• September 17th, 2019
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In defence of former liberation movements: A response to Floyd Shivambu



As a little boy, I listened how my late grandfather, Kuku Tjihinga Lupale, narrated what it required for his generation to wage an anti-colonial struggle. He said liberation movements were their political umbrella of hope against oppression. 

He said they crossed rivers of blood for it. They, in their simplicity, laid a foundation of the Africa we have today. Imperfect but not broken.

The imperfection lies in the emotions of leaders but not the design of ideology. Herein lies my habitual disagreement with voices that rubbish liberation movements in their totality. Curiously, these statements will never rubbish the French Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Russian Revolution or the American Revolution. We all know the imperfections in such revolutions. We all know the contradictions inherent in those revolutions. The bad, the ugly and the murderous. Sometimes we glorify and quote as good practice from such revolutions, yet we do the opposite about our own struggles waged by our forefathers.

Recently the former spokesperson of ANCYL opined that all anti-colonial struggles and movements are failed projects. My brother Floyd Shivambu is now Deputy President of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is led by former ANCYL President Julius Malema. They are both from our generation and groomed by the ANC, a former liberation movement. 

As indicated above, the generation before us laid a foundation and they did so with all they had. The liberation movements equally and as imperfect as they were, were united in the political emancipation of Africa. This has been achieved. The unfinished business of economic emancipation is not and cannot be blamed on them. Many of them that are still alive are mostly in the sunset of their lives. However, whenever they are taking certain steps to pave a way for unity of the future generation, it is my view that it needs to be embraced.

In May 2010 in Tanzania there was a meeting of Secretaries General and Summit of Heads of State. Our then Secretary General Cde. Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and then President Hifikepunye Pohamba were agreeable to have me join their delegation. Several topical issues were discussed. 

There was something unique about the meeting in Tanzania which is worth amplifying for purposes of the subject matter. ZANU PF youth League, CCM Youth League and SPYL we proposed to the Secretaries General and Heads of State, in future, to consider inclusion of youth wings meetings.  

Thankfully this proposal was unanimously endorsed by secretaries general and, they in turn, recommended same to the presidents who equally adopted that as a standing decision. The atmosphere of that meeting for Secretaries General and Heads of State, was generally cordial and we got what we wanted.

On the sidelines of these meetings, I informally raised the then standoff between the leadership of ANCYL and the ANC especially how negatively it affected our generation. The then Secretary General Gwede Mantashe was not too dismissive of my concern. Thereafter, Swapo Party Youth League organized the first ever such meeting of youth wings in August 2011. 

All the presidents of the Former Liberation Movements supported our meeting. The inaugural youth wings meeting was attended by Ronald Lamola of ANCYL, Absalom Sikhosana of ZANU-PF Youth League, Sérgio Luther Rescova Joaquim of JMPLA, Martin Shigella of CCM Youth League, Basilio Muhate of FRELIMO Youth League and ourselves SPYL.

This aforementioned illustration is to make the following point. It is understandable that the colleagues that have left the ANC to form their own party have legitimate anger about what happened during their expulsion from the ANC. It will be wrong for me to expect perfection or speak as if all things are faultless in the former liberation movements. 

In Tanzania, in Angola, in Mozambique and right here in Namibia the same story. The wind of expulsion was everywhere. It was mainly an inter-generational conflict between the old guard and the young leaders.
In my view, the death of late ANCYL Secretary General Cde Sindiso Magaqa through a politically motivated assassin’s bullet is testimony that it was a deadly struggle. He too was expelled alongside Malema, Shivambu, Lamola and other leaders of ANCYL. 

The late Cde Magaqa remained in the ANC and he died whilst a member of the ANC. This is precisely what has happened for many liberation movements. Thousands sacrificed their lives. Many got maimed and many more got incarcerated in the name of the liberation movements. 

The ideal for both political and economic freedom propel all to stand tall amidst all challenges. It can therefore not be correct to say the liberation movements are failed projects. Where individuals in their imperfections have done certain unpalatable things, the compass of blame should go their way not the revolutionary movements’. Not everybody that drives a car is a licensed driver and not everyone who holds a position is a leader. 

Majority of our people, in their poverty, joined liberation movements. They did so not to have positions. They did so not to gain tenders or become rich overnight. No, they merely joined for the freedom and self-governance denied them for centuries. 

They simply joined to defend their dignity and to enjoy their humanity. They have no grudges. All of us will die one day but it is the ideal of the party which I joined not individuals. This year at Katjinakatji we buried my uncle saMalesu. Like all elders in my family, they believed in the Swapo of Sam Nujoma. To them it is President Nujoma who gave it President Pohamba and President Geingob. 

Even on his death bed, he wore a cap with a picture of President Geingob on it. However my uncle also knew that it was the latter who expelled his nephew. In my view, the liberation movement is like a religious organization. It has a bible which is not followed by all but Christianity is not a failed project. Where members of a liberation movement do not follow the constitution it is the failure of the members not of the liberation movement.

This is a distinction we must make in our daily pronouncements. When Dr Charles Mubita speaks in Namibia he teaches us about what Swapo should be and I think all members and leadership of Swapo should embrace the wise counsel. The ANC et al should do the same. 

All said and done, the long walk to economic freedom has only begun and it will be achieved when all our people uphold, with honesty and patriotism, the gains of our respective revolutions as Former Liberation Movements. We must not waver and we must not compromise principles. Therefore it is for the present and future generation to speak out and constructively, without fear or favour, and they should relentlessly advocate for genuine values, ethos and aspirations of these liberation movements.

* Dr Elijah Ngurare is a former secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL).


Staff Reporter
2019-07-05 09:46:52 2 months ago

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