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A whisper from Luthuli House kitchen

– Evita Bezuidenhout, Cape Times, 2 April 2017


‘Comrade Evita? Will you switch off the Luthuli House lights when you leave?” Some have said that to me since Friday. But my kitchen lights will remain on, because I have been here before.


The one advantage of having me as a member of the ANC is the fact that I can recall how things also went wrong during the old South Africa under the colonialist, fascist, racist regime of the elite white monopoly capital. There I learnt that, no matter how dark the daybreak, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.


Usually in today’s political arena that tunnel is curved to the left.


I was there when premier John Vorster was quickly kicked up into the presidency because of corruption. We didn’t call it that; it was called policy. I was there when PW Botha decided to become state president. It wasn’t called a coup; we called it a maturing of the democratic system.


And I was there when FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC and freed Nelson Mandela. Although many of my NP comrades called it a sell-out, I recognised the glow of light in the far distance.


It was my grandchildren who have woken me up from my slumber of acceptance in this, the 22nd year of our democracy.


First, the honeymoon with Madiba went on for too long. When we woke up there was a smaller politician in control. He is still around, writing furiously in his blog and the press, reinventing his legacy of a so-called African Renaissance to which there will always be a footnote: 380000 people died because of Thabo Mbeki’s Aids denialism.


I was quite happy to retire gracefully and spend more time with my family and the goldfish that Pik Botha gave me for my birthday. Four sweet little vissies that I have named, although I can’t tell them apart. Maybe they’re North Korean.


My born-free grandchildren who are not black, not white, but Barack-Obama-Beige, challenged me. “Gogo, what are you going to do to protect democracy, so that one day when we need to vote freely and fairly, democracy will be there in full working condition?”


So I am back in active politics, and in the deep end too. Parliament has become a DA parking garage or a playpen for the Teletubbies of the EFF. Luthuli House is the only active power station that the ANC has built in the last 25 years.


So here I am, a comrade in the heart of the struggle, not to improve the state of the nation, but a battle of wits and wisdom to prevent this legendary liberation movement from being devoured by the viruses of corruption. There is no cure for these viruses; only care. Unfortunately too many of us across the political spectrum have carelessly allowed the rot to multiply.


Since Friday, for the first time from my kitchen in Luthuli House, I see more than light at the end of the tunnel. I feel the familiar breeze of upheaval that will soon become a new wind of change. While I came into Luthuli House with all the prejudice that so many of us share: that everyone in the ANC is corrupt - and yes, we can find six names every day to put on to the front page of the newspapers — I now know that there are hundreds of thousands of members of the party who are not corrupt, who are not liars, cheats, thieves, counter-revolutionary cadres and presidential pets.


They are working hard to keep our fragile democracy relatively balanced. Otherwise we would not be enjoying a robust democratic speed wobble in the race for power. We would be huddled together at the Croatian border with a Pick-* -Pay bag in our hands.


My Luthuli House kitchen now feels like that border, as the refugees from President Zuma’s Paraguayan Midnight Putsch come to me for comfort food. Yes, a koeksister can go a long way to calm fears and enrich hopes.


The Zumafication of SA has been obvious for some time, as Mbeki’s denials were. It has taken as much time for the inner circle of power to allow themselves to commit to standing up against the shameless plunder of the Treasury. But worse than that, also the degrading of a once-proud and respected liberation movement to the pathetic funfair of bribery and threats it is today.


Make no mistake. I as a white Afrikaner female face threats and insults on a daily basis. Cadres accuse me of having been a member of the National Party and voting for apartheid.


And probably being the only white in the country to admit to it, I say: “Yes, I was and I did!” Because if I didn’t vote for apartheid then, I would have been condemned and imprisoned as a communist and a terrorist, and might even have been the minister of education today.


My kitchen has become the refuge for those who have been sidelined by President Zuma’s midnight feast. They are shocked and angry. The last thing they want to hear are the words: I told you so.


But all is not lost. There were once eventually enough whispers of dissent in the politburo of apartheid that became a growl of discontent that turned into a shout of Vrystaat that ended in the embrace of Amandla!


And now the choice of focus is ours: Zumafication of the future, or colonialisation of the past.


The ANC has very good people who will overcome this crisis. It is a reality throughout the world that democratically-elected governments are using democratically-accepted ways to destroy democracy.


It is happening in the US and the UK; it nearly happened in Holland. It might happen in Germany and Italy; it could be the future of France. And let me not even mention the land of Putin.


Maybe a Kremlin message was slipped to an Nkandla team player at the conference in London attended by the now jobless Pravin Gordhan to deliver on promises?


Could it be called a Russian hack into the heart of Number One Luthuli House? Even here in the kitchen I am aware that payoffs have been banked. Now delivery must be done on nuclear deals and Gupta banks.


And so, having survived April Fool’s Day by believing that our cabinet reshuffle was an African Time early-bird warning, I can put the koeksisters in the oven with a sigh and admit: I am Evita Bezuidenhout. I am a citizen in a democracy. I am a gogo looking to the future of my grandchildren. And I am a proud member of the ANC.


Someone has to be.


Follow Evita’s Free Speech every Sunday on YouTube. www.evita.co.za


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