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South Africa: 'Return to the Freedom Charter'! -- NUMSA leader Irvin Jim's Ruth First Memorial Lecture

Nelson Mandela with fellow accused Ruth First (centre) and Congress of Democrats supporter Rose Schlachte during the Treason Trial, which began in 1957.

“The revolutionary task of the moment: building democratic organs of the working class, trade unions, the civic movement and a revolutionary socialist vanguard party to defeat South African colonial and racist capitalism.” -- Irvin Jim.

August 14, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), presented the 12th annual Ruth First Memorial Lecture at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, in memory of the revolutionary activist who was assassinated by the apartheid regime in 1982.

* * *

May I simply say: Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends gathered at this 12th Ruth First Memorial Lecture.

Please allow me to thank the University of the Witwatersrand for taking a very brave and big risk: inviting a humble, unlettered leader of a black trade union to give the 12th Ruth First Memorial Lecture.

We thank you, very much.

As you all must know, the majority of the South African working class, who are black and largely African have historically been denied the opportunity to access quality education, from birth to death. We know that by 2011, only 4% of African and 4% of the Coloured population were enrolled at tertiary institutions as opposed to 15% of Asians or Indians and 20% of the White population in South Africa.

We must keep in mind, throughout this Lecture, that according to Statistics South Africa’s mid-year population estimates, of the approximately 53 million or so South Africans, a crude classification says 80% are Africans, 9% are whites, 9% are Coloured and 2% are Indians/Asians!

Our Ruth First: A female Marxist revolutionary

Ruth First, the courageous White woman, an unapologetically a consistent Marxist revolutionary and educator, an anti-racist warrior, an educator among the black and African people of this country whose life we honour today, was assassinated in Mozambique, on August 17, 1982, by a parcel bomb delivered by the apartheid government when she was in an African university teaching young African students the art and science of social research in order to advance the struggle for a socialist Mozambique.

Irvin Jim.

Comrade Ruth First was born into a Marxist family, in 1925. Her parents Tilly and Julius First were Jewish immigrants from Latvia.

Comrade Ruth First died a Marxist.

I will return again and again, to this fact: that Comrade Ruth First was a Marxist who was assassinated by the apartheid government for being a Marxist and a committed member of the South African liberation movement through her direct membership of the South African Communist Party of South Africa (SACP), her work in the Congress of Democrats, which was a branch of the Congress Alliance comprising the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Indian Congress, the South African Coloured People’s Congress and the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

Comrade Ruth First was savagely killed for her belief in, and struggle for, a just, non-racial, democratic and socialist South Africa.

A socialist South Africa, as far as Ruth First was concerned, was the surest way to end the racist colonial capitalist society that troubled and tortured all her people in general and the African population in particular.

As a Marxist, Ruth First understood very well the interrelatedness, the dialectical connectedness, of racial and capitalist oppression and exploitation in the South Africa. Correctly she chose to fight both, simultaneously.

For her, ending racial and gender oppression and national domination was not enough. In South Africa, she correctly understood racial and national domination to be directly connected to capitalist economic exploitation of the working class in general, and the black and African working class in particular. Which is why she was simultaneously a leader in the Communist Party of South Africa and an activist and member of the anti-racist national democratic movement.

She directly organised and mobilised her fellow White compatriots into the Congress of Democrats. Comrade Ruth First, a female White Marxist, perfectly understood the necessity to fight simultaneously racial, patriarchal, national and class oppression, domination and exploitation.

We cannot imagine the hatred against Ruth First and her comrades, by colonial, racist and capitalist White South Africa. They were a crop of white revolutionaries who chose to fight with the struggling oppressed, dominated and exploited black and African working class. They chose the side of the people. Comrade Ruth First was a courageous woman. For her courage, passion for a just and socialist South Africa in which there would be no racial, gender and national oppression, domination and class exploitation, she paid the highest price.

I want us to suffer with Ruth First today. I want us to see, feel, hear, smell, touch and sense in all its totality the brutal and violent environment in which she lived. I want us to feel the fear with her. I want us to know the terror she everyday lived with, in all her adult life. I want us to understand that, though Ruth First was assassinated through a parcel bomb, her ideals and the values were not parcel bombed. Her ideals and values still live on in the hearts and minds of the working class.

Ruth First was a courageous Marxist!

Ruth First and her Vision for South Africa: The Freedom Charter

I want us then, to ask the all-important question: we who are South African today – white, Indian/Asian, Coloured and African, male and female, young and old, working class and property owners – living in a far safer and less threatening environment, why are we so cowardly, so devoid of any vision of justice, so apathetic to the conditions of the majority of South Africans 20 years after 1994?

What will it take to wake us up from our slumber and stop the rot, the suffering of millions of South Africans from unemployment and poverty, the dying of many of our children at the hands of rapists and gun-toting criminals, the pangs of hunger that are experienced by millions of badly sheltered and unsheltered South Africans?

I ask, in this University, which gave Ruth First her sociology degree, what will it take for us all to open our eyes and see that we are on the precipice, on the edge of a cliff, unless we do something now and big to resolve the question of racial, national and class oppression and exploitation which has intensified in South Africa since 1994?

From where shall today’s Ruth First come from? I will return to this question when dealing with the role of universities in the struggle for social justice.

We are meeting here tonight in the very university in which she got her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1946. She, together with her generation of South African revolutionaries in the mid- 1950s, participated in the drafting of the Freedom Charter – the blueprint then and now, for the first phase of our true journey towards a just, democratic and socialist South Africa.

What was this vision, contained in the Freedom Charter? To what extent is South Africa on track towards realising this vision? In short, is the National Democratic Revolution on track?

Allow me to briefly go through main headlines of the Freedom Charter to demonstrate the problem that the black working class, particularly the metalworkers, have been consistently raising, before our Special National Congress and after.

The Freedom Charter says:

The People Shall Govern!

I argue that the people are not governing. How many of you have been called to your local community meetings to decide on the priorities of your local government? Do you all know what infrastructure projects will be undertaken in the next six months in your neighbourhoods?

Year in year out, the minister of finance announces budgets, and is nominally consulting the people after the announcement. If we are not actively participating in determining budget priorities at the local level, then what informs the national budget?

These basic observations explain the crisis of governance, as reflected by the frequency of service delivery protests. According to an official South African Police Service report obtained by News24 investigators, there were more than 3000 service delivery protests between 2009 and 2012. This means that there are three service delivery protests every day or 62 service delivery protests a month.

The Multi-Level Government Initiative states that these grievances by communities related, among other issues, to broken promises and government officials ignoring protesters’ grievances.

All National Groups Shall have Equal Rights!

How far have we gone in this regard? Substantively, South African society is structurally incapable of delivering equal rights to all national groups. The system of colonialism, which continues to this day, was based on defining national groups on the basis of race. And so, it came to pass, that Africans remained at the bottom of the food chain.

