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Shades of grey – A response to Gardee

James Nkambule

James Nkambule

The input by Cde Ahmed Godrich Gardee on the positions and pronouncements of the present leadership of the ANCYL is quite interesting.

Interesting in the sense that, reading it from a sick bed in my native village, brought a sense of nostalgia. Not because of its accuracy or lack of it, but byits presumption that every thing is always black and white and therefore easy to separate right and wrong. I beg to differ; sometimes there are shades of grey in between black and white!

A few observations I made in the input referred to supra, include historically wrong conclusions on what led to the tragic death of, Alhajj Malek Shabaz, other wise known as Malcom X. A closer look and study of writings of Muslim scholars, would have assisted Cde Ahmed Godrich Gardee, to contextualise, what in fact led to the tragic death of brother Malcom X. Sure, he did say the death of John F Kennedy, was a reflection of “chickens coming home to roost”. But Malcom X, was never expelled from the Nation of Islam; he was “censored” for 90 days by the old and senile Elijah Muhamad.

After this so-called “censorship”, Malcom X announced his departure from the Nation of Islam. Two critical points of historical importance must be mentioned here. Firstly, the C.I.A did not like the fact that Malcom X, was pushing for a united front of all black leaders of the civil rights movement in the US.

Gone was the confrontation with the likes Martin Luther King jnr . This development alone, led the C.I.A (not his “chickens coming home to roost” speech) to conclude that Malcom X, must be removed permanently. Secondly, after undertaking his first Hajj (pilgrimage to mecca), X, who had then adopted the name of Alhajji Melek Shabaz, started preaching the correct Islam, as opposed to the distorted teachings of the Nation of Islam.

He began to indicate, that it was not Islamically correct to define every white person as a devil, that true Islam teaches brotherhood amongst all human beings across the racial line. Enemies of Islam, the faith, not the nation, did not like this and the exposure he was getting in the public media.

It suited them that a distorted version of Islam. As taught by the likes of Elijah Muhamed, was taken as “real Islam” just as today, those who made Osama Bin Laden and assisted him to drive the mighty Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in 1989, today parade the violence of Alqaeda as “true Islam”! As a Muslim himself, Gardee should have known better, than to perpetuate a lie told by successive American administrations that, Alhajj Melek Shabaz, was assassinated because “he defied a decree by Elijah Muhamed”, by making his “chickens coming home to roost” statement.

Let’s get to the real business of this input!

The ANCYL has every right, to make pronouncement on any issue. Be it the ANC leadership, composition of Cabinet and even about taverns closing on Sundays! Even if I do not agree with some of the positions the ANCYL pushes, its right to make such pronouncements must not be diluted with lack of respect or lack of “imbeko”! Politics by its nature is a rough terrain. If you want to be treated like a king or a queen, get out politics! If my father, who just turned 70 last month, gets himself involved in politics and my daughter who turns 17 in two months, while carrying out her duty, which may include describing her grandfather as a liar in public, and she does so, I will not call that “lack of respect”!

A liar has no other name; it remains a liar, a liar and a liar! So, my old man, if he does not want to feel “disrespected” he will stay right where he is: in the privacy of his modest house in Piennar and feel “respected”, out of politics!

The rules of engagement in politics are completely different from the rules of engagement in private families. Prior to the first legal consultative conference of the ANC at NASREC in 1990, the then ANC President, O.R. Tambo, called for the “phased lifting of sanctions” against the Pretoria regime. In spite of the role that O.R. Tambo played an important role in the ANC, that consultative conference called him to order! At that same conference, Madiba threatened to resign if a resolution, calling for an end to “secret meetings” with F.W. de Klerk, was passed.

It was a delegate from the Natal-Midlands and yours truly, who called Madiba out of order, and he withdrew his threat and allowed conference to discuss the matter without pre-conditions. If we kept quiet, we could have laid a precedence for personality cults in the ANC to be created!

So, let us not confuse the right of the ANCYL to pronounce itself with issues of respect, even if we do not agree with the contents of such pronouncements!

