Only by continuously inventing White
mischief and misdeeds and endlessly focusing on it (such as that
recently seen at JHB Airport by Malema, Chuene & Winnie Mandela)
can the ANC deflect attention from its own incompetence as well as from
internecine tribal conflict.
Review of Peoples War
On Thursday 03/09/2009 a new book by Dr Anthea Jeffery, Head of Special Research at the South African Institute of Race Relations, was launched. Entitled Peoples War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa , the book has been published by Jonathan Ball Publishers. The book focuses on the political transition which brought the ANC to power in 1994.
Unlike other accounts, it gives full weight to the ANCs strategy of peoples war, which went far beyond the simpler strategy of armed struggle on which the organisation had embarked in 1961. The book shows the extraordinary success of the peoples war in giving the ANC a virtual monopoly on power. It also shows the great cost at which this was achieved. Apart from the terror, the destruction, and the 20 500 political killings which marked the period from 1984 to 1994, the peoples war set in motion forces that cannot easily be reversed. For violence cannot be turned off like a tap, as the ANC suggested, and neither can anarchy easily be converted into order.
Dr Jefferys speech at the launch follows:
One way of understanding peoples war is to look back at events in the Eastern Cape in 1985, for that was where the peoples war first escalated. In that year, there were prolonged school boycotts which many pupils disliked but nevertheless joined because of intimidation. There were also major consumer boycotts, which again had some support but were also unpopular because they required people to pay much higher prices in spaza shops. In addition, there was a three-day stayaway in March, which Azapo and the powerful Fosatu unions opposed because the stoppage would put jobs and pay at risk. But participation in the stayaway was nevertheless virtually total: partly out of support for the anti-apartheid cause, but mainly out of fear. Said Fosatu (the forerunner of Cosatu): Our members will not go to work, not because they support the stayaway in principle, but because we know that violence will be the order of the day. Our members wont go to work because they are intimidated.
Twelve people were killed during the stayaway, adding to the fear. However, it was the rising incidence of necklace executions that sparked real terror. Necklace killings reportedly began with the murder of a black councillor in Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth in March. This councillor, the notorious Tamsanqa Kinikini, was trapped, together with his two sons, by a mob inflamed by recent police shootings at Langa, in which 20 people had died. Kinikinis elder son tried to escape but was caught by the crowd and hacked and burnt to death. Moments before the mob took hold of Kinikini, the councillor took out his gun and shot his other son dead to save him from the same fate. Then the crowd dragged Kinikini away and hacked and burnt him to death.
Later in the year, in a two-week period in October, eight people were necklaced in Port Elizabeth . Two other men would also have been killed this way, but they managed to escape and told their story to the Sunday Times. Their crime was that they had refused to help in the burning of a policemans home. For this they were sentenced by a peoples court to 25 strokes and execution by the necklace method. The two men were badly hurt by the beatings and were lucky to escape with their lives.
Less fortunate was a youth named Pakamisa Nogwaza, for he was the first (but by no means the last) Azapo member to be necklaced in conflict between the UDF and Azapo. Also less lucky was Nosipho Zamela, the 18-year-old mother of a three-year old child, who lived in the Mlungisi township in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape .
In December 1985 Nosipho was brought before a peoples court on charges of having collaborated with the police. An eyewitness claimed she had been seen climbing into a police vehicle, which she denied. But after a thorough whipping, she confessed her guilt and it was decided to necklace her. Petrol and tyres were obtained and she was made to wheel one of the tyres through the township to the execution spot. There, the tyres were placed around her, covered in petrol, and set ablaze while youths danced around her flaming body, scattering only when they heard the approach of a police vehicle. By the time the police arrived, Nosipho was dead.
It was also in the Eastern Cape that security policemen killed Matthew Goniwe and three other men in June 1985. Goniwe was an underground ANC member who had been instrumental in setting up civic associations, street committees, and peoples courts in the region. The police had tried detaining him, but his detention had simply led to more boycotts and unrest, adding to the ANCs strategy of making South Africa ungovernable and failing to calm the situation. We had to chop off the head of the destabilising forces in the area, a security police captain later told the TRC. So the police intercepted Goniwes car, killed him and his three colleagues, and burnt and mutilated their bodies to make it seem they had been killed as part of the UDF/Azapo feud.
