To advance one inch…
Photo: Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
My face was in South African newspapers around September 1999. I had ‘dared’ to challenge the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), by questioning its privatisation programme. I was ANC regional leader and ward councillor for my area in Soweto. The press projected me as a victim of the ANC’s lack of democracy at a time when its hegemony was more or less unassailable. I did my best to use the attention to spread the message against neoliberal policy. I won public sympathy and maintained my immediate local support base.
But I failed to use the commotion to go back to the 200 or so ANC branches in the region and explain to ordinary members why I was opposed to neoliberalism as a socialist ANC leader. I should have gone there the same way I used to go there to build the ANC. I should have called meetings, visited people in their homes, distributed pamphlets, engaged in public debates and so forth. Instead I let the media tell my story while the ANC leadership did its damage control. I was catapulted from ANC leadership ranks into becoming the famous face of the then emergent anti-globalisation movement in South Africa. On reflection I should have ducked the fame and concentrated on advancing a thousand ordinary workers one inch, rather than the heady 10 mile revolutionary advance of myself and a few radical comrades. I was hero and centre of my political universe. I should have worked harder to make the masses their own liberators.
Trevor Ngwane was active in the ANC as an anti-apartheid activist in Soweto. He was later expelled from the ANC for opposing the privatisation of public services. Today, he continues the struggle in post-apartheid society