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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 2, No. 14, 16 July 2003

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Happy Birthday Madiba – A genuine friend of South African communists

By Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

The South African Communist Party joins millions of South Africans, and millions more around the world, in warmly wishing that giant of our struggle, Cde Nelson Mandela, a happy 85th birthday, this coming Friday 18 July 2003. As South African communists we are heavily indebted to the leadership, humility and service of this stalwart to the liberation of our people. We pay tribute to his strength and resilience, which the apartheid regime failed to break even through 27 years of incarceration.

We dedicate this edition of Umsebenzi Online to this occasion, knowing full well that Cde Madiba is not one who likes to be treated as a special person above his people. Nevertheless, he deserves this special attention for who he is, for his contribution to the struggle of the South African people, and for his inspirational role as a symbol of global struggles for social, economic and human justice and dignity.

A birthday is in the first instance a personal matter, and we wish Madiba a happy celebration with the family. However, this is also a political birthday. It is a celebration of a life dedicated to the liberation of our people and humanity as a whole. It is, therefore, proper that as we celebrate this birthday, we also reflect on the role that Madiba has played in our struggle and the lessons we need to learn from his example.

We can proudly describe Madiba as a genuine friend of South African communists. As Madiba celebrates his 85th birthday, the SACP is, this year, celebrating 50 years since our reconstitution as the SACP in the underground in 1953, after the banning of the CPSA by the apartheid regime in 1950. In this half century, Madiba has been an ever present and central figure in the relationship between the ANC and the SACP. One of the strong qualities of Cde Madiba is his ability to sometimes laugh at himself as he reflects on episodes in his life. He is not one who presents his own history and that of the ANC as a series of inevitable, pre-ordained developments and correct decisions without mistakes.

One of the stories he recounts is of how, in the late 1940s, he used to break up meetings of the Communist Party. At the time he did not trust communists, nor did he believe that they should play any significant role in a struggle that, at the time, he believed was ‘Africanist’ in the narrow sense of the word. He also tells how Moses Kotane was sent by the Party to talk to him privately, to persuade him to work with rather than against the Party. He openly admits the impact that these conversations had upon him, changing his attitude towards communists. These discussions, deep into the night, helped to forge a deep relationship between an emergent militant youth within the ANC and the Party, during the most difficult times of apartheid rule.

Kotane’s personal approach seems to have had a lasting impact on Cde Madiba, who continues to be a great believer in one-on-one discussions at difficult moments of our struggle. It was an approach he used to such great effect during his negotiations with the apartheid regime in the last years of his imprisonment. Perhaps one important lesson we need to learn from Cde Madiba, in this regard, is that leadership does not only mean persuading others and seeking to influence their views, but it also means the ability to listen and to be accessible to other views.

As we celebrate Cde Madiba’s 85th birthday, we are celebrating the life of someone who displays unshakeable loyalty to allies. In his famous Rivonia Trial speech, at the risk of aggravating a case that seemed inevitably gravitating towards a death sentence for the accused, he unflinchingly defended the relationship between the ANC and communists. Again, when negotiating with PW Botha he flatly refused to drop relations with our Party as a trade-off precondition for negotiations between the ANC and the apartheid regime. Indeed, he continued to defend and even nurture the Alliance, even at a time when communists suffered serious setbacks with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. So, as we celebrate 85 years of Madiba, we are also celebrating a life dedicated to our Alliance.

People speak about “Madiba magic” but there is also “Madiba wrath”. Cde Madiba can be a very firm leader when it comes to implementing decisions taken by the organization, no matter how difficult they may be, even under conditions where his own reputation might be at stake. One can’t help but recall an incident in August 1990 at the University of Durban-Westville. The ANC had taken a decision to suspend the armed struggle and was in the process of informing its constituency. One occasion on which this was to be announced was at the combined regional councils of the then three ANC regions in KZN. We had wind that Cde Madiba himself was coming down to announce this to us. We were resolutely opposed to such a decision, in the light of the raging violence in the province at the time. We then started planning how to oppose this decision at the gathering, some of us were assigned the task of standing up to challenge and oppose Cde Madiba on the advisability of suspending the armed struggle under those conditions. Indeed Cde Madiba announced this decision, and we, indeed, stood up to challenge it. He said he understood that, as young people and under those conditions, we were very angry. He himself, as a young man, had been as angry as us. But he challenged firmly. It is not enough to be angry, he said, we should also explain to him how our anger was going to take our country and movement from point A to point B – from violence and apartheid to peace and democracy. We could not answer convincingly. We left feeling that we lost what was an important battle to us. But on reflection there was a deeper meaning and lesson from this question. Anger is important in any revolution fighting a tyranny, but one’s strategy may sometimes require taking actions that might not be in line with your immediate anger, but informed by a long range view. Indeed he was right!

Tata, let us assure you, on Friday we won’t be angry, but we will be happily joining you as South African Communists to enjoy and celebrate a birthday of a giant of our revolution. Unwele olude Madiba!

Reader's Letter: Media Ownership  

The Editor:

I read with interest the article on the Media. I think it would have been useful if you had provided the names of the owners, coorporate and other, of the media and shown the inter-connection of the print, and electronic media with big business, especially who owns what in South Africa. It is important for the public to be informed about the personalities and the co-orporations that they represent.

Furthermore, why is it that we do not have a single communist or left wing radio station where issues are analysed and discussed from a left wing perspective. Surely the SACP- COSATU alliance could have organised such a radio station where our ideas could be propogated?

MS F.Dollie

Reply to Comrade Dollie

Dear Comrade Dollie

Thanks for your comments that it would have been useful for the article on media transformation (Umsebenzi Online, 18 June 2003) to provide the names of the owners, coorporate and other, of the media and shown the inter-connection of the print, and electronic media with big business, especially who owns what in South Africa. We agree with you that it is important for the public to be informed about the personalities and the co-orporations that they represent. The Umsebenzi Online of 6 August 2003 will provide these details and analysis. In 2000, the Government Communication and Information Services provided useful details in this regard through the position paper on the Media Development and Diversity Agency (visit www.gcis.gov.za for the position paper).

In your letter you also ask why we do not have a single communist or left wing radio station where issues are analysed and discussed from a left wing perspective. COSATU is involved in a project called the Workers' World Radio Productions which broadcasts through the community radio sector from Cape Town. The SACP is working with COSATU to address this discrepancy. Watch this space!

The Editor


Special Edition: 82nd anniversary  

On Wednesday, 30 July, the SACP will publish a special edition of Umsebenzi Online in order to mark the SACP’s 82nd anniversary. On 29 July 2003, the SACP will be celebrating its 82nd Anniversary. The founding conference of the Communist Party of South Africa was held in Cape Town from 29 to 31 July in 1921. The CPSA was banned in June 1950 and was unbanned on 02 February 1990.


The national 82nd anniversary rally will be held in Welkom (Free State province) and will focus on mobilising farm and domestic workers in order that they claim their rights in terms of the law, and that they report cases of victimisation and abuse which they continue to suffer.

Other rallies will be held at the ZZ2 Farm in the Limpopo province (as part of the ongoing struggle to reinstate farm workers dismissed illegally) and in Khayelitsha.


The SACP will also host a seminar on its 1953 reconstitution from the CPSA to the SACP. Raymond Suttner (research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, former SACP Central Committee and ANC NEC member) will deliver a research paper on the subject. The seminar will be held on 29 July 2003 (14h00 – 17h00) at the SACP Head Office. RSVP as space is limited by calling Thelma Mani on 011 339 3621 or on email (thelma@sacp.org.za). The paper to be presented at the Seminar will be available on request from 21 July 2003.


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