Sunday, November 27, 2016

'Castro Warned Us on Freedom Charter'
27 November 2016, 10:48pm

CUBAN revolutionary leader Fidel Castro warned of the challenges the ANC would face in implementing the contentious Freedom Charter, saying the party should get political freedom first before transforming the economy.

This was revealed by former president Thabo Mbeki following Castro’s death at the weekend. He was 90.

The ruling party has often been rapped over the knuckles for its slow pace in transforming Africa's largest economy and the cabinet ministers are critical of that.

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has said the social and political pact reached in 1994 has collapsed and that the country’s leaders needed to find a “new social consensus” to transform the economy as continuing on the current trajectory was unsustainable.

President Jacob Zuma has spoken out about the economic situation in the country, saying it was being sabotaged because South Africa was part of the Brics emerging countries.

In an interview on YouTube, Mbeki said he was part of the ANC delegation from Lusaka in Zambia, led by party president Oliver Tambo, that was invited by Castro to the capital city Havana during the dark days of apartheid.

The Cubans had insisted on 
discussing the Freedom Charter, a precursor to the constitution, which calls for the nationalisation of mines, banks and other commanding heights of the economy.

Castro, who was internationally recognised as one of the 20th century icons, warned the ANC about the challenges it would face in implementing the document, which was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955.

“I think thrice this message came that comrade Fidel was saying let's be ready to discuss the Freedom Charter.

"We were a bit puzzled as to why this interest. Anyway, we got 
there and indeed there was a discussion on that,” Mbeki said in the interview.

“The reason he wanted to discuss the Freedom Charter was because he was saying: ‘You see, in the Freedom Charter you talk about nationalisation of banks and mines and all of this. Will you have the capacity to do that, and simultaneously defend the revolution, because those property owners and their allies across the globe will then launch a major offensive against you if you do that. Don’t you need, first of all, to win this political victory, entrench yourselves (and) make sure that you’re properly prepared to take on battles of that kind’.”

Mbeki said Castro was concerned about “the need for the democratic revolution in South Africa to succeed… and the importance that we didn't do anything which might lead to the defeat of that democratic revolution”.

The revolutionary leader was well liked by African liberation leaders and he met some of them, including Nelson Mandela, Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), Patrice Lumumba (DRC), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Samora Machel (Mozambique), José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola) and Sam Nujoma (Namibia).

According to the Mbeki interview, Castro also quizzed the ANC delegation on its intellectual capacity and wanted to know whether it had produced any experts, while also sharing notes on challenges the Caribbean Island nation faced after the Castro-led Cuban Revolution toppled the allegedly corrupt regime of former president Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

When contacted for comment, Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said he had no idea who else was in the ANC delegation and what other issues cropped up in the meeting with Castro.

Political analysts have criticised the ANC’s “lack of courage” in implementing the Freedom Charter, pointing out that the former liberation movement was hell-bent on pleasing all and sundry, to its peril.

Yesterday, Professor Somadoda Fikeni told Independent Media that when the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, the ANC seemed to renege on nationalisation. Zuma has said nationalisation was not the ANC or government policy.

But Fikeni said the ANC lacked both the ideological clarity and courage to be decisive on 

“For a long time, the ANC looked at what is practical more than being driven by ideology," he said. "They wanted to please all the classes, workers and business, and as a result they ended up in a limbo of undefined space.”

The ANC, he added, had never really led the process of “defining what our national interests are in a crisp manner”.

Wits University Professor Susan Booysen described the Freedom Charter as a socialist document, saying the ANC had not gone that socialist route because “they made policy comprises in the run-up to 1994. They settled on the capitalist system, which they have been
practising since 1994”.

Booysen described the ANC as a party in limbo, adding: “They are walking two ideological tracks (and) it doesn’t work. They are juggling two ideological balls.”

The ANC, which held its national executive committee meeting at the weekend, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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