As we speak today, the vast majority of Africans remain at the bottom. The hierarchy of domination: Africans atthe bottom, Coloureds next, Indians near the top and then whites at the apex, is still the order of the day.

Is not a fact that those workers that were killed in Marikana were all Africans fighting for a living wage, while the white workers took the side of imperialism?

There cannot be equality of national groups in colonialism!

The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth!

Nalena abayifuni! There is complete refusal to share the country’s wealth! Some said it will happen over their dead bodies.

In 1994, the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality stood at 0.64 but it increased to 0.72 in 2006, now stands at 0.69.

Who owns the mines, banks, and monopoly industries in South Africa? The big banks, such as ABSA and Standard Bank, which were erected on the basis of super-exploitation of black workers, are still privately owned and foreign owned. All South African mortgage owners are bonded to imperialism.

There is no mineral in this country that is not dominated by direct foreign ownership and foreign control. Gold, platinum, iron-ore, chrome-ore, manganese-ore are all manipulated by foreign imperialist interests.

Monopoly industries are also foreign owned in the main. SASOL, Arcelor-Mittal; Telkom was sold to foreign private interests and has since failed to pursue a developmental agenda for South Africa. Forestry sectors, the sugar producers and many others are all dominated by foreign interests, and they loot the country through import parity pricing and transfer pricing.

The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It!

Estimates are that black people own between 13—16% of agricultural land in South Africa. Only 10% of the 30% land earmarked for land restitution has been transferred to black farmers, the target date for the 30% is 2014. At this pace, it will take 100 years to transfer 50% percent of the land back to the people.

The catastrophic effects of the 1913 Land Act, whose centenary passed without any significant national discussion, are still palpable to this day.

The farmworkers’ strike for a living wage in 2013 was the only rallying cry that reminded us forcefully about the land question, which should be at the heart of any national liberation struggle. The strike is still fresh in our memories. It continues to highlight the colonial historical fact that the land, and the produce that comes from it, are not being equitably shared among those who work the land.

All Shall be Equal Before the Law!

How can this be, in a colonial society? As I have argued above, there can be no equality among national groups in a colonial setting. By implication, there can be no equality before the law in a colonial setting.

How many members of the working class, who are in jail today, were afforded an opportunity to have their psychological status examined, with a team of high-powered attorneys, before they can be sentenced?

In short, though we can be told that we are all equal before the law, the problem of wealth concentration by the few shows itself up as lack of access to the very same law, lack of access to justice.

In other words, my point is that equality before the law is too high a standard to be achieved by South African society, as long as the wealth still resides with a minority, be they white or black.

There Shall be Work and Security!

In the past 20 years, there has been no work! In 1995 the unemployment rate was 31%, in 2013 it had risen to 34%. Though the government states it has created a number of jobs, it does not take into account the growth of the labour force! So there is no good story to tell on unemployment.

Even the jobs that have been created do not offer security to workers! In fact there has been growing casualisation and labour market deregulation over the past 20 years.

Now, there is an open Thatcherism in public policy, where organised workers are called “insiders” who are blocking you “outsiders” from getting jobs. In other words, the sin committed by the black working class is to have created trade unions and demanding a living wage in a country where the income gap between ordinary workers and CEOs is 1728 times.

In South Africa’s labour market, we have the following facts:

  • The Unemployment Insurance Fund does not cover 43% of workers and amongst women, 49% are not covered by the UIF.
  • 24% of workers work for more than 48 hours a week, average working time is 44 hours a week. Generally workers are overworked, and the Freedom Charter calls for a 40-hour week!
  • There is no national minimum wage. Sectoral minimum wages are widely violated, workers were paid on average, 35% less than the legislated sectoral minimum wage (a total of R16 billion, in 2010).
  • Only 32% of all those who work have medical aid benefits.
  • 43% of workers have no access to paid maternity/paternity leave.
  • 31% had no access to paid sick leave.
  • 50% of workers have no access to a pension or retirement fund.
  • 33% of workers do not have access to paid annual leave.

In short, there is no work and security as promised in the Freedom Charter. Judging by the high levels of Thatcherism that are contained in the National Development Plan, these statistics will be worse towards 2030.

The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!

The Freedom Charter says the education system must teach young people to love their country. I must also add that the education system must teach young people to stand for social justice, to be on the side of the oppressed all the time.

Indeed, a good number of revolutionary changes were sparked by young people, and sustained and ultimately led by the working class. That is why as NUMSA, we have maintained that, in this country, it is important to build a solid axis between the working class, the revolutionary intelligentsia and the militant youth.

Look at the state of education today:

  • It is estimated only 3% of the children who enter the schooling system eventually complete with higher grade mathematics.
  • 24% of learners finish schooling in record time.
  • The pass rate in African schools is 43%, while the pass rate in white schools is 97%.

How do you discover and nurture talent, as advocated by the Freedom Charter, under the following conditions?

  • 42% of schools depend on boreholes, rainwater or have no access to water on or near site.
  • 61% of schools have no arrangement for disposal of sewage.
  • 21% of schools have no toilets on site or have more than 50 learners per toilet.
  • Of those with toilets 36% depend on pit latrines.
  • 16% have no source of electricity on or near site.
  • 41% of schools have no fencing or fences in poor condition.
  • 93% of schools have no libraries or libraries are not stocked.
  • 88% of schools have no laboratories, or laboratories are not stocked.
  • 81% of schools have no computers or more than 100 learners share a computer.

As NUMSA we are not surprised by these developments. In colonialism, the education system is a colonial education system. It is African children who are made to bear the brunt of falling into pit latrines.

But then, I know that at university level, the socio-economic conditions faced by black and white students remain unequal. Black students take longer to complete, they are victims of exclusions, victimised in the awarding of marks, they do not get adequate support to pursue higher studies, they are not supported to build a cadre of future black and African academics, etc.

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) on different campuses is still in the trenches, fighting for what we know is correct. Today, 20 years into colonial democracy:

  • In universities, the professors are still white.
  • The key administrators who make decisions are white.
  • The curriculum is tied to the needs of imperialist domination and the capitalist class. Socialist literature, particularly Marxist-Leninist theory and research, is suppressed and students are discouraged to pursue research in socialist theory.
  • Community service is not instilled in the student body as part of the curriculum.
  • Access and success in certain fields is still predominantly white.
  • There is no free higher education, judging by what SASCO is articulating.
  • Workers are given no opportunities to further their studies, or to study. How many workers, who are employed in this University of Ruth First at least, are given an opportunity to build their education base?

All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights!

It is a pipedream to think that “human rights” can be enjoyed in colonialism of a special type. As long the key socio-economic demands of the Freedom Charter are not met, there can be no human rights. “Equal human rights” is the standard that is too high to be achieved by colonial South Africa.

There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!

