis and the last to leave. When their soldiers left Africa, as one mother said they took nothing but the remains of those who had died.


Certainly, there were and are problems that remain unresolved in Cuba but I know that there are many like me who feel the passing of Fidel emotionally for we have lost someone who cared deeply about the pain that the poor and dispossessed suffered everywhere and anywhere.  His life will inspire others to fight on and ensure that they enjoy the liberties and opportunities and resources for which Fidel devoted his life.

Armed struggle and gender in the ANC’s past and present (Polity, 21 November, 2016)

ANC divisions: Failure of MPs to pitch for vote despite attendance being compulsory

A few days ago someone suggested to me (I do not recall who it was and whether on Facebook or Twitter) that the failure of MPs to abide by a caucus ruling that they all attend to vote on the revenue legislation represented a form of revolt. I said that it was merely their being “slapgat”.

It seems that the suggestion that it was indeed a revolt is borne out by Jackson Mthembu in the Sunday Independent today, suggesting that Mthembu has lost control of the caucus. (Message in mutiny against Mthembu by Siyabonga Mkhwanazi, page 4).

“Mthembu said he did not know what led many of his MPs to dump him at the time he needed them most to pass a key bill in Parliament.

“Despite repeated attempts to get ANC MPs to come to the Chamber to vote on the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill to pass the budget, his call was ignored.”

“On two consecutive days, a number of ANC MPs refused to attend the compulsory sitting of the House, referred to as a three-line whip, to vote on an important bill.”

The article relates the absence of MPs to Mthembu’s recent call on the entire ANC leadership to resign. This may well be true. It may be that those who are defenders of the current Zuma leadership want to show their power by humiliating Mthembu as Chief Whip, either as a prelude to removing him or showing him that he will not be able to do his job if he continues with calls such as that which he made on the leadership

It is a paradox that at a time when there are so many forces waged against President Jacob Zuma he is rallying his forces in KZN and Mpumalanga, with apparent confidence. Those who oppose Zuma, who see him as a liability as evident in the recent local government elections are not yet in a position to replace him, insofar as they cannot agree on a candidate that will be accepted by the ANC as a whole now nor as a successor to Zuma. So there is a stalemate leading to occasionally public disagreements and much internal enmity

At the same time the state entities that Zuma has relied on to be a bulwark defending him, like the NPA, the Hawks and SARS are obviously under siege. It is unclear whether or not he will suspend Shaun Abrahams as head of the NPA. If he does or if the court agrees to the Helen Suzman Foundation/Freedom Under Law action for his removal and the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirms the disbarment of Jiba and Mrwebi, he is left with very few top leaders in the NPA who are close to him. There is an action being brought by the two foundations for the removal of Berning Ntlemeza, head of the Hawks in early December and if they are all removed it creates considerable difficulty for the Zuma plan to “cleanse” the Treasury and undermine the capacity of SARS.

In the period that lies ahead the SCA may well reinstate the charges against Zuma and it is up to Zuma to then appeal. It may be that he is compelled to bear the charges, personally, if he loses- following the recent developments in that regard. That limits his options, obviously.

At any rate, he will have difficulty taking it to the Constitutional Court and having it reverse the SCA decision or even hearing the matter. The NPA, under possible new leadership will also have difficulties defending Zuma and may find itself having to decide on a prosecution. In order to avoid prosecuting it will have to find grounds that make the situation very different from that covered in the original charge sheet.

Time is running out on one level, but since Zuma may well still command majority support in the ANC leadership, if not the organisation as a whole he can continue to fight back. Clearly that is his intention.

This means that seeking a solution to our present crisis from within the ANC is a difficult route, unless a range of other forces outside of the formal party political terrain supplement it.




Nuclear deal may explain more of Zuma’s problems

If it is correct that the reason for the secrecy around the Nuclear deal with Russia is that procedures are being circumvented and also that money has passed, probably to Zuma himself, then there is considerable pressure to deliver.  It is different when money is to be paid at a later date. There is a different quality of pressure exerted where payment is in advance of a deal being settled.


