It is not a secret that part of the inspiration to the current generation of Economic Freedom Fighters are the Freedom Fighters of the early 1940s in the ANC-led liberation movement, who during the formation of the ANC Youth League proclaimed Freedom in Our Lifetime. This generation of Freedom Fighters is indisputably the most outstanding generation of Freedom Fighters in South Africa, and possibly Africa and the world’s political history. The generational commitment for economic freedom in our lifetime is in no doubt inspired by the generation of Freedom Fighters who proclaimed Freedom in Our Lifetime.
The early 1940s generation of Freedom Fighters is constituted of giant figures such as Mxolisi Majombozi, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, AP Mda, Robert Sobukwe, Congress Mbatha, Robert Resha, Anton Lambede, William Nkomo and many others. The outstanding features of this generation of this generation are 1) ideological clarity in that they were able to give proper meaning to the struggle for national liberation and gave a clearer context and meaning of what is meant by African nationalism, 2) fearlessness and militancy, in that in everything they did, the resounding fearlessness was un-parralled as this is the generation which dared the apartheid regime through utter defiance of petty segregationist laws, 3) unity in that for many years, this generation understood and accepted that they carry a generational mission of freedom in our lifetime, literally meaning that they were determined to attain political freedom before they die.
The subjective contributions of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela led to the defiance campaign, the Sharpeville and Langa uprisings, the Rivonia Trial, and massive internal solidarity programmes carried out by the world against apartheid. This, of course is in recognition of the reality that whilst objective conditions allow for revolutions to occur, the subjective revolutionary determination and will of those leading the revolution is also necessary to make the revolution occur. Che Guevara says, “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall”. Like the current generation of economic freedom fighters, this is a generation which refused to fail.
Of course, the route towards freedom was not easy and was threatened by many developments, the major being the life imprisonment of the Freedom Fighters and banishment/isolation of Robert Sobukwe depriving the Pan Africanist Congress the necessary ideological and political guidance Sobukwe could have provided. The major disruption though was the Rivonia Trial and its possibilities, as it could have culminated in either life imprisonment or execution through capital punishment of these political giants. During the trial, the whole world was persuaded that the ultimate sentence will be capital punishment, because the apartheid machinery was brutal and upping the gear in suppressing dissenting voices.
To secure conviction of the Rivonia Trialists, the State needed evidence from inside operations of the MK, and one that came in handy was Bruno Mtolo who was part of the Natal Regional Command. Bruno Mtolo was an Activist from KwaZulu Natal and appeared more committed and determined than the rest of the Freedom Fighters in KwaZulu Natal. Bruno Mtolo was considered one of the most outstanding cadres and fighters for liberation, who dedicated his life to the struggle for political freedom in our lifetime. His generation never thought nor believed that he would ever define himself outside the struggles for the liberation of the people.
Despite these outstanding revolutionary qualities, Bruno Mtolo had his own subjective challenges and weaknesses. In his spare time, Bruno was known as a Freedom Fighter who had a healthy relationship with alcohol (no reports of sleeping in Shebeens) and had personal financial problems (no reports of him borrowing money from colleagues). This aspect of his life, like is the case with many freedom fighters across the African continent, had massive potential to undermine and trivialise his commitment to the struggle.
Bruno Mtolo was one of the founding members of UmKhonto WeSizwe, and amongst the most trusted because he displayed a degree of commitment to the struggle for freedom in the lifetime of his generation of Freedom Fighters. He however sold out and testified against his comrades in arms when they were arrested and indicted by the apartheid regime for treason, in what came to be known as the Rivonia Trial. Bruno Mtolo also led a public campaign which undermined the leadership of the struggle for Freedom in Our Lifetime. In the Rivonia Trial and the interviews he gave afterwards, Mtolo’s complaint was that leaders of the struggle for freedom had clean and better houses, dressed in proper clothes, had cars, and relatively had money to even pay bail when arrested.