There is no security and comfort in the houses of the working class! Talking about human rights, how can we imagine enjoyment of human rights in a shack that leaks every time there is rain, catches fire every winter because there is no access to basic energy!

Here are some of the facts:

  • Average household size is 3.4 people, but is roughly five for African households.
  • Among Africans 55% live in dwellings with less than three rooms and 21% live in one-room dwellings.
  • Overcrowding and squalid conditions of existence for the working class are similar to the ones described by Karl Marx in Chapter 25 of Capital volume 1.
  • Small houses, wrongly called RDP [Reconstruction and Development Plan] houses, are built and they are not consistent with household size of the working class.
  • Conflict among the working-class communities for access to houses reflects continuing land hunger in urban areas. The black working class even fights among itself along racial lines, as is the case in Cape Town, for housing.
  • The quality of public housing is also very poor. In 2010, 50,000 houses had to be demolished and rebuilt because of poor construction.

There is no security and comfort in the houses of the working class. There is no dignity in a shack, be it made of zinc or brick.

There Shall be Peace and Friendship!

At this point, it must be clear to all of us that South Africa is off track. The National Democratic Revolution is off track.

So I argue that there cannot be peace and friendship, as long as the demands that are in the Freedom Charter are not being realised. You see this lack of peace in the road rage, in the violent crimes against women and children, in xenophobic and homophobic violent acts. You also see it in the violence by the South African colonial capitalist state against mass protest action.

This country was founded on violence, and the Freedom Charter points the way towards peace and friendship.

Freedom Charter

I ask this gathering in Ruth First's university, how many of us here today actually have read, and thought seriously about, the Freedom Charter?

I am quite willing to bet that many in this audience have never ever even bothered to find out what exactly the Freedom Charter is, let alone read it.

Go home tonight, get a copy from the internet – there are many good copies posted on the internet – read it, think about it and ask yourself: what is wrong with the Freedom Charter?

I promise you, you will find absolutely nothing wrong with the Freedom Charter and everything good about it: it is our blueprint towards making the first real steps towards a sane South Africa, a South Africa well on its way to resolve the race, gender, national and class oppression and exploitation that threatens to destroy the entire country today.

Your ignorance of the Freedom Charter will be your undoing! It is no longer a banned document. Read it, think about it and discuss it. Allow students to freely research about it, do not suppress them. Go on, do it!

Ruth First, and her revolutionary friends of all races, worked tirelessly to gather the freedom demands of all the people of goodwill of South Africa and to concentrate them into the Freedom Charter. Thus, to use Mao Tse Tung’s terminology, the Freedom Charter is from the masses, and is to the masses. It is our MASS LINE!

Ruth First was killed for the Freedom Charter! Yet today, we are told that the Freedom Charter was influenced by the social-democratic fashion of the 1950s. Others even say the Freedom Charter is now irrelevant.

Did Ruth First, and many others, die for fashion. Are their deaths irrelevant?

Ruth First was a very brave journalist. She understood that the role of a journalist in history is to record the truth as it is, which is why she combined journalism with research, with writing and documenting the stories of struggles against injustice.

Ruth First was not a gutter, sensational journalist eager to please her paymasters. She used journalism as a trade in the service of the struggle for just South Africa.

The South African Revolution and Ruth First

What is the South African capitalist state? We quote from the South African Communist Party literature (SACP), from a time when the party could spend real time on theory, from a document called Path to Power, written in 1989:

The South African capitalist state did not emerge as a result of an internal popular anti-feudal revolution. It was imposed from above and from without. From its birth through to the present, South African capitalism has depended heavily on the imperialist centres.

Capital from Europe financed the opening of the mines. It was the colonial state that provided the resources to build the basic infrastructure - railways, roads, harbours, posts and telegraphs.

It was an imperial army of occupation that created the conditions for political unification. And it was within a colonial setting that the emerging South African capitalist class entrenched and extended the racially exclusive system to increase its opportunities for profit. The racial division of labour, the battery of racist laws and political exclusiveness guaranteed this. From these origins a pattern of domination, which arose in the period of external colonialism, was carried over into the newly-formed Union of South Africa.

From its origins to the present, this form of domination has been maintained under changing conditions and by varying mechanisms. In all essential respects, however, the colonial status of the black majority has remained in place. Therefore we characterise our society as colonialism of a special type.”

We learn here that:

  • The South African capitalist state was not a result of popular internal anti-feudal revolution, it was imposed from without.
  • South African capitalism from its origins has depended heavily on imperialist centres.
  • An imperial army of occupation created the conditions for unification of South Africa.
  • Within a colonial setting, the emerging capitalist class entrenched and extended the racially exclusive system to increase its opportunities for profit.
  • Racial division of labour, a battery of racist laws and political exclusive guaranteed supper profits.
  • The newly formed Union of South Africa simply continued the racial and colonial domination which had arisen during the period of external colonialism.
  • Under changing conditions and using varying mechanisms, the original racial and colonial domination has been maintained.
  • Throughout its history, the South African capitalist state has maintained the colonial status of the black majority.

Comrade Ruth First understood the struggle for freedom in South Africa as one aimed at overthrowing this state of affairs, if need be, through armed struggle. For this, she suffered terribly, including being the first white woman to be detained under the abominable 90 Days Detention Act, in August 1963.

As already stated, for Comrade Ruth First and the struggle for a truly just South Africa, inevitably involved abolishing racial and colonial domination, and simultaneously ending class exploitation. She clearly understood that neither the racial, gender, national nor class question could be independently resolved. Only those well schooled in the Marxist method could understand and practice this.

Comrade Ruth First was a Marxist strategist of note.

The struggle for national democracy and the consequences of its having been abandoned

No amount of nursing, squeezing and teasing of South African social and economic statistics over the past 20 years of our so called democracy can conceal the most obvious fact: the colonial status of the vast majority of South Africans remains the same, white monopoly capital is well and sound, and imperialist presence has deepened!

Inequalities, unemployment and poverty have all worsened in real terms post-1994, with well over 26 million South Africans today classified as very poor, while 25 million of these are Africans.

We have seen the disintegration and dissolution of the once mighty liberation movement. Today, there is general looting of the country and its people by imperialism, White monopoly capital and the black and African elites.

Almost a third of the South African populations need the miserable social grants to barely stay alive!

The unity between white monopoly capitalism, the black comprador capitalist class and sections of the petit-bourgeoisie is facilitated by their common interest to continue extracting surplus value from black labour.

The failure of the national liberation movement to stick to its program, the Freedom Charter, means that the super-exploitation of black workers by white monopoly capital is maintained. Now in order for the black comprador and sections of the black petit-bourgeoisie to accumulate, they have to further intensify the exploitation of black workers to get their piece.

Thus, certain operations in companies such as Telkom, Transnet and Eskom are outsourced, to these black capitalists, which puts workers in more vulnerable position of exploitation. Social and economic miseries dehumanise our working-class population – drugs, guns, rape, and all sorts of violence are the daily companions of the working class.