The problem for Zuma, all along, has been that if procedures are to be circumvented then Treasury is a barrier and that is said to be the reason for dismissal of Nene.  With the return of Gordhan it was not possible to simply dismiss him and attempts have been made to find ‘legal’ reasons for undermining and dismissing him and also undermining SARS and those who had held the line against irregularities.


Put at the service of these goals has been the NPA, under Abrahams and now the Hawks under Ntlemeza. Because there has been no case over the so –called rogue unit, they tried to pursue fraud charges, demonstrating failure to prepare a case according to basic forensic and prosecutorial rules. That they did not know of or disclose the legal opinion on which Pillay’s retirement was based (in the public domain since 2014) has led to Freedom under Law and Helen Suzman foundation action for removal of Abrahams as head of NPA and Zuma seeking to pre-empt that by calling on Abrahams and two other NPA advocates to provide reasons not to be suspended.  A similar process may end up being followed with Ntlemeza who is due to face similar action from FUL and HSF in early December


If Zuma gets rid of Abrahams and Ntlemeza, how does he secure the Nuclear deal and in the event of reinstatement of his 783 fraud etc charges who will be a barrier in the way of his facing these and possibly going to prison for that and potential charges over state capture?

ANC takes further steps towards self-destruction. What is our role as citizens? (Polity 15 November 2016)

Jacob Zuma’s survival: No price is too great to be paid by others

As the Zuma presidency is engulfed by more and more crises of legality, corruption and other forms of irregularity Zuma is demonstrating as he has before that any ally is expendable if that is required to provide him with a measure of security. The latest to learn this is Shaun Abrahams.
It is some 9 years since he cut his ties with Shabir Shaik, whose payments to Zuma landed him in jail, albeit for a short period. Shaik managed to get ‘medical parole’ but clearly there is no longer any bond with Zuma.
Maybe Zuma’s options are gradually running out. In the course of a very short time he has seen the resignation of Brian Molefe, the potential permanent removal of Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi from the NPA (who sought to protect General Mdluli another Zuma ally from prosecution and of course bent every effort on the part of Jiba to save Zuma from reinstatement of charges). In order to protect himself Zuma is prepared to singlemindedly cut ties with those who have been fiercely loyal to him. He is clear about what he believes has to be done. On this he can be very decisive. But maybe his options are running out.

If Zuma goes, what route to recovery? (Daily Maverick/ Polity 4 November 2016)

Clenched fist salute- the ‘right way’ and how ‘they’ do it (29 October 2016)

In the Star article that is posted I leave the court after sentencing in 1975 with my fist in the air. But that, according to Robben Island veteran from PE, the late Henry Fazzie is not how ‘we’ do it. In the mid 1980s I was at a UDF National Working Committee meeting in Koinonia in Bezuidenhout valley when Fazzie instructed us about how ‘they’ raise their hands and how ‘we’ do it. What Fazzie explained is that in the 1950s the initial ANC salute was with the fist in the air. It was then, on the 1980s and now, just above or at the level of the shoulders as a clenched fist, without the thumbs up. ‘They’ meaning the PAC ( Fazzie making it look a little ridiculous) hold their hands open and up high above their heads. Another way that is wrong is how ‘they’ meaning the Black Consciousness Movement do it, with their fists held high (as I do in the photograph).
So for those who want to know the orthodoxy, this is it as far as I know. How I do it in the photograph was not how a good comrade should be doing it, so mend your ways if you are not doing it correctly!
In studying the origins of the clenched fist I found that it was associated with Communists from decades back as well as sometimes with fascists. Netaji (Dear leader) Subhas Chandra Bose, who took up arms against the British, after breaking with the Indian Congress is also pictured in some photographs with a clenched fist.