Both the earlier Langa shootings and the killing of Goniwe and his colleagues caused a huge outcry across the country and around the world. Despite police denials in relation to the Cradock Four, the government was widely blamed for these deaths, eroding its legitimacy still further. Matthew Goniwe and the Cradock Four became household names around the globe. By contrast, few remember Tamsanqa Kinikini, and fewer still remember the fate his children suffered. No one in the wider society has any recollection of Nosipho Zamele or Pakamisa Nogwaza. Their necklace executions were briefly reported and quickly forgotten, for the media seemed to have no interest in highlighting their deaths.
These events show the strategy of peoples war at work. This type of revolutionary war does not depend for its success on the clash of competing armies. Neither does it rest upon bomb attacks, though these provide one ingredient in the whole. Peoples war has two main facets, the political struggle and the military struggle, and together they constitute the hammer and the anvil between which all adversaries are crushed. In this kind of conflict, no distinction is drawn between combatants and civilians. Instead all individuals living within the arena of conflict are regarded as weapons of war (hence the term, peoples war). This makes them all expendable in the waging of the war, in the same way as arms and ammunition are expendable in a conventional conflict. It also means that children are just as expendable as adults.
Political struggles take many forms: meetings, marches, boycotts, sanctions, stayaways, and strikes. But the most persistent element in the political struggle is the propaganda campaign. This involves the constant repetition of certain themes by the revolutionary organisation, the allied entities it helps to create, and many in the media. This constant repetition, endorsed from a host of seemingly diverse quarters, soon has great impact on public perspectives. The false (or incomplete) version of events becomes accepted as the truth; while contrary views are brushed aside as mistaken and uninformed.
The political struggles are vital because they reinforce the impression of a society in ferment. This gives cover to the physical attacks which would otherwise seem too brutal to be condoned. Among the key targets for attack are local councillors and policemen, for peoples war aims to create a series of local anarchies: to drive out third-tier administration, limit attempts at policing, and create semi-liberated areas under the control of street committees, civic associations, and peoples courts. Combat units are also formed to defend these areas and bring the local population under further revolutionary control through a mix of agitation, coercion, and terror. As anarchy spreads, the economy stutters, poverty grows, the security forces frequently resort to draconian and/or illegal methods, and new grievances are created to spur on the peoples war.
The underlying aim at all times is not only to rob the incumbent government of its will to rule, but also to weaken or destroy political rivals. This is vital in order to ensure the revolutionary organisations hegemony at the time of the transition. Rival organisations are thus subjected to a barrage of physical and propaganda attacks, aimed both at crippling their operation and alienating their support base. Leaders within the rival group are particularly targeted, while supporters suffer repeated and often random attacks. At the same time, the rival organisation is constantly accused of being solely to blame for violence. The deaths of leaders and supporters of the rival organisation are generally ignored by commentators, but if the rival organisation begins to lash out at the revolutionaries, then the violence for which it is undoubtedly responsible is magnified and used to discredit it still further. A major aim in peoples war is thus to goad both the security forces and rival organisations into over-reaction, the more massive the better.
Peoples war is very difficult to combat. P W Botha tried to end the peoples war in the 1980s through emergency rule and the promise of reform. F W de Klerk tried to end it through political liberalisation and a commitment to negotiating in good faith. But the ANC was able to turn both approaches to its advantage. De Klerks negotiations policy was particularly helpful to the revolutionary alliance, for it meant that all its constituent elements were unbanned while some 13 000 umkhonto insurgents became entitled to return to South Africa , thus overcoming the great difficulty the ANC had earlier faced in infiltrating them illegally. With these trained and armed men back inside South Africa , the ANC was able to expand its local combat units (termed SDUs) and increase its hold over a growing number of semi-liberated areas. For the ANC had never had any intention of giving up any aspect of the peoples war when negotiations began. Rather, despite its public commitments to peace, its plan was always to use negotiations as nothing more than an additional terrain of struggle.