The rich, however, have erected their own maximum prisons behind their gated suburbs and over electrified barricades – all in an effort to prevent the violence their greed has actually created in the country. Sadly, they do not always succeed.

The wholesale abandonment of the struggle for national democratic freedom has eroded any revolutionary morality, solidarity and concern for what might holds us together as a people – we have descended, barely in 20 years, into a nation in despair.

Our mission, our revolutionary tasks today!

The working class in all its racial, gender, national, age and other criteria is the everlasting opposite class of the capitalist class. Employed and unemployed, urban or rural, this mass of teeming labourers stand in constant opposition to the capitalist class.

This class is not always aware of itself as a class, as the most direct product, in our circumstances, of the racist colonial capitalist system. In a million and one ways, this class is everyday involved in a life and death fight with the capitalist class.

In South Africa today, the majority of the South African class who are class conscious are fast realising that the liberation movement has run its course, has expired. It is time to advance the cause for socialism.

We in NUMSA resolved, last year in December, to take unprecedented decisions including campaigning for COSATU to break with the ANC-led alliance.

We are embarked on the most difficult journey – to unite the working class and people of South Africa behind Ruth First’s dream, the dream of a socialist South Africa.

We are determined that we shall not idly sit by and watch our lives, our resources, our collective futures and our Earth and country get destroyed by the money mongers – both local and foreign.

We have been promised many big things. Now, there are attempts to replace the Freedom Charter of Ruth First with its polar opposite, the National Development Plan (NDP). Our view is that this plan is predicated on super-exploitation of black workers, and maintenance of the colonial and capitalist power relations that define South African society.

As such, the NDP is not a working-class plan, and it will fail to meet even its own mediocre targets. Besides, we have shown as NUMSA that this NDP is a cut and paste from Democratic Alliance policies. So far, no one has disputed our assertion with facts. It is therefore not surprising that the ANC leadership is implementing a DA policy, because to us as NUMSA, they belong to the same class.

We should also remind ourselves that this National Development Plan is not the first one to come from both the ANC and the DA. How many of you remember Vision 2014, which was drafted in 2004, to halve poverty, unemployment and inequality by 2014. Almost everything that the ANC promised in Vision 2014 has failed to be achieved. We have already done a thorough analysis of Vision 2014 as NUMSA. And now they have another vision, Vision 2030!

We are determined to forge ahead with the struggle for a socialist South Africa. White monopoly capitalism has failed us, as it should. To us, only socialism offers the best solution to South Africa’s, Africa’s and the world’s problems.

As the real producers of wealth, we, the workers, know we shall not fail. We ask you to join us, to forge a happy, peaceful, free and just future, for all of us. But let us not harbour illusions, to achieve this, we have to unleash a consistent class struggle, whose immediate program is the Freedom Charter, the yardstick that we use to gauge how free we are.

We all have a democratic and revolutionary responsibility to build democratic working-class organs including trade unions, to build a vibrant democratic civic movement, to work towards a socialist South Africa!

No army can win a war without organisation, discipline and resolute leadership. The history of the Roman army bears this out. Outnumbered, the Roman battalions, could win wars against armies that were more than three times their number. Why? Because of discipline in battle, proper thought on strategy and tactics, and resolute leadership.

In South Africa today, the working class has the numbers, but it does not have the proper organisation. That is why I argue that the most immediate task of any revolutionary in South Africa today, is to build the revolutionary organisations of the working class.

Most of all, trade union organisations must be united in a militant fighting federation. Civic organisations must be co-ordinated into a working-class-led United Front. All the various struggles in various fronts that the working class undertakes, must be welded together into a common struggle by an unashamedly socialist vanguard party.

The alternative is too dark to venture into!

Ruth First and her virtues, her enduring legacy

In Ruth First and her death, we honour all the women of courage, of intellect, who teach, research and write about socialism. We honour all the women freedom fighters who paid the ultimate price, who sacrificed a life of false White bliss for the struggle for a truly free South Africa.

Comrade Ruth First was truly an African, she was one of us.

On behalf of the toiling masses, I thank you!


On Ruth First´s contribution to the South African Revolution


"The revolutionary task of the moment: Building democratic organs of the working class, trade unions, the civic movement and a revolutionary socialist vanguard party to defeat South African colonial and racist capitalism."

The "Other" Ruth First I knew Part 1

I had "gone into exile" in 1969, to Sweden and stayed in the university town of Lund for c. 8 years. Doing research in Economic History I started a project on Direct Foreign Investments (fdi) in South Africa, and this was the first time I came across the name of Cmde. Ruth First was through writings:

I took my theoretical point of departure and used the same methodology used by those progressive writers in Britain that I had come across in the work of R. First, C. Gurney and J. Steele in The South African Connection, published by Penguin Books in 1972.

The next, was through the journal Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE), which published a debate with Cmde First and anthropologist Archie Mafeje on analysing the Soweto Uprising of 1976, and what struck me was that Ruth First "broke ranks" with SACP Stalinist orthodoxy ("Colonialism of a Special Type" /"Two-Stage "Thesis) and that the working class should strive directly for State power.

I had already discussed this with Alf Bransky, who wrote an important piece in the ‘Bulletin of Socialist Economists’ of the Conference of Socialist Economists in 1974, non de guerre, Michael Williams: South Africa: Marxism or neo-Ricardianism arguing against Harold Wolpe, that the Reserves were ‘Internal Colonies’.

So First was not the "first" to break with SACP orthodoxy!

The "Other" Ruth First, Part II

Ruth had been a revolutionary journalist in Johannesburg in the 1960s. Her social status was from the Jewish leafy Johannesburg Northern suburbs but she edited Fighting Talk, Guardian and Freedom Fighter, and other underground newspapers of the ANC/ MK / CPSA, see accounts by Martin Plaut and Paul Trewhela: @

At the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) she was involved with other Communists like Ismael Meer, from Waschbank in Northern Natal, who was then studying law @ Wits (see:

As with the Generation Change in the ANC, he worked closely with Dr Dadoo (CPSA) from 1945, when they were elected to the TIC Executive, with Dadoo as president and Meer as secretary.

They took over the leadership of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) in 1946. What is important here is that First and Meer were paramours.

My family is also from the Reef and many served with Meer in the new Transvaal Indian Congres (TIC): Issy Dinath, Saul Desai and some from the Nagdee family.

That First and Meer were lovers was no secret - Ahmed Kathy Kathrada mentions thjs in his memories. But their relationship led to political strains in the Movement: she was Jewish, he Islamic, and with Sobukwe´s Africanists ,who disliked "white Communist" influence in the Movement


* Appendix and bibliography

The Programme of the S. A. Communist Party rested on the notion of internal colonialism and a National Democratic Revolution as the first “stage” in the democratisation of society.

