THE BLOG
11/06/2018 13:49 SAST | Updated 11/06/2018 13:56 SAST

I Just ❤️❤️❤️ Struggle Credentials

In the week after everyone said these were not important, I beg to differ.

Rogan Ward / Reuters
Community members visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site memorial in Howick, on the anniversary of the late former president's death, December 5 2014.

I love people with struggle credentials. Not those who have squandered their personal legacies by becoming corrupt, but those who have brought their vision for social justice and freedom into the new South Africa.

In the past week, the term "struggle credentials" has become a dirty word, in the light of EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu's attack on the National Treasury's deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat.

They built networks of opposition, they used the law as a weapon, they got the word out, and they ran an internal defiance campaign against the Gupta acolytes...

When it was pointed out that Momoniat had a 39-year long history of activism in South Africa and that he remained an activist, his role in the struggle for freedom was pooh-poohed as neither here nor there in the latest race debate to scald and wound the beloved country. In understanding Momoniat, and understanding why Shivambu is wrong about him, it's vital to understand how he interprets his role as a civil servant as an extension of activism and struggle.

Gallo Images
Ismail Momoniat; acting Director-General of the National Treasury.

In my opinion, he and his colleagues at the Treasury and the SA Revenue Service ran their opposition like a campaign of activism. They worked assiduously and hard to turn around the story of state capture in the worst years of the worst efforts by the Gupta family and their sponsor, former president Jacob Zuma.

READ MORE:

EFF's Extraordinary Racial Tirade Against Treasury Veteran

Dear Floyd: In Curiosity, From Ferial

Treasury Responds To EFF Attack On Momoniat — Full Statement

This Is How 'Non-African' Ismail Momoniat Contributed To The Struggle And To Treasury

They built networks of opposition, they used the law as a weapon, they got the word out, and they ran an internal defiance campaign against the Gupta acolytes who were deployed into these two vital institutions of democracy. I love and appreciate that they did that, and I am saddened that a party like the EFF, which sculpted the brilliant anti-corruption campaign called "Pay back the money", cannot see the value of the work they did as they lob allegations of an anti-African agenda which remain unproven.

The common view of "struggle credentials" which ricocheted across and out of social media into the real world is wrong, in my opinion.

I love people with struggle credentials like Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni...

I love people with struggle credentials like Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni, who with Ahmed Kathrada star in the documentary "Life Is Wonderful" by Nick Stadlen, a former High Court judge. It is on the circuit and you really should try and see it, to see why Goldberg and Mlangeni, the two survivors of the Rivonia Trial, should be revered in life. Their story — told with humour and grace — is one of lives of absolute sacrifice to a fight for liberation.

The story is also that of the "struggle lawyers" who gave their practices and their lives to turn apartheid law into a sword against itself: Bram Fischer, Arthur Chaskalson, Joel Joffe, George Bizos, Denis Kuny and others who defended the trialists, the most prominent of whom were Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and Ahmed Kathrada.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Lionel Bernstein, Andrew Mlangeni, Dennis Goldberg (C), Raymond Mhlaba and Arthur Goldreich (R) address members of the media, at Rivonia Liliesleaf farm in Johannesburg December 15 2001. More than a generation after they were sent to die in prison alongside Nelson Mandela, the handful of South Africans celebrated victory on Saturday in their struggle against white rule. The 1963-64 Rivonia treason trial, where Mandela delivered his famous 'I am prepared to die' speech from the dock, sentenced eight anti-apartheid activists including the former president to life behind bars.

I mostly love Nelson Mandela. Every part of his life story is a living lesson when life gets hard; every part of his life is a call to contemporary service — his legacy is one long struggle credential, and I revere each part of it.

I like that we have a leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who knows struggle. As a mine union leader, he was among the group of leaders who established the principles of democratic, militant unionism in South Africa. As a starred activist, he was jailed and had to make sacrifices to win freedom.

I love women of struggle like activists Sophie de Bruyn and Frene Ginwala, because they laid the foundation that allows a new generation of South African women (and men) to pick up the baton to fight patriarchy.

I love the struggle credentials of the ANC's deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, because her family led many of us young people marooned in the coloured townships of Bosmont and Newclare. They built hope in us, and that is always something I will appreciate.

I love women of struggle like activists Sophie de Bruyn and Frene Ginwala, because they laid the foundation that allows a new generation of South African women (and men) to pick up the baton to fight patriarchy. If it hadn't been for these people with their "struggle credentials", we would not have a law and a Constitution that is progressive in its vision of equality and rights and of social justice.

Radu Sigheti / Reuters
Rivonia trialists, with their names written in by hand, is seen on the wall in Mayibuye Centre in Cape Town. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada adn Dennis Goldberg.

The individual and collective stories of struggle are not a thing to be consigned to history's footnotes, but are vital to measuring and understanding the role of leadership in South Africa. Their stories were those of sacrifice, of servant leadership, of democratic practice and of bravery and morality. I know that there were subsets of stories that were less exemplary, but on the whole, this is the legacy of the activists who helped win South Africa's democracy and freedom.

It is, for me, a constant barometer to guide us, and it cannot become consigned to history — what was its use, if these values are not put to practice in the country that was so struggled for?

In pushing back against corruption and state capture, South Africa again cemented its position as a nation of activists who fought in numerous forums and platforms to put social justice and development at the heart of the contemporary struggle.

By belittling the idea of people's roles in the big struggle for liberation, we belittle the idea of activism and we belittle the idea of collective movements that push societies forward. In pushing back against corruption and state capture, South Africa again cemented its position as a nation of activists who fought in numerous forums and platforms to put social justice and development at the heart of the contemporary struggle.

I love this heart of us, and I love the people with struggle credentials who helped make us this.