Because of these petty and aside complaints, Mtolo saw it fit to work for the apartheid regime and testified against his comrades in a trial which could have easily led to the ultimate execution of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and other Rivonia Trialists. Were it not for massive international campaigns against the execution of political leaders, Bruno Mtolo would have secured their execution by the racist brutal apartheid regime. If Bruno Mtolo had his way, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu’s journey to freedom would have been terminated and told by the apartheid historians. These would possibly say that there once were disrupters who wanted to overthrow government, and were executed for challenging white and racist dominance of the black majority.
Now, all these things that Bruno Mtolo did are on historical record, and not rehashed because of contemporary Bruno Mtolos, but because society should know that at all times there are Traitors in all potentially successful revolutions. This is also mentioned to illustrate that in certain historical conjunctures, there are political beings who seem to narrowly believe that revolution means that revolutionaries should live in squalor and have nothing to self-sustain. The notion that Economic Freedom Fighters and Socialists should live in squalor should be dismissed with contempt and disdain. Here is Bruno Mtolo who lived on borrowed money and reportedly always under the influence of affordable alcohol, but was never revolutionary. There are still such characters in our politics today, who liken untidiness and squalor with being revolutionary.
Of course conspicuous consumption and ostentatiousness should never be encouraged amongst the leadership of Economic Freedom Fighters, yet stability is essential for all economic freedom fighters and the people of SA to fight to the emancipation of the people of SA, Africa and the world. This informs the commitment of the EFF to create sustainable conditions for all our ground forces and Activists and will do so for all as and when we grow. With relatively minute resources available from Parliamentary and Electoral Commission allocations, the EFF expends a substantial component of our resources providing strategic and necessary support to regional and provincial Chairpersons and Secretaries who are unemployed.
All members of the EFF in Parliament and Legislatures contribute a certain percentage of their salaries to the work of the organisation and remain with necessary resources to travel and contribute to organisational growth and development. It is not a secret that the resources provided to members of Parliament are used for the necessary political work in various constituencies with the aim of growing the organisation. Without structured support, often leaders of regions, provinces and national leaders fail to attend to meetings and perform the necessary tasks. Bruno Mtolos will never be in a position to understand this basic principle because of lack of ideological and political foresight. That those with full time responsibilities for the organisation are stable is an essential component, and of course such should not and will never happen at the expense of the organisation and its finances.
The 1st EFF National People’s Assembly adopted resolutions to support co-operatives in order to guarantee consistent income for ordinary people our members and leaders of the EFF at a local level. The commitment from the NPA was that because we are not yet government and cannot implement a substantial component of our economic transformation resolutions, we should develop and support co-operatives which will economically empower ordinary people on the ground and capacitate our branches to perform their functions in a consistent and well-resourced fashion. Bruno Mtolos will not understand this because of lack of ideological foresight.
We have our own Bruno Mtolos who see nothing wrong in delegitimising the EFF and its leaders in public discourse, causing divisions in the movement. This should never serve to discourage our determination to fight, it should instead inspire us to fight with determination with an understanding that all revolutions have their own traitors. Like Bruno Mtolo, the reactionaries of our time will be devoured by history and thrown into its dustbin, remembered as those who tried to derail and defocus the struggle for economic freedom.
If Fighters believe that the struggle for economic freedom can be carried though and on a different platform, they are at liberty to do so and we will never be recalcitrant that they are fighting from a different platform. There was a conspicuous sushi-eating Maverick in the EFF initial stages and he founded an ethnic based political party, targeted at coloured people, and as the EFF, we carried on.
Internal destabilisation and disinformation in the EFF is totally inappropriate and reactionary, and something that will never succeed. It amounts to joining hands with our primary enemy (white monopoly capital) and their representatives (ANC and DA), and should therefore be treated as such. The remedy is application of decisive and revolutionary code of conduct, and that is exactly what the EFF did in the recent past.
Article by Floyd Shivambu, Floyd is Deputy President of the Economic Freedom Fighters.
This article first appeared in City Press Online.