That a ‘national bourgeoisie’ (albeit a ‘white’ one) already held power in South Africa had somehow eluded the SACP - what they wanted, most probably, was ‘black inclusion’ into that national bourgeoisie, and thus it came t pass with BEE.

Belinda Bozzoli: The Political Nature of a Ruling Class: Capitalism and Ideology in South Africa, Routledge, London. 1981.

Dennis M. Bransky: ‘Considerations of Man’s concept of money and its application to the reproduction of money material: a prelude to the analysis of the South African gold mining industry’ (B. Phil. dissertation, University of York), 1973. See also under, Michael Williams.

Robert Brenner: ‘The Origins of Capitalist Development: a critique of Neo-Smithian Marxism – On Sweezy, Frank and Wallerstein’, New Left Review 104, July-August 1977.

Robert Brenner: ‘The Economics of Global Turbulence: A Special Report on the world economy, 1950-1998’, New Left Review 229, London, 1998.

Alan K. Brooks: From Class Struggle to National Liberation: the Communist Party of South Africa, 1940 to 1950, M.A. thesis diss., Sussex University, 1967.

Alan K. Brooks: ‘The Communist Party of South Africa between 1940 and 1950’, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Vol. 2, London.

Colin Bundy: ‘The emergence and decline of the South African peasantry’, African Affairs, 71, 1972.

Colin Bundy: The Rise and Fall of the South African Peasantry, Heinemann Educational, London 1979.

Colin Bundy: ‘Land and Liberation: The Agrarian Question and the South African Liberation Movement’, Seminar on African Politics, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London; reprinted in S. Marks and S. Trapido (eds): The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa, Longman, London, 1987.

Centro de Estudios Africanos (Centre for African Studies): Changing Labour Demands Trends on the South African Mines, with Particular Reference to Mozambique, Maputo, Moçambique, 1986.

Johnathan Crush, Alan Jeeves and David Yudelman: South Africa’s Labour Empire: A History of Black Migrancy to the Gold Mines, Boulder, San Francisco and Oxford, David Philip, 1991.

Brian Bunting (ed): South African Communists Speak: Documents fro the history of the South African Communist Party, 1915-1980, Inkulekeko, 1981.

Robert Davies: ‘The class character of South Africa’s industrial conciliation legislation’, South African Labour Bulletin, Vol. 2, No.6, 1976.

Robert Davies: ‘Mining Capital, the State and Unskilled White Workers in South Africa, 1901-1913’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 3, No.1, 1976

Robert Davies: ‘The White Working Class in South Africa’, New Left Review 82, November-December 1973.

Robert Davies: ‘Capital restructuring and the modification of the racial division of labour in South Africa’, in Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 5 (2), April 1978.

Robert Davies: Capital, State and White Labour in South Africa: An Historical Materialist Analysis of Class Formation and Class Relations, 1900-1960, Harvester Press, London, 1979.

Ruth First: ‘The Gold of Migrant Labour’, Africa South in Exile, London, Vol. 5, Nr.3, April-June 1961.

Ruth First, Jonathan Steele and C. Gurney: The South African Connection, Temple Smith, 1972.

Ruth First: Reply to Mafeje. Review of African Political Economy, ROAPE, Nr. 11.

Ruth First et al: Black Gold: Mozambican Miner: Proletarian and Peasant, Harvester, Sussex, 1983.

William (Bill) Freund: Review of Dr. Selim Y. Gool’s ‘Mining Capitalism and Black Labour in the Early Industrial Period in South Africa: a critique of the new historiography’, in South African Labour Review, Durban, Nr.5, 1984.

William M. Freund: ‘The Social Character of Secondary Industry in South Africa: 1915-1945’ (with special reference to the Witwatersrand), in A. Marbin (ed) Organisation and Economic Change, Vol 5, Ravan, 1989.

William M. Freund: The African Worker. Cambridge, 1988.

William M. Freund: Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class in Durban, James Currey, London, 1995.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘Formation of a South African Nationalist Consciousness amongst the African élite during the pre-1948 period’, unpublished seminar paper, Uppsala, n.d.[possibly 1980-82].

Selim Yusef Gool: Mining Capitalism and Black Labour in the Early Industrial Period in South Africa: A critique of the new historiography, Ph.D. thesis, Lund University, Sweden, 1983.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘COSATU: Black Union Re-Alignment Challenges Apartheid Rulers’, conference paper delivered to the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE) conference, Liverpool, 1986.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘Whither Reforms in South Africa?’, Seminar paper to ‘The Africa Days’, at the Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Institute for African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden, June 22 ? 1986.

Selim Yusef Gool: Book review of Phyllis Ntantala’s: A Life’s Mosaic: The Autobiography of Phyllis Ntantala, David Philip, Cape Town, 1973, in Agenda: A Journal about Women and Gender, nr. 19, Durban, 1993.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘A Balance-Sheet of 100 Years of Struggle’ [a collective Review of ‘From Protest to Challenge Vol.1-IV ’ by T. Karis and G. Carter plus many other works on the National Liberation and the workers’ struggle from the late 1970s-early 1980], in Nytt från Nordiska afrikainstitutet, Nr. 5, Uppsala, 1980.

Selim Yusef Gool: Bibliografi over Motstand og Kamp i Sydaftika [Bibliography of works on Resistance and Struggle in South Africa], Det Nye Verden, special issue on Det Sørlige Afrika, Centre for Utviklingsstuidier (CUF), Copenhagen, 1982.

Selim Yusef Gool: Review of Alan Jeeves: Migrant Labour in South Africa, in International Journal of African Historical Studies, Boston C, 1983.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘Black and White Writers in South Africa’, Afrika Informasjon, bulletin of the Fellesrådet for det sørlige Afrika, Oslo, 1986. [on the contextual style, semiotics and content in ‘white’ and ‘black’ writing in S.A.]

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘Book Review of: Popular Struggles in South Africa’, (eds) W. Cobbett and R. Cohen, Frontline Worker (Azanian Workers Tendency), London, 1989.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘Review of Elling Njål Tjønneland: Pax Pretoriana – the Fall of Apartheid and the Politics of Regional Destabilisation’, The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1989, Discussion paper 2, 1989, in Nytt fra Nordiskaafrikainstitutet, Vol. 4, Nr 24, Uppsala, Sweden.

Selim Yusef Gool: ‘The Crisis of Capital Accumulation in South Africa’, in Gordon Naidoo (ed): Reform and Revolution: South Africa in the nineties, Skotaville Publications, Johannesburg, 1991; also seminar paper at the Centre for African Studies’ weekly seminar series, UCT, June 1991.

Selim Yusef Gool: “Continuities and Discontinuities in the Political Thought and Practise of Dr. A. Abdurahman and Mrs. Z. ‘Cissie’ Gool, 1905 – 1963: A Study in the Making of a South African non-White Political Dynasty”, Outline of a research project, work-in-progress, Cape Town, from spring 2002- into 2014.

