[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Devan on the Scorpions
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Jan 30 10:57:24 GMT 2008
Can you put this onto the Debate list? I cannot do so from home for
Below is another letter of mine published in today's Business Day. I
then received a call from Gwede Mantashe, the new ANC GS and SACP
Chairperson. Mantashe and I go back a long as he (and before him
Kgalema Motlanthe) were my bosses at the NUM during the 1990s. Later
Gwede was an MA student of mine at Wits and completed his thesis (under
Eddie Webster) last year. He was a dedicated student even whilst
holding the NUM GS position - and was a lively and fun addition to our
class (and did all his readings - very impressive).
So I have great respect for Gwede (and Kgalema - although the PetroSA
stain still remains unresolved), and see them as two people of the Left
with integrity in the new ANC leadership. We had a long discussion, but
the nub of it was that I called the SACP and Cosatu "useful idiots". I
tried to use the term "sociologically", but concede that it was highly
provocative. Fair enough, he said I could have made my point without
using such words, and he could just as easily gone public and said that
I was in fact the "useful idiot" of apartheid agents within the
Scorpions. Instead, he had the grace to talk to me personally, which
confirms my high regard for him.
The other interesting point is that he stressed the leadership was just
implementing a conference resolution. I debated with him on this -
surely we need a proper, sober audit of the Scorpions, to guide a robust
public discussion, before rushing to implement a party resolution. Why
6 months? He was worried that the Scorpions are targetting struggle
heroes, but letting apartheid agents like Agliotti, Vlok etc go free.
There may be a point here: BUT he agreed that struggle heroes need to
be held up to a higher standard that others. I made the point that if
they betray their principles, and all who fought alongside them, then
they must be dealt with decisively, rather than given slaps on the wrist
(or even worse, have their crimes against the struggle brushed under the
carpet). The fact that others, from whatever 'camp', have not been
charged for allegedly doing even worse things is completely beside the
point, and serves as a smokescreen. Hopefully their day will come.
I don't feel that I am betraying a confidence by publicising some points
from the phone conversation, as these views of Mantashe are already in
the public domain. My purpose is to show appreciation for his graceful
response, although of course others from the SACP and Cosatu (Dominic,
why so quiet?) might still respond more harshly and less gracefully.
No-one likes to be called an "idiot", but I did not think that was what
I was doing. Sociologically speaking, have we all at one point or
another not been used as "useful idiots" by others, with the best of
intentions on our parts? I'm sure I have (I cringe when I think of my
UDW days.....sorry, Ashwin!).
All the best,
Another sad day for the Left in South Africa, when the rightwing
opposition comes out smelling like roses for standing up for the
ordinary citizen, while the SACP and Cosatu seem content to render
impotent our ability to fight organised crime (Mbeki assure Zille of
Scorpions future, 29 January).
Make no mistake - whatever the indiscretions of the Scorpions and their
previous boss, Bulelani Ngcuka - as a specialised unit with highly
skilled personnel, they have performed a sterling service to a public
ravaged by organised crime.
As anti-apartheid activists we all experienced a police service that was
corrupt, brutal and in the end incompetent. Gangs were allowed to roam
freely in townships knowing they had the police in their pocket.
Despite the sterling efforts of people like Gauteng Public Safety MEC
Firoz Cachalia, we all know what an uphill battle it has been to change
the culture of the police. The horror stories of police corruption,
drunkenness and sheer incompetence are widespread. This is precisely
why the Scorpions were formed - to create a fresh, new entity that can
grab the bull by the horns in our drive to build a new society.
The Scorpions in relation to the SAPS is like an admittedly cocky
Ferrari compared to a rusty, lumbering old coal train. Now some of us
want to hitch the Ferrari to the back of the train. Why?
Until recently, the instincts of the SACP and Cosatu were to build
institutions capable of protecting society. Yet, without a sober audit
of the achievements and mistakes of the Scorpions, they support the
neutering of the one body that has audacity to face up to organised
A golden opportunity to shine in the face of growing evidence of a
failed Mbeki presidency is being squandered by knee-jerk, hot-blooded
miscalculations. How can the Left allow Helen Zille to look better as a
champion of our democracy?
Are good people allowing their social justice sensibilities to be
side-tracked by darker forces around them? Are they, as Lenin said,
being "useful idiots"?
Devan Pillay, Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand
Prof Devan Pillay
Department of Sociology
School of Social Sciences
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa
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