From 1991, when 13 000 Umkhonto insurgents returned to South Africa , the number of policemen killed averaged 200 a year. Many of these policemen were killed either when they were off duty, or by luring them into ambushes via fake emergency calls to which they were bound to respond. Azapo and the PAC suffered a series of attacks aimed at driving them out of some of their remaining strongholds. In the first seven months of 1990, Muntu Myeza and four other Azapo or PAC activists were killed in unexplained car accidents, prompting an Azapo spokesman to comment: We need to know what has suddenly gone wrong with the cars in this country that they are killing all the activists.
In 1993 Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi informed the press that 275 IFP leaders had been killed since 1985, and queried why this death toll was of no consequence to the media and the broader society. He also asked how negotiations could proceed or a fair election could be held when people were being shot for belonging to the wrong political party. He repeatedly demanded that De Klerk disband Umkhonto and strip it of its weapons. But both De Klerk and Buthelezi had been so demonised for their alleged role in the Third-Force violence supposedly to blame for all the killings that De Klerk was reluctant to make such a move. Buthelezi withdrew from negotiations in protest and was dismissed as nothing but a spoiler.
The international community either failed to understand or chose not to do so. It put huge pressure on De Klerk to meet the ANCs demands, while criticising Buthelezi and his allies for their brinkmanship. The ANC repeatedly accused Buthelezi of seeking to rise to power on the corpses of black people and the IFP of wanting to drown democracy in blood. By the time of the deeply flawed election in April 1994, the IFP had become the eternal Other (the equivalent, as one commentator has put it, of the Jew in Nazi Germany). In addition, the PAC and Azapo had been neutralised, the NP and the DP had been barred from canvassing in black areas, and De Klerk had been thoroughly discredited.
The 1994 election was so chaotic that no accurate result could be computed. Hence, its final outcome was essentially the product of negotiation. The ANC was accorded 63% of the vote, but this might well have exaggerated its true support. Opposition parties initially wanted to challenge the election result, but in the end they chose rather to accept it. For to question the outcome or demand a re-run of the poll was to risk throwing the country into the vortex of the peoples war once more and few people had the stomach for that. Most South Africans preferred to take comfort in the notion of a miracle transition and to hope that this would bring about the bright new future the ANC had long been promising.
However, much of the promise of that bright new start has been betrayed over the last 15 years. This is largely because the peoples war has had major and continuing ramifications. It meant, for one, that we began with a hollowed out democracy, stripped of any strong black opposition party and with inadequate guarantees against future abuses of power. The peoples war has also contributed to South Africa s plague of violent crime, if only because it turned policemen into targets of attack, loosened moral constraints, drew youngsters into heinous acts of violence, and flooded the country with illegal weapons, many of which have never been recovered. The peoples war now also has its aftermath in the increasingly violent protests visible across the country, including the recent stand-off between policemen and rebellious soldiers at the Union Buildings. For once the techniques of ungovernability have been widely taught, that knowledge cannot be withdrawn. The genie cannot simply be put back inside the bottle.
Since the peoples war strategy was a Marxist-Leninist one, it also cemented the influence of communists over the ANC and gave added reason for Chris Hani, general secretary of the SACP, to say in 1991, We in the Communist Party have participated in and built the ANC. We have made the ANC what it is today and the ANC is our organisation. Hence, it is also not surprising that, following a hiatus in the late 1990s, when the Gear strategy was in force, communist influence over the ANC has again come strongly to the fore. Nor is it surprising that the ANC, having won the first stage of struggle via its peoples war, refuses to become an ordinary political party. Instead, it continues to regard itself as a national liberation movement committed to a national democratic revolution, the ultimate goals of which have never been fully explained but which continues to influence almost every major policy decision the government takes.
This book helps to remove the veil which has been drawn across our past and enables us to see it more clearly. It equips us to understand the present by comprehending more fully the events of our recent past. It also seeks to acknowledge and bring back to our recollection the thousands of ordinary people, like Nosipho Zamele of Queenstown in the eastern Cape , who died brutal deaths because they were regarded as nothing more than pawns in a power game, a battle for hegemony.
Peoples War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa
By Dr Anthea Jeffery
Paperback: 676 pages