Thursday, 19 July 2012


"A soldier without revolutionary theory is nothing but a potential murderer." - Thomas Isidore Sankara (former leader of Burkina Faso)


The African National Congress (ANC) is celebrating its centenary this year. The ANC, which was launched on the 8th of January 1912 in Bloemfontein in the Free State province, has been the ruling party since South Afrika had its first democratic elections eighteen years ago. The formation of the ANC in 1912 was by no means an accident of history. It was a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle of the oppressed people of South Afrika which had began with the birth of colonialism in the Afrikan continent. It was a logical development of a history defined by centuries of colonial imposition and constitutionalised segragation of the native majority.

On the 31st of May 1910, the South Afrikan Act of Union was ratified by the South Afrikan Parliament after it had been passed by the British House of Commons the year before. This Act was based on a Colour Bar Clause, which basically excluded Black people from being eligible to become members of Parliament and thus, consolidated White hegemony within the system. This Act had significant ramifications for the natives of this land, because it meant that the South Afrikan Parliament would have no Black representative in whatever decisions it would make on the future of this country and thus, there would be no Black voice to legally and constitutionally address problems affecting the natives. But even prior to the ratification of the SA Act of Union, the natives of this land had already been suffering brutality in the hands of the settler minority, as witnessed prior to the events that would lead to the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 and less than half a century later, the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906. All these events in history created conditions and grounds for the formation of an organised convergence of the oppressed and colonised natives of South Afrika and it was on the 8th of January 1912 that a logical conclusion was arrived at: the formation of a movement that would seek to represent all Black people in a quest to defeat constructs of their oppression.

Since the formation of the ANC in 1912, our country has undergone various stages and phases of struggle and as a result, while the ANC has not changed its orientation in terms of its aims and objectives, its posture has taken on a different shape and form in order to enable it to respond to the different stages and phases of the struggle itself. A brief illustration of this can be highlighted in terms of what posture the ANC has taken since the three most important turning points in our struggle against colonial oppression: the 1950s, the 1960s and the late 1980s.

During the 1940s, the ANC had assumed a posture largely influenced by a philosophy of resistance similar to Gandhiism. This philosophy of non-violence and passive resistance, was embraced by those within and outside the ANC who held a belief that it was possible to negotiate for the rights of the oppressed with the system. But others within and outside the ANC, in particular the Communists, were not in support of this particular method of struggle as they argued (and correctly so, as history would later prove) that this method would bear no fruit. Proving true the concerns of this latter faction, the Afrikan continent found itself swept with a tidal wave of political activity in the 1940s, a wave which would, a decade later, result in the independence of Ghana (the first Afrikan country to gain independence), of Tunisia and of numerous other countries. This wave was driven by young people, many of them active in trade unions which had grown exponentially over the years, who were militant and radical both in thought and in deed. Thus, in 1944 in the city of Johannesburg, the ANC Youth League was formed, led by the fiercely militant and dynamic Anton Mziwakhe Lembede as president. As a result of the formation of the ANCYL, the ANC's resistance philosophy was forced to change, to adapt to the radicalism of its youth component, which was clearly highlighted through its Program of Action as adopted in 1949, which, following the YL's motto of "Afrika's Cause Must Triumph", raised a stinging point aimed at the White minority who, a year previously in 1948, had made apartheid a formal policy, that:
"We believe that the national liberation of Afrikans will be achieved by Afrikans themselves. We reject foreign leadership of Afrika..."
This defined the first turning point of our struggle; the politicisation of youth, guided by principles of pan Afrikanism.

In the 1950s, the ANC as the most notable liberation movement in the country, continued in its quest to reason with the gatekeepers of the oppressive system of apartheid, going as far as to, in the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955, call for the unity of all races and the equal distribution of the land and all resources that were in the hands of the White settler minority (this had been as a result of the 1913 Land Act, through which the White minority was appropriated 90 percent of land while the native majority was forced to share the remaining 10 percent).
This semi passive posture of the ANC was spun on its axis in the 1960 when the Nationalist government put a straw on the camel that would finally break the camel's back. This straw was the Sharpeville/Langa massacre, an event that would result in the deaths of innocent people and the arrests of many key leaders of various political organisations, including the Pan Afrikanist Congress of Azania which was under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe. With many leaders arrested and the brutality of the state having reached boiling point, all political organisations and national liberation movements, including the ANC, were forced to go underground. But that marked not the end, but the beginning of the struggle, for in 1960, first the PAC's armed wing, Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) and then later in 1961 the ANC's uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), entered into an armed struggle with the Nationalist government that would last for almost 30 years. This marked a serious and perhaps the most important turning point in our liberation struggle.

The last major turning point that shaped the ANC's posture, philosophically and otherwise, happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after the abandonment of the armed struggle in favour of negotiations. When the ANC realised the impracticality of continuing with the armed struggle (and many who have not studied the history of the world during this particular period of the late 1980s will have no appreciation of the fact that continuing an armed struggle was not sustainable), taking into consideration the serious ramifications of the collapse of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics in 1989, it opted for a negotiated settlement with the hope that it could realise the objectives set out in the Freedom Charter that it had been adopted in 1955 prior to the armed struggle. This proved possible when, in 1994, the ANC emerged victorious when the Republic of South Afrika had its first democratic elections. With two-thirds majority win, the ANC looked set to finally bring to a logical conclusion its historical mission of uniting Afrikans and obliterating constructs of White hegemony and oppression.