What are these “lessons” that new ANCYL leadership should learn? What is this “ukuphapha”? I reject any intention to create a wrong perception that I was responsible for “the Phosa must go” article, I was not! I believe there was litigation on that article and in settling the matter, James Nkambule was never a factor. So, let us play the ball and not the man. For the record, I never disrespected Cde Mathews Phosa, at least not while I was a Provincial Secretary of the ANCYL! All my actions and indeed pronouncements, were executed in my honest belief that I was carrying out decisions of the PEC of the ANCYL, all except one, the then education MEC, Cde D.D. Mabuza, who was Chairperson of the ANC Nelspruit region-so, requested that we accommodate Cde Godrich Gardee as one of the five full-time commissioners of the youth commission after the PEC of the ANCYL had already agreed on all the proposed commissioners. His motivation was that Cde had just returned from exile in Nigeria with his wife and a child and that it would be difficult for him to gain any meaningful employment.

After much discussions, I agreed to this request. But I could not go back and convene a PEC meeting two days after it had just met! They made a compelling argument. Although I had not personally met Cde Godrich, I was familiar with the circumstances for his leaving the country; I was myself an underground UDF operative, who had planned the event, which later compelled him to leave the country! So, my next step was to meet with the Premier and advise him on this name and replace Cde Mzwakhe Ngwenya because he had chances of deployment, considering that he held South African qualifications. I would take responsibility for this and do my best to place Cde Mzwakhe Ngwenya, thus, on 16 June 1997, at Ermelo stadium, Godrich Gardee was named as one of the five full time commissioners and I took full responsibility for that change and yes, managed to get Cde Mzwakhe Ngwenya deployment in the chief whip’s office! That was the only time that I did something not discussed and decided upon by the PEC or PWC of the ANCYL! And I have no regret for this “ukuphapha”!

I am going into these details because the impression created by Cde Gardee’s input, is that I was this out-of touch monster, who was not capable of doing anything good, that I was a “shenanigan” ironically, it was Cde D.D. Mabuza, whom Cde Godrich today considers a “shenanigan and an agent provocateur”, who pleaded his case to another “shenanigan” this “shenaniganism” must be quite contagious! The ANCYL that I led, discussed matters. The ANCYL that I joined discussed matters to the detail. Yes, there is no document about the revolution being safe in anyone’s hands, but history and posterity will adjudicate, if we made an impact or not. I argue that we did. I argue that even when things went wrong in our ranks, we tackled each other into line.

When at the ANC’S 1993

Thembeka Conference, one of our own, the late Cde Phillip “Member” Radebe, stood against one of our own and duly endorsed candidate, Cde Madala Masuku, for the position of deputy secretary of the ANC, we dealt with this betrayal. At the 1992 Matsulu Confrence of the ANC, led by such outstanding cadres as Cde Lassy Chiwayo and the late Lele Mohlala, we defied odds and convinced the conference to resolve the Joe Nkuna betrayal, at that same conference, we brought Cde Che “Ogara” (January Masilela) as the Provincial Secretary of the ANC, in spite of serious attempts by Cde Jaques to hold conference to ransom (on behalf of poor people of Bushbuckridge!), in our own meeting, in January 1994, some amongst us were bent on removing the likes of Cde Lassy Chiwayo from the ANC list of parliamentarians, we tackled each other into line, we broke new ground when in 1996, we initiated a process to bring back to the province, some of the best political talent which was under-utilised in Cape Town, I can go on and on. The point is that while in the ANCYL, we built a political machinery that had programmes that were visible for all to see! Sure, in retrospect, certain things we could have been done better!

What I find difficult to comprehend, from the present ANCYL leadership, is their pre-occupation, too much, with ANC leadership matters at the expense of their own political programmes. Even confusing for me, is their choice of leadership in the ANC leadership issues.

Pardon me for my confusion, but the last time I checked, Cde Lassy Chiwayo was a product of the ANCYL and the youth movement in general. Naturally, I would have expected the ANCYL to throw its weight (if there is any weight!) behind Cde Lassy Chiwayo. Knowing Cde Lassy Chiwayo as I do, he would not have defied a decision by the ANCYL, after properly engaging him in discussions on the ANC leadership issues in the province. Knowing him as I do, he would have openly engaged the ANCYL. I am going to conclude that such engagement never took place, if it did; it was mechanical and not political!