Foster, Joe: ‘The Workers’ Struggle - Where does FOSATU stand?’, in - Dennis McShane, Martin Plaut and D. Ward: Power! Black Workers, their Unions and the Struggle for Freedom in South Africa, Nottingham, 1984. Appendix 1.

Dave Hemson: ‘Trade Unionism and the struggle for Liberation in South Africa’, Capital and Class, Vol. 6; also in M. Murray (1982).

Dave Hemson and Martin Legassick: ‘Racial Capitalism and the Reproduction of Cheap Labour-Power in South Africa’, Anti-Apartheid Movement of Britain pamphlet, London, 1974

Baruch Hirson: Appendix ‘Colonialism of a Special Type and the Permanent Revolution’, Searchlight South Africa, Vol. 2, No. 4 (8).

Archie Mafeje: ‘The Ideology of Tribalism’, Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 9, 2, 1971.

Archie Mafeje: ‘The Role of the Bard in a Contemporary African Society’, Journal of African Languages, Nr. 6 (3),

Archie Mafeje (and Monica Wilson): Langa: A Study of Social Groups in an African Township, OUP, C.T., 1963.

Archie Mafeje: ‘Religion, Class and Ideology in South Africa’, in Religion and Social Change in Southern Africa, (eds) Religion and Social Change in Southern Africa: Anthropological essays in honour of Monica Wilson, David Philip, Cape Town, and Rex Collings, London, 1975.

Archie Mafeje: ‘Soweto and its Aftermath’, in ROAPE 7, and in Martin J. Murray (ed), South African Capitalism and Black Political Opposition, op cit, 1982.

Z. Pallo Jordan: ‘Class and Nationality in South Africa’, mimeo, n.d. [London ANC seminar paper]

Michael Williams (D. Bransky): ‘An Analysis of South African Capitalism: Neo-Ricardianism or Marxism?’ . [Reply to H. Wolpe] Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists (BCSE), Vol 4 (1), 1974.

Michael Williams and Docras Good: South Africa: The Crisis in Britain and the Apartheid Economy, Anti-Apartheid Movement pamphlet, 1976.

Michael Williams : South Africa: The Crisis of World Capitalism and the Apartheid Economy, Winstanley Publications, London, 1977.

Harold Wolpe: ‘The Theory of Internal Colonialism: The South African Case’, ICS, SSA, 1974.

Harold Wolpe: ‘Capitalism and cheap labour-power in South Africa: from segregation to apartheid’, Economy and Society, vol. 4, nr. 1.

Harold Wolpe: ”The ‘white working class’ in South Africa”, Economy and Society, Vo. 5, 2, May 1976.

Harold Wolpe and Martin Legassick: ‘Bantustans and Capital Accumulation in South Africa’, ROAPE 7, 1977.

Harold Wolpe (ed): The Articulation of Modes of Production, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1980.

David Yudelman: ‘The Quest for a Neo-Marxist Approach to Contemporary South Africa’, South African Journal of Economics, Vol. 45, Nr. 2. June 1977.

David Yudelman: The Emergence of Modern South Africa: State, Capital, and the Incorporation of Organised Labour on the South African Gold Fields, 1902-1939, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut. 1983.

David Yudelman and Alan Jeeves: ‘New Labour Frontiers for Old: Black Migrants to the South African Gold Mines, 1920-1985’, Journal of Southern African Studies 13, 1986.




In her personal relations with Others, Comrades or not, she was quite the Queen Bitch!

I had received research funding from the Swedish Development Aid Agency SIDA to do a project on Migrant Labour between Mozambique and the Witwatersrand in the Early Industrialization Period (c. 1975/6) and a travel stipend from the Scandiavian Insititute of African Studies (NAI) in Uppsala around the same time to travel to southern Africa to complete this work.

I had done my primary theoretical research and preliminary survey during a stay in London @ LSE and SOAS and next-door @ the ICS (Inst of Commonwealth Studies on Russel Sq. between 1974-75 - where I met many of the ANC brass and made contact with the ANC Office there (where I met amongst others the future Professor Jordan of the missing PhD disrepute, Reggie September, the Chief Representative to Europe from Cape Town, who also knew my parents, the Pahad look-alike-twins from Fordsberg @ Josi/ Johannesburg, Essop and Aziz, the former a rude intellectual thug who worked at the "World Marxist Review" in Prague, not worth the paper it was printed on quite frankly, and was a flawed, obnoxious arsehole - the latter was joller (play-boy) who took me to all the "dives" in Greater London and so we were great pals.

In the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising (1976) and the great transformations it caused in all our lives then, I had moved from Lund (south Sweden) to Uppsala (40 mins to Stockholm the capital) to complete my research work @ the African Institute (Uppsala) there and to do solidarity activist work in the Greater Stockholm region. It was then I learnt that Comrade Ruth First would be in Copenhagen on a specific day to discuss the research project she was heading in Maputo on migrant labour between Maputo and the Witwatersrand mines,

- so I travelled down to Copenhagen (my former playground as a student slacker) and actually did meet with Comrade Ruth First and gave her copies of my credentials (cv, letters of recommendation from the ANC Office in London) etc, my research plans and the paper I had written immediately on returning from London at my Department (of Economic History in Lund) in 1995 an Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Migrant Labour in Southern Africa.

Now, on the research team that Ruth First headed in Maputo was an elderly gentleman, a Shangaan, Dr Alpheus Manghezi, who had lived in Copenhagen and was married to a Danish Lady, and he had been to my flat in Lund (I was married to a Swedish lady @ the time) for ANC regional conferences, so at least HE knew me and could vouch for me, politically and academically.

As a Shangaan (an ethno-linguistic group that straddles Mozambique and Norther Transvaal/South Africa) he was both interpreter, field worker, reporteur and an important link in that team between the "researchers" and "those being researched". Ruth then proceeded to Stockholm and Uppsala, as the guest of the Swedish Research Foundation linked to SIDA, who had given me funding also, so I also attended meetings with her in that area then.

1977 came. I had met someone else (formerly I was still "married") in Uppsala, a peace researcher and educationist from Oslo, Cand. Polit. Ragna Veslemøy Wiese (b. 1947), who had studied in Oslo but had blossomed with the Peace Research and the IPRA (International Peace Research Association) and we had children, twin girls, Hanne J. and Eline F. born on 27th December 1977, where we were now both staying, in Uppsala.

I had written repeatedly to Comrade First in Maputo, to the ANC Head-Quarters in Lusaka, requesting a necessary VISUM to get into Maputo and had made it quite clear that time was of the essence, as I had to complete field-work within a stipulated time-frame. Academic research has its time frames, deadlines and the competitive environment of a large capitalist conglomerate, and quite frankly, as individual steal research and findings for personal gain, lie and cheat, as in the private sector, for promotion and merits.