The ANC is today, a 100 years old, making it the oldest liberation movement in the Afrikan continent. But what is it that has sustained the ANC beyond the liberation struggle era, where its relevance was most pronounced? What is it that has made the ANC emerge out of an abyss that claimed the lives of other political formations and national liberation movements such as the PAC and the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO), which had been just as instrumental in the fight against apartheid and whose ideological outlook remains relevant and most necessary?
This is where the Facebook debate enters.

While other former national liberation movements in South Afrika and indeed in the entire Afrikan continent have been thrown into the dustbins of history, the ANC has remained alive. And while it cannot be argued that the ANC itself is currently finding itself in a very difficult position wherein its own relevance has come under harsh scrutiny, we must note and appreciate that the factors that have led to the deterioration of the ANC are informed more by the actions of its leadership more than by the extrinsic material conditions that are prevailing on the Afrikan continent; conditions related to the posture of politics, the current challenges as it relates to the geopolitical and socio-economical milieu. It is not these ideological issues that are informing the slow death of the ANC but rather, issues relating to maladministration, misappropriation of resources, tenderpreneurism, careerism and all other components of corruption. As such, it is not the relevance of the ANC that we ought to question, but the effectiveness of it under these conditions which are of its own creation.

The ANC is sustained by two things: its history and its versatility. By this I mean that the ANC is kept alive by the glorious legacy of its history and its uncontested barometer of won struggles. It cannot be denied, even by the most reactionary of people, that the ANC has made a lot of revolutionary gains in its years of struggle. But this alone cannot be the only thing keeping the ANC alive, because if it was, other liberation movements, in particular the PAC that is identified with some of the most important victories of our struggle and even seen to be the best and most capable embodiment of the Afrikan agenda, would not be in the comatose state that they find themselves in. The second thing that sustains the ANC is its versatility, its ability to adapt to whatever prevailing material conditions it finds itself in. In a debate I had with my father, comrade and loyal member of the ANC, Mike Maile, at home one evening in 2011, I asked him why inspite of its state of decay, internally and otherwise, the ANC still enjoys so much support. His response was very powerful:
"Malaika, the ANC has perfected something that all other former national liberation movements are failing to master, and that is the ability to read the material conditions in a way that will enable them to respond in the most appropriate manner..."
In simple terms, the ANC is able to read the prevailing material conditions correctly and thus, is able to respond to them accordingly. It does not immerse itself in dogmatic approach to any issue, be it the issue of electioneering, of mobilising, of organising or anything else. This is why the ANC remains in touch with the people: it speaks to their issues in a language that they understand.

Understanding this history of the ANC's response to different material conditions historically and presently is important, because it informs my argument that Facebook can be used to strengthen a political organisation and student movement in a way that will ensure its sustainability and renewed relevance.


While social media in its entirety has the potential to assist political organisations and student movements to achieve certain objectives that inform their existence, I want to focus mainly on Facebook, which is one of the biggest social network utilities in South Afrika and in the rest of the world. According to Digital Statistics SA, there are currently no less than 10.7 million active Facebook accounts in South Afrika. According to the most recent census as conducted by the South Afrikan government late last year, there are approximately 52 million people living in South Afrika. That means 20.6 percent of the population, only 4.4 percent short of a whole quarter, is active on Facebook. (I've not included other social networks such as Twitter, MySpace and others that also enjoy a large active user number). This figure is not to be taken for granted, because if you want to break it down into geographical measurements, it means that all the users of Facebook in South Afrika can replace the population of Cuba, which stands at 11.2 million according to latest statistics released by the Department of State Web Site of the United Snakes of AmeriKKKa.

Yet, despite this great number of people being on Facebook, we have not seen much progressive programmes or mass actions being sparked as a result of its usage, and this begs the question of: Why can a country as historically conservative as Tunisia have an uprising in which people were mobilised and organised on Facebook and yet a country as historically militant as South Afrika fail to do the same since both countries are faced with the same challenges of lack of service delivery, unemployment, corruption in government and a food other forms of oppressions?

The answer to this question lies, perhaps, in the phases of struggle in which both these countries find themselves. Tunisia is a country whose history and politics (recent and otherwise) is characterised by decades of dictatorship, censorship and voyeurism. Currently, its biggest struggle is to decentralise power and resources. South Afrika, on the other hand, is a country whose politics are characterised by corruption, careerism, patronage and political clientellism. Its greatest challenge currently is to break free from chains of economic bondage, hence its objective in the new dispensation is to obtain economic freedom. As a result of these different phases of a struggle, the players in the two different phases will differ. In South Afrika, the roleplayers that are driving (or sinking) the struggle are careerists, opportunists and proponents of corruption. For such people to continue existing and occupying spaces of power, they need to resort to what I call depoliticised politics, which are politics that lack political substance but are sustained by personalisation. This personalisation involves character assassination, slander, grandstanding and all other methods that are designed to weaken dissent. As a result, the political language is itself slanderous, malicious and lacking in substance. All this is then expressed on all platforms of communication; from congresses where commissions have ceased to be important, to press statements that represent factional agendas and of course, to social networks where the populace converges to communicate. It is for this reason that Facebook is used for all things nefarious; things that do not build, but destroy organisations.

