The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is disappointed by recent statements made by Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, and the South African Community Party’s (SACP) Second Deputy General Secretary, Solly Mapaila.
Lekota, speaking at the State of the Nation (SONA) debate in Parliament, suggested that President Cyril Ramaphosa was a sellout who had betrayed his fellow anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s, with Ramaphosa subsequently being released from detention, while Lekota and others were jailed on Robben Island.
At a separate event at Lileasleaf Farm commemorating the Rivonia Trialists, and in a subsequent interview, Mapaila suggested that Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader, Robert Sobukwe, was accorded privileged treatment on Robben Island, and therefore colluded with the apartheid system.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said, “It’s astonishing that historical distortions of this nature can be perpetuated. The comments by both Lekota and Mapaila are unwarranted and come across as being malicious. They are a distraction from the core issues besetting the country currently.”
Balton questioned why Lekota made public his claims against Ramaphosa some 40 years afterwards. “Lekota’s claims stand in stark contrast to his support for Ramaphosa as the Secretary General of the ANC in the early 1990s. Why was he unable to raise this issue when Ramaphosa was appointed to lead the drafting of the country’s Constitution, or when Lekota himself was still a member of the ANC, and a senior one at that?
“If Lekota is making these claims now, then the onus rests on him to provide evidence. It is important to note though, that others, like Saths Cooper – involved in the same trial as Lekota and similarly sentenced to jail on Robben Island – have no knowledge of the allegations now being made by the COPE leader.
Balton added, “After Lekota’s own recent association with right wing elements in the country, his comments ring hollow. Instead of using his allocated time to critically engage with the SONA, and put forth concrete proposals to solve the numerous problems that this country faces, he instead opted to employ character assassination tactics to detract from the core issues.
“We are facing serious socio-economic challenges, we’re trying to untangle the web of state capture, and we’re trying lift this country out of the political quagmire of the last few years – this should be the focus of members of Parliament, not bandying about yet unsubstantiated claims about apartheid collaboration.”
Balton also called on Mapaila to apologise for his comments. He stated that Rivonia Trialist, Ahmed Kathrada, on several visits to Robben Island where he was incarcerated, spoke about the cruelty of Sobukwe’s imprisonment.
“Kathrada certainly had political disagreements with the PAC. However, he was of the view that Sobukwe – irrespective of being imprisoned in a house and having greater access to members of his family – in some ways, had a far more difficult time on the Island then himself. Kathrada would say that in B-Section, where he, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others were jailed, prisoners could communicate with each other, while the level of political isolation faced by Sobukwe, was designed specifically to break his spirit.”
Balton added that as a prisoner, Sobukwe would have no say about the type of conditions that he was kept under, and would have no bargaining power over the apartheid authorities.
“What should be understood from both the Lekota and Mapaila incidents, is to remember that the apartheid regime would do everything within its power to sow division within the ranks of the oppressed. Whether it was done by keeping some prisoners in isolation under certain conditions, or by creating and perpetuating rumors about certain individuals, the apartheid state used divisive tactics to entrench its rule. What we cannot do, is allow this to detract us from the core work of building our democracy and facing the numerous problems that require urgent attention today.”