File: Oliver Tambo with Nelson Mandela and Adelaide Tambo looking on at the 48th ANC national conference held in Durban in July 1991. Picture: Sunday Tribune Archives

In The News Opinion South Africa

OR Tambo legacy cheapened by personality politics cult that preys on the ANC

In the year that OR Tambo would have turned 100 years had he been alive, the ANC as his organisation and government announced it would be the OR year therefore a celebration of made his legacy. We have seen statues unveiled in his honour.

Needless to say this giant of a figure in ANC leadership who led the ANC for close on to 30 years in particular in its exile experience, deserves being honoured and paused at as rightly deserving that reflection. He equally needs to be celebrated by South Africans at large for his contribution to the reality of our current democracy for leading the ANC into engaging the apartheid government with the hope of finding solutions.

This moment sees congested lecterns with intoxicated crowds evidencing witnessing attempts to outdo the other in who has a better, a more sentimental, more intellectual, if not more vituperative edge and grasp to lecture others.

Our discourse witnessed an open letter addressed to the late OR, as a call for a leader in this hour. Such is the state of the ANC and its alliance politics that OR no different to Mandela, Hani and all the dead is essentially used to get to each other in rebuke and vengeance.

There are those who unequivocally tell us they know what OR stood for, would have said, done and that he would not have been silent. To an extend there are volumes of utterances OR made which may guide one to appreciate his epistemological outlook for the ANC as an organization at least from the 1960 – 1990 when he led Africa’s oldest liberation movement.

I however always struggle with the notion that we who live here and now, can categorically claim we know what a deceased person would have said, thought or done in a situation where they physically are not present, did not encounter and simply cannot relate to. A time they don’t know about and an era them denied to have a physical presence to advance a viewpoint or an opinion. As much as some may want to convince us they know Tambo, their views on what his opinions may have been remain pure speculations regardless of their claim of past or periodic proximity.

Tambo is not alone to be used in this fashion. Over the many years of Chris Hani’s passing on that dreadful day on 10 April 1993 that placed us on knife edge as people, and really sped up the democratic settlement, annually someone  finds it his /her right to tell us what Hani would have done if presented with a set of circumstances. They take the latitude to claim to know what he would have said and how he would have responded being exposed to our current context of organisational, alliance or national politics and its manifold anomalies. Therefore my first challenge with those who want to tell us the dead would have responded a specific way, is their own factional prism of the current reality and a pseudo dabbling in spiritism.

The second challenge I have is inserting the dead in circumstances situations and dispensations they never lived through. Can Tambo honestly be inserted in this dispensation of ANC led democracy of SA? Has Tambo been exposed the influence of capital in all its manifested forms, did he sanction a name on a list as a meal ticket for staking ones economic claim?

ANC leaders, members, and sympathizers feel justified to bring the dead at convenient times into the equation. Taking the dead serious is also not done with an attempt at honesty, for it’s only done periodically and even then it’s not without sinister political motive. The truth is Hani, Mandela or Tambo is not with us in physical sense, what they said they said in a particular epoch they were not afforded to live and see this epoch. The material conditions those leaders led the ANC or were part of the alliance are markedly different to what we are encountering today in democracy. Recently as section of veterans labelled 101, sought to invoke the Group of 8 as justification for ill discipline in 2017. Those who advocated it right to justify ill discipline wanted to lean on the crutch of the group of 8 that was led by Hani.

It is time we attempt honesty OR Tambo never led an ANC and its alliance that is consumed with the presence and undeniable toxic role of capital that has infiltrated and controls the ANC from Mandela onwards. To therefore pretend OR Tambo with his wise counsel would have set no foot wrong, remained unfettered and never would have been accused is with all due respect to this great leader misplaced. We cannot with certainty pronounce on his or actions in these circumstances.

OR celebrations no different to that of Hani or Mandela therefore are abused as platforms for attack, ridicule, rather than building the ANC. They embody opportunity to insult and berate those you have a political bone to pick since you have convinced yourself you in pristine sense represents that which OR stood for.

It is a sponsored parade of the self-righteous that continues to keep us in the suffocating tube of factional ANC groups centred on moribund personalities in claims of either Mbeki or Zuma persona. The phenomenon of an ever-pervasive personality cult in self-centredness preys on the ANC, for their own political mileage, and has no interest in letting the ANC as organisation count.

It manifests a tangible contest as to who is legitimate to lecture others. Clearly a contest in which the ANC as organisation is not remotely central but merely used as pawn to justify personal political ends.

The ANC is a highly polarized organisation, it’s polarization is not ideology based it remains anchored in personality frame that really hides the glaring presence of the role of capital, that have captured an ANC as far back as Mandela.

It becomes challenging to see how these speeches and moments in the sun helps renewal or unity claims. We have an ANC in vocal leaders willing to talk unity but simply lack the wherewithal to make this unity count other than to assume they have the right to speak up.

It may be fair to deduce that moments like that of OR celebrations instead of working for true unity as is claimed OR stood for in turn are charades and shows where we are fed the products of self-serving personality interests in pseudo deities who have earned the right to adjudicate while exonerating themselves. They feed of their  enslaved crowds of factional trenches who long abandoned the ANC as centre yet became members of members.

So the next celebration or funeral comes and the same repeats itself, dividing instead of uniting.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator

Clyde Ramalaine – Columnist and Analyst
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine is an ordained and licensed member of the SA and USA clergy with over 25 years of service as a practicing theologian. Ramalaine’s incisive political analysis and commentary on a variety of issues has appeared regularly in most SA newspapers since 2010.
His work continues, among others, to appear in The Thinker, the leading Pan African Journal for thought leaders. He participates in panel discussions on subjects of his interest, and has appeared on SABC and ANN7 platforms, among others.
A published author including annual anthologies of political commentary and a volume of poetry named Gekraakte Blare.
He holds a BTH (Hons-Status) with double majors Systematic Theology and Sociology from the University of Western Cape (UWC).
He also earned a MA Theology (Systematic Theology) Cum Laude from North West University (NWU). His dissertation “Black Identity and experience in Black Theology: A Critical Assessment” is considered a ground-breaking and very relevant work in Black Theology. In such, he successfully questioned the usage of the epithet ‘black’ from a socio -historical and theological perspective.
He serves as management consultant on strategy design, analysis, and communication services for the last 22 years with serving clients in both private and public sector domains.
Analyst for Weekly Xpose.

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