SA's deadly past best left behind

EFF leader Julius Malema and Cope leader Mosioua Lekota after making allegations against President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament.
EFF leader Julius Malema and Cope leader Mosioua Lekota after making allegations against President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament.
Image: Twitter/EFF South Africa

The future may be uncertain, but the past is certainly unpredictable. Somebody once said.

For a young nation still trying to make sense of where it is going after decades of apartheid rule and centuries of colonial conquest, we are obsessed with the past.

Over the past two days, two very controversial issues have forced us to re-examine our past as two very prominent politicians made provocative and, some may say, dangerous statements.

The first was SA Communist Party first deputy general-secretary and alleged heir apparent, Solly Mapaila. The communist leader shocked the country when he suggested that the cruel isolation of Pan Africanist icon Robert Sobukwe on Robben Island was actually a form of preferential treatment for him as he did not have to endure the hardships experienced by the likes of Nelson Mandela in the main prisons. It was a ridiculous statement, one that sought to downplay the role of non-ANC revolutionaries in the Struggle.

Mapaila has subsequently apologised.

The second took place in parliament, where former Robben Islander and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota sensationally accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of having "sold out" Lekota and other Black Consciousness leaders who led the pro-Frelimo rallies following the liberation of Mozambique from the Portuguese in 1974.

Lekota's claim, coming just three months before an election that Ramaphosa is expected to win handsomely, was like a gift from heaven for the likes of the EFF which has been looking for something to discredit the president.

We have been here too many times in our history, often with tragic consequences. People lost their lives, especially in the 1980s, on suspicions that they were apartheid spies.

We do not know what evidence Lekota has beyond his claim that his lawyers in the 1970s showed him a letter in which Ramaphosa allegedly claimed that the Black Consciousness leaders fed him communist propaganda.

But what concerns us is the manner in which he has handled the issue. For more than 40 years he kept quiet, not raising the issue.

For his sake, we hope this was not just an attempt by Lekota to score some votes on May 8.

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