1977-8 was a period of great instability and de-stabilization in the southern African region as hit-squads of SADF-assassins of the South African rogue forces and their Askari killer-gangs would make sorties into neighbouring Botswana, Swaziland and as far afield as Lusaka to murder our comrades in "safe" houses and blow up ANC officials´ homes and offices. Things were not safe in the region and thus "clearance from above" was essential to get into a places like Maputo, which was on the firing-line.

And I waited and waited. No reply.

So eventually, I took a plane to Lusaka, via Luanda (where at the departure terminal awaiting a flight to Lusaka, I saw many of our MK soldiers who were also on their way out from Angola - they were being moved by the MPLA Government, both in the aftermath of the agreements @ Nkomati, with Mozambique, and part of South Africa putting pressure on the new black-majority governments in the region - the military invasion of the SADF into northern Namibia and southern Angola and the deployment of Cuban regulars there **.

I arrived in Lusaka and stayed at the General Teaching Hospital there with an old comrade from Sweden who had studied medicine in Rumania, Dr Mehboob Omar Jooma and who still had a room there, although he no longer worked there. I also met Cmde. Eddie Fundie and other ANC chaps who had lived in the Stockholm region previously, and contacted the Lusaka ANC Office there to see IF my VISA had been processed and when could I take a plane to Maputo.

Now, ONLY Ruth First from the SACP / ANC and as Head of the Research Office at the University of Maputo could grant this!

And this was the crux of the matter - she was actively delaying things and put me "on hold"!

I waited almost three months in Lusaka, fretting and nervous, sleeping rough, and having many anxiety attacks due to this new unstable environment. NO NEWS OF A VISA arrived despite urgent telex messages and so on. Met also Dr Palllo Z. Jordan, the PhD fraud, who was actually Research Assistant to Ms First, in Lusaka by accident and re-iterated my pleas and thought that would do the trick.

I might have been just another gekko or cockroach creeping on the floor, was how I was treated by the Great Comrade Ruth from the Northern suburbs of Josi, editor of the MK underground paper and The Guardian newspaper, journalist and supreme academic as I had to return to Sweden - no field-work done, extremely frustrated and angry.

I had been effectively pushed to the side, "blackballed", "blacklisted", and snookered and sent packing!

So I had to re-write my PhD dissertation, with no field-work having been done, but with a longer historical, philosophical and comparative introduction and finally completed this work and presented it to my Department (Economic History) in May 1983, in Lund, Sweden.

I was then staying with my new younger family in south Norway (Porsgrund/ Skien or Grenland), then working occasionally as a temporary relief teacher in junior and middle high schools.

Cmde First had not "taken a fancy" to the articulate, good-looking Indian-Malay-Coloured smart-allacy New Lefty researcher from Cape Town, and whose additional baggage were parents who had founded a rival and competing Nationalist political tradition, the anti-Stalinist NEUM * , and whose ´60 New Left viewpoints and behaviour had not fallen in the good graces of the Grand Lady from Josi/Johannesburg.

Then came the news of a letter-bomb explosion explosion in the office of Ruth First - Pallo J. was in her office ("he was in the same room as Ruth at the university in Maputo in 1982 when the parcel bomb exploded, killing her and seriously injuring him too. at the time and received minor injuries but Ruth was killed"), writes Paul Trewhela (see also: @

- "In November 1978 First took up a post as director of the research training programme # at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. There she continued to work for the downfall of the apartheid regime.

She was assassinated by order of (BOSS agent Craig Williamson, a major in the South African Police, on 17 August 1982, when she opened a letter bomb that had been sent to the university".)

I felt sorry for my then-buddy Pallo - but had no remorse for the SACP/ANC "chief theoretician and planner" Ruth First I can tell you. I had experienced what is known in academic circles as "the cold shoulder" and the proverbial back-stab, and did not like Northern suburbs Josi Jews anyway.

But Ruth was also a political rebel and intellectual maverick, writes underground co-worker and ex-detainee, painter Paul Trewhela:

"Whatever her youthful enthusiasm for Stalin's dictatorship in the Soviet Union, by the mid-1960s that had changed.

Her daughter, Gillian Slovo, writes in her family memoir Every Secret Thing (Little, Brown and Company, London, 1997) that when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush the democratic Prague Spring, her mother "protested about the invasion."

Gillian Slovo writes that a "fight" went on in London over the invasion between Ruth and her husband,SACP head Joe Slovo (Mr Go Slow) -

... "for weeks, over family breakfasts, over the television's blare and through dinner parties they gave. They never cared who saw them arguing. "...

Ruth was the critic, the outsider who questioned orthodoxy...". (page 111)


So, whatever is the moral of this somewhat drawn out and meandering piece, my critics say I must "Come to the Point", but a long introduction is sometimes necessary

- when the waters below are so murky and overgrown with lush green foliage and dead bodies - that to see the "point" is not so obvious at first!

But I hope you have learn something from this morality tale as the new inquisition has already started ...

Dr Selim Y Gool, Rauland, Norway 19th August 2014

* See: Further Notes Towards a 're-evaluation' of the NEUM Tradition in the Western Cape@

# - Ruth First et al: Black Gold: Mozambican Miner: Proletarian and Peasant, Harvester, Sussex, 1983.

- Centro de Estudios Africanos (Centre for African Studies): Changing Labour Demands Trends on the South African Mines, with Particular Reference to Mozambique, Maputo, Moçambique, 1986.

On me (other articles and writings on the Net): @


Cuito Cuanivale, the Cuban Internationalists and the End of Apartheid

South Africa´s military involvement in Angola was to span 13 years, from its initial incursion in 1975 up until the withdrawal in 1988. During this time, the SADF ran a series of devastating campaigns that took a heavy toll on Angola´s military and civilian population.

In the largest mechanised manoeuvre South Africa had undertaken since WWII, the SADF rolled into the Cunene Province, taking contol of nearly 50,000 sq. kilometres of land in ashore period of time.
Towns that refused to bow to the SADF were confronted with a three-pronged attack: long-range artillery bombardment matched with extensive ´carpet bombing´by the South African Air Force, clearing the way for an overwhelming storm of ground troops (including Jonas Savimbi´s black Unita troops).

The result was that, within a short period of time, virtually the entire Cunene province was evacuated by Angolans terrified of the onslaught that left 160,000 Angolans homeless (BBC). UNICEF estimated that between 1980 and 1985, 100,000 Angolans died largely as a result of of war-related famine. Between 1981 and 1988, 333, 000 Angolan children died of unnatural causes. The Angolan government estimated the cost of the war about $12 bn. in 1987 alone.

However, Pretoria´s plan for Angola was to unravel in early 1988 when the SADF attempted to capture the town of Cuito Cuanivale, and were repulsed by combined Angolan and Cuban forces, which were able, in the vacuum, to make advances into southern Angola.