We have witnessed, particularly in the recent past, how Facebook has become the greatest vehicle for the promotion of ill-discipline and destructive factionalism in many political parties and particularly in student movements, all of which I've followed over the last 2 years for my own personal reasons. It was through this observation that one noticed that these political formations use Facebook to:

1) Insult fellow comrades

Facebook is used by comrades to settle scores and to spew vitriol at one another when dissent arises even on the most trivial of views. When comrades don't agree on issues, insulting one another has become the most used method of retaliation. Debate has been obliterated from discourse.

2) Spread malicious rumours about fellow comrades that could be damaging to their reputations

Facebook has been used to tarnish the images of many comrades by their fellow comrades with whom a common struggle objective is shared. It has become a norm for comrades to decampaign one another by fabricating false stories and spreading them where they know they'll impact, on Facebook.

3) Create groups where even the most reserved of members of an organisation can be brave enough to say all sorts of destructive things about an organisation; things that they would not say in organisational gatherings such as AGMs, BGMs or congresses

4) Strengthen factions
Facebook has been used as ammunition reserved for factional wars. Comrades converge on the social network to plot the downfall of other comrades that is informed by nothing but personal vendettas and squabbles that are not informed by ideology.

5) Breach security

It has become normal for comrades to post status updates about internal matters of an organisation while inside a congress or meeting venue. This one is a cancer that WILL destroy many organisations. Comrades have gotten into a dangerous habbit of updating statuses about even the most confidential of organisational matters. You'll find people updating details about closed sessions of a congress on Facebook. Many of us who are not members of those organisation are made aware of financial reports of organisations, of details about NEC meetings and of internal challenges existing within organisations that only leadership ought to know. And the efficiency and speed in which such information is nationalised is certainly very frightening.
If certain NEC members fight in what is meant to be a private NEC meeting, the whole world know it within a few minutes because some member within the NEC will have decided to update about such a matter and thus, undermine the organisation and its leaders.


It is not inherent that Facebook or social media will be used for the issues that have been outlined above. With its potential power, it can be used to redirect energies to more progressive and positive things that will build and strengthen the organisation.
Below are ten positive usages of Facebook that if applied, can go a long way in strengthening political organisations and student movements:

1) Create groups where all members of an organisation converge to discuss their organisational matters

2) Create pages to announce upcoming events

3) Create reminders about important events of organisations so that members do not forget to attend

4) Share notes of political literature with comrades of your organisation so that you capacitate one another and thus, build a strong think-tank for the organisation

5) Avail press statements to members of the organisation and the public

6) Hold discussions and debates with members of your organisation about topical issues and important news of the day and in that way, sharpen each other's views

7) Publicise campaigns that your organisation has taken up and in that way, mobilise the support of the common masses

8) Network. There are many influential people on Facebook, from politicians to business people. You can connect with them and then grow a strong professional relationship outside Facebook. You'll then be better placed to get funding or other kinds of assistance from these people.

9) Investigate potential responses. For example: if an organisation wants to launch a campaign and it's not sure how its members and the general public will react, it can start a debate around the matter without letting the public in on its tactic. From the response it can make strategic decisions that are likely to enjoy support or abandon those that are likely to be received with hostility

10) Lobby


While it can be used effectively to communicate and to drive positive agendas, Facebook must never be mistaken as a sole tool for mobilisation and organising. It remains one part of a greater chromatin network that political organisations and student movements need to use in order to sustain their politics and maintain their relevance. There is no other solution to making a change than to going where it matters most: on the ground. It is there where all the ideas that are produced can be tested, and there where the people are.

Social media or networks must be exploited by political organisations and student movements to massify their voice. But to rely on Facebook without going down to the ground, to rely on Facebook without engaging in mass protests, in pickets, in physical political schools and in contact debate, is not the solution. We must learn from the Tunisians to use social media to network and to do some minor mobilisation, which we must then use to go out into our spaces and organise the people, without whom there can be no uprising, no revolts and no revolution.


Just as the ANC is able to read material conditions correctly and respond to them accordingly, those who understand the power and importance of social media will respond with renewed positivity so that they strengthen their organisations rather than continue to fragment them as we witness today. If political parties and student movements don't attend to this issue of the misuse of Facebook urgently, they run the risk of sending their organisations into the dustbin of history.

Aluta continua!
Meli, F. 1988. "HISTORY OF THE ANC: SOUTH AFRICA BELONGS TO US". Southern Afrika: Zimbabwe Publishing House

Malaika Wa Azania
Minister of Land Affairs 2033

Cellphone number: 076 538 1557 or 079 421 4315

Email address: or


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