Party goes back to basics in Rocklands

ANC leaders attending the 34th anniversary celebrations of the United Democratic Front (UDF) at Rocklands civic centre appealed to its members to be united and fight against corruption and factionalism in the party.

Among the main ANC heavyweights attending the event on Sunday August 20, which had as its theme “Forward to people’s power. Going back to basics”, was former Minister of Tourism and ANC MP Derek Hanekom, former North West premier and former national general secretary of the UDF Popo Molefe and former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, who was also a founder member of the UDF.

Speakers described the UDF as a powerful force which fought the apartheid regime to liberate the country.

The UDF was an anti-apartheid body that incorporated many anti-apartheid organisations. It was launched in 1983, in Mitchell’s Plain, however, steps towards forming the UDF began in the late 1970s, and moved forward when Allan Boesak called for a “united front” of “churches, civic associations, trade unions, student organisations, and sports bodies” to fight oppression.

Giving a brief background of the UDF, Mr Hanekom said it was formed at Rocklands civic centre on August 20 1983. “Popo Molefe was elected here in this hall by the people as the first general secretary of the UDF. Many of you will remember that great day and it was a milestone in the liberation of our country.

“We haven’t done justice as the ANC since 1991 after the UDF was disbanded in recognising this important development in our country’s liberation history,” he said.

Mr Hanekom criticised factions in the organisation, saying they were destabilising the organisation. “We need to be united behind the organisation. The UDF slogan was ‘Apartheid divides and UDF unites’. We speak about unity in the ANC, yes we need the ANC to be united, but it must be united behind the right things. The ANC must be united in standing up against wrong things. That is the kind of ANC that the masses are looking for. The masses are looking up to an ANC that can unite all the people, not only ANC members,” said Mr Hanekom.

He said for the organisation to be united it needs leaders who can lead by example. He highlighted poverty as one of the challenges that is facing the country. “We need to stand up and fight inequality. The inequality in our country has got worse. Many people got rich. We don’t have a problem with business people who became successful in the right way, but we have a problem with those people who got successful because of looting and corruption. We say ‘no’; they must pay back back the money,” he said.

Cosatu provincial general secretary Tony Ehrenreich said as the formation of the UDF was celebrated, it was also apt to remember the workers and to remember the contribution made by the UDF and its activists to strengthen the formation of Cosatu. “I know you are here today because you believed in the ideal that this country could be free. We didn’t struggle to vote every five years. We didn’t struggle only to defeat apartheid – we struggled against apartheid to make sure that we put in place the promises of the Freedom Charter,” he said, adding that the Freedom Charter said “the wealth of this country belongs to all of our people not only to the Guptas”.

He said the Freedom Charter said the land should be shared among those who work on it but today more than a million workers are chased away from farms.

He said in this country there was wealth for all the people.

“The reason our people are so poor is because some of those who stole the wealth have so much. While we salute our comrades who represent us in Parliament, we want to emphasise that those who are enriching themselves at the cost of our people don’t represent us – they are enriching themselves. And those who stole the wealth and those who defend them, they will both become the enemy of our people,” he said, urging leaders to come back to the ground (people).

Mr Rasool urged members to recruit more people to join the ANC. “We are promising you we are not asking you to campaign for a party that is corrupt because the first thing we will do is clean it inside so we can recruit from outside. For too long we’ve made the Democratic Alliance a caretaker for the City (of Cape Town) and the province and now we will remove them,” he said.

Mr Molefe said the formation of UDF also helped them in community-building and strengthening their mobilisation to fight against apartheid. “ We had all these people organising themselves to fight against apartheid. Many young white South Africans, at the behest of the ANC and UDF, refused to join the army to kill their black brothers and sisters. Also coloureds and Indians when apartheid came with the social engineering of the tricameral parliament could have said we’re okay when black people were pushed to the Bantustasn but they (coloureds and Indians) refused and stood with us,” said Mr Molefe.

He said UDF members succeeded in putting pressure on the apartheid state. He said many leaders of the UDF were arrested and were charged with high treason.

“The good thing about the UDF was that you could not disarm the people by taking their leaders to jail. Whether we were there or not, the masses of our people were able to continue waging the struggle for freedom,” he said.

He lambasted the escalating of crime in the communities today and urged residents to revive street committees.

“The reason crime is so high i’s because the ANC is weak. Crime is there because the ANC is not organised, crime is there because there is no alliance structures at political level.

“Those structures can organise their own self defence units to protect people against criminals. I’m not saying take the law into your own hands and kill them, but you can organise yourself in such a manner in which you can apprehend criminals,”he said, adding that the police mustn’t collaborate with criminals and allow criminals to do as they wish.

He said as UDF leaders they inspired people through their conduct and behaviour.

“We said to our people each one of you carry the image of the UDF, you are an ambassador of the UDF. So be careful what you do, wherever you go, it must not be something that the UDF will be ashamed of. We didn’t have corruption then because corruption is killing the branches,” he said.

He said they believed in accountability and the values of the Freedom Charter.

Provincial ANC secretary, Faiez Jacobs, a former Mitchell’s Plain resident, described the event as an opportunity for them as young leaders to reflect and learn from UDF leaders how to operate so they can be able to revive the organisation.