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Sat Jun 25 00:00:07 CAT 2016

ANC has turned South Africa into a crony state: Rivonia trialist

MARVIN MEINTJIES | 27 January, 2016 15:17
Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg speaking at a gala event at the Sandton Convention Centre on July 11, 2011 in Johannesburg in this file photo.
Image by: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lerato Maduna

Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg fears that the ANC has turned South Africa into a crony state.

He was addressing the audience at Guildhall where he, along with fellow trialist Ahmed Kathrada and struggle lawyers George Bizos and Lord Joel Joffe, were being honoured with the freedom of the city of London.

Andrew Mlangeni, another surviving member of the Rivonia trial, was too ill to travel to London to accept the honour in person.

During a question and answer session Goldberg was asked his impressions of the current ANC.

Goldberg said: “The ANC today, it’s a different situation. My personal view is that my current comrades in government at every level have followed the example of British colonialism and apartheid oppression in creating a crony (economy) where political access to power means (financial prosperity).”

He noted that while the ANC has “come a tremendously long way in undoing the laws of apartheid” not enough was being done to “improve the physical conditions of all our people … after 300 years of oppression that is burned into the mind of every South African, black, white, coloured and Indian”.

At the fall of the apartheid regime South Africa was left “financially bankrupt, there was massive unemployment”, he said. This situation had scarcely improved as the unemployment problem “persists today, and the gap between rich and poor has widened”.

Goldberg told the audience: “We’ve learnt from you (Britain) and we need a powerful leadership to overcome this. It’s a shame and a tragedy because it robs our people of their democracy, in a sense.”

A positive sign was that people were unafraid to make known their unhappiness with government.  “People speak out, protest out on the streets more and more and I’m happy to add my voice,” Goldberg said.

He added: “The strength of the ANC is that members are speaking out against how some leaders behave. For me it’s wonderful example of how a mass movement carries those (democratic) traditions forward. I’m confident about the future because of that.”

Kathrada, Goldberg, Bizos and Joffe also spoke of the trial in 1964 that saw Goldberg, Mlangeni and Kathrada sentenced along with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Govan Mbeki to life in prison for their anti-apartheid activities.

Joffe and Bizos told of their attempts to get the stalwarts to appeal their sentences and how they were rebuffed.

Joffe said: “They said ‘no, we will not appeal, our followers will see that as a sign of weakness, we want to inspire them to carry on the struggle’. We said Kathy (Kathrada) we are confident we can get you acquitted. We recommend you should appeal. Kathy without hesitation said ‘no, I will not appeal, if I appeal it will open up opportunity for the prosecution to ask for death sentences for the rest of the accused’. Instead of being free he (Kathrada) spent the next 26 years in prison.”

Asked whether the prison guards showed any sympathy towards them, Kathrada explained: “We can claim that we humanized them (the guards). Under Mandela and Walter Sisulu’s leadership we had to protect our dignity, in prison black convicts would say Baas.  We don’t say Baas,  when called criminal prisoners would run, we don’t run. We got punished from time to time but we had to protect our dignity.”

As part of the ceremony the men were presented with a Rules of Life book, written ages ago by a former Lord Mayor of London. Goldberg quipped: “I’m grateful to learn how to be a free man.”

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