But again, with the quality of leadership that leads the ANCYL today, I do not see anyone, amongst them engaging Cde Lassy Chiwayo in political discussions! Cde Lassy is exceptionally schooled in the ANC’s politics; you must be at least his political equal or come close to his fierce debating skills, to be able to make an impression on him. This is where Gardee’s input loses the plot: the present ANCYL leadership could learn a lesson in the Youth League that I led, to intensify political education and be schooled in ANC politics, particularly with regards to debate! If this lesson were learnt properly, the ANC would be going to its provincial conference with an uncontested top five!

Here simple logic would have told the ANCYL that the ANC has what I call “unwritten conventions”, these include, how we define political seniority in the ANC as well as the tools of analysis which every ANC cadre must use-namely Marxism and Leninism! These tools of analysis, would have indicated inter alia, that the current phase of the national democratic revolution, requires that we elect into leadership positions, cadres who have knowledge of the history of the movement and the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), not elementary history but revolutionary history, who can inspire confidence to the nation as a whole, who are senior in the ANC (not in age but in conformity with the ANC’s “unwritten conventions”), whose popular (as opposed to populist) appeal spreads across a number of ANC generations. These would have informed the ANCYL, that Cde Lassy Chiwayo, meets the requirements needed of anyone who wants to lead the ANC in Mpumalanga today! Accordingly, efforts would have been made to ensure that he is elected unopposed! Yes Gardee, the ANCYL that I led, never went into an ANC conference with the position of chairperson contested! This would have been a good lesson!

I could never be proud that I led a moribund and politically castrated organisation, which was not capable of identifying good leadership qualities and opted to have no say. I could never be proud to have led anything called “a third force”!

Perhaps history will reveal which ANCYL leadership wrote the political obituary of the Youth League in the province. I hope when this is finally revealed, Gardee will still be around! To call people “shenanigans” and “agent provocateur”, will not resolve the leadership challenges that our movement faces in the province. The moribund nature of the ANCYL leadership that succeed our term, of which Gardee was the Treasurer, is at the root of the political paralysis that the ANC faces today. That leadership preoccupied itself with vengeance instead of political education. Gardee cannot be surprised today, that the ANCYL leadership is purging the “vanquished”, they learnt from the best-his class of leadership! During our time, no ANCYL member was suspended, let alone expelled!

This in no way means we did not have disciplinary challenges, but we resolved them through political engagement. What we need to do, as a movement, is to engage cdes in political discussions, as opposed to childish-name calling, to ensure that the position of provincial chairperson, is not contested. We must reason with cdes, that the “numbers games” is not helpful to the movement. You may have the numbers; this does not translate to resolving the fundamental challenges that face our movement.

Sure, Cde D.D. Mabuza is a leader in his own right, but, can we not say, at this point in time, at this phase of the NDR, let us all support Cde Lassy Chiwayo as a provincial chairperson? Is it too late to make this appeal? Is it ever too late to make a revolutionary decision that is meant to serve the movement? Is it too late to avoid another wound to be opened in our already bleeding movement?

The ANC has bled enough, let us recognize the potential of all of us as cadres, and say, we went to Limpopo and elected an NEC, of which five of our very own provincial cadres are part, including Cde D.D Mabuza, we are not short of cadres to a point of duplicating responsibilities for our cadres. Lets hope, it is not too late for this sober conclusion to be reached.

I will never see politics as a career to me. So, there can be no political career that was affected. If that is what the likes of Gardee thought they were doing, in shamelessly supporting that Bantustant buffoon, as he went about criminalising every thing that was written by James Nkambule, that is fine. I do not regret calling him a liar, because that is what he was. If, being rendered unemployed, when in private practice my company’s tenders thrown into the dust bin, if that is the price I am paying for exposing the liar that he was, then I am better poor than dance with the devil himself! When the judgment is finally delivered, by history and posterity, on my role and involvement in the ANCYL, I am certain as I’m of death, that the word “shenanigan”, will not be part of the vocabulary used to define me! Not everything is as easy as black and white, let us find the shades of grey in between that black and white!

James Vusumuzi Nkambule

Former ANCYL Provincial Secretary


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