Their failure at Cuito Cuanivale was decisive in pushing the apartheid state into comping into a belated peace through negotiations with Angola in August 1988 and, in a related development, granting independence to Namibia in 1990. However, it was only in 2006 that Angolan´s hostilities finally ground to a halt.

Havana´s Last Stand

""On 16 November 1987 in Havana the Cuban Central Committee made the dramatic decision to reinforce its 25,000 troops in Angola to counter a massive new South African commitment of infrastructure and logistics in northern Namibia which began in March. The South Africans, with the backing of the Reagan administration, were preparing for the most ambitious offensive inside Angola since 1975.

The Cuban´decision to counter it was equal in historical importance to the arrival of the first Cuban fighting contingent on 4 October 1975 which headed off the the South African units bent on installing their client FNL/Unita government in Luanda. The South African generals aimed at the capture of the town and FAPLA base of Cuito Cuanivale, 200 miles from the Namibian border. This would give Unita a completely new strategic base to attack central Angola (and finally install Savimbi and oust the MPLA government).

Through August and September South African units, numbering about 7,000 men, fought off a major FAPLA offensive to retake the town of Mavinga, occupied by South African and Unita since 1980 and an important supply base for them. In mid-September FAPLA units were encircled on the Loma river and took very high casualties.
The South African military, convinced they were close to a decisive victory which would change the course of the war, pushed on towards Cuito Cuanivale.

But in the dry and desolate plains of southern Angola the military tide began to turn against them in the early weeks of 1988 with the arrival of the first additional 9,000 Cuban troops two months after the Central Committee decision.
The troops, who would number 15,000 when the deployment was complete, and their equipment, arrived at the three ports of Luanda, Lobito and Namibe and swept in three columns along the country´s main west/east axes, from the coast to the mist, hills and forest of Malange in the north, to remote Luena near the border of Zaire and Zambia, and to the main war theatre of Cuito Cuanivale in the south of the country.

By mid-February (1988) these thousands of young Cubans were ready to take on the South Africans at Cuito Cuanivale in a set-piece battle of tanks and heavy artillery, including South Africa´s mammoth G5 and G6 howitzers, aircraft, and anti-aircraft batteries. The Angolan/Cuban side, in which SWAPO also fought, was led by the legendary General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez.

In the following weeks of heavy fighting they not only halted the South Africans, but defeated them so definitively that Cuito Cuanivale became a symbol across the continent that apartheid and its arms were no longer invincible.
By early May the South Africans had been pushed back and the Angolan army was 50 miles east of Cuito Cuanivale

… the Cubans fanned out south towards the Namibian border area … ahead of the Cubans some South African units,
together with the Namibian conscripts … retreated to the border area and in heavy fighting a dozen white South Africans were killed.

The Cuban-led campaign struck at the South African military´s confidence and helped to set the scene for quadripartite negotiations which began in London in May with Angola, South Africa, Cuba and the US at the table.
The central agenda items were the long-overdue independence of Namibia from South Africa, under the ten-year-old UN Resolution 435, and a timetable for Cuban withdrawal from Angola of its 40,000 troops.

The South Africans knew for the first time they had lost air superiority to Angola´s MIG23s, a fact which changed the military picture as dramatically as their defeat on the ground at Cuito Cuanivale.

Source: Victoria Brittain: Death of Dignity, Angola´s Civil War, Africa World Press, London, 1998.

The Cuban victory at Cuito Cuanivale, 1988 pp. 276279

"… Faced with the imminent defeat in the south, (president José Eduardo Dos Santos) asked Castro for assistance. This new request came just twelve years after the original Cuban intervention in Angola had turned the tide in 1975. Prompt Cuban intervention on this second occasion, as before, was to change the history of Africa. Cuba rescued the Angolan government from South African attack and paved the way to an end to apartheid in South Africa itself.
In the first weeks of 1988, with the arrival of the first 9,000 Cuban reinforcements, the military tide began to turn against the South Africans …

The long-awaited South African attack came on the 14 February, and their soldiers, in support of the CIA-funded guerrillas of Unita, penetrated the suburbs of the town.

The Cuban forces fought back and Cuito Cuanivale soon turned into a resounding Cuban victory.
After several weeks of heavy fighting the South African advance was halted. Cuito Cuanivale was to become a symbol across Africa, indicating that apartheid and its army was no longer invincible.

The South African defeat obliged its arms to withdraw from Angola.

This intern was followed by the withdrawal of South African troops from namibia, leading to a diplomatic solution - orchestrated by (US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs) Chester Crocker - that allowed both for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and for the Namibian Liberation Movement SWAPO to come to power in Windhoek.

This strategic collapse in southern Africa was eventually to lead to the end of the apartheid state itself.

In February 1990, two years after Cuito Cuanivale, Nelson Mandela, the black South African leader, was released from prison.

He came to Havana in July 1991 to thank Castro personally for Cuba´s assistance in the anti-apartheid struggle."

Richard Gott: CUBA - A New History, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2005.

Cuba, African Nationalism and the Soviet Union

The Two Stages of Cuban Foreign Policy

"Immediately after having consolidated his control over the island´s foreign policy by the end of 1959, Fidel Castro adhered to a policy that was predominantly a mixture of Guevara´s brand of independent Communism and the Caribbean and Latin American tradition with which he had been associated since the late forties.

During the first period, Cuba´s policy in Latin America involved open and aggressive support for guerrilla movements and harsh denunciation of the traditional Communist Parties n the continent.

It was during this initial period that the Cuban leadership put forward guerrilla warfare as the strategy for the Latin American left.

By the sixties, Fidel Castro and his associates had become firmly wedded to the institutional structures of the one-party state along the general lines of the Soviet model established under Stalin.

The fact that the Cuban leaders modified the model in certain respects, like placing a greater emphasis on popular mobilisation - not to be confused with popular control - did not alter the fundamental structural kinship between the two models.

The early period of conflict between Cuba and the Soviet Union came to an end with Castro´s speech supporting the Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries´invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

This speech showed Castro to be still very critical of the USST and the East European Communist counties and was more a defines of the Stalinist mddl of the one-party state than the Soviet bloc as such.

After Havana withdrew its open support of the latin American guerrillas, Castro began to move toward a second foreign policy stage associated with the traditional Soviet approach.

However, even during this period of close partnership with the Soviet empire … objective features regarding Cuba´s position in the Western hemisphere and in the world made its foreign policy more militant than the Soviet Union´s.
Cuba´s geographical location within the geopolitical sphere of influence of the American empire, its small size and relative economic underdevelopment, forced it to maintain a substantial degree of militance to be able to survive as a society with an economic and social system inimical to Washington´s.

During this stage of closer ties to the Soviet Union, Castro supported the suppression of the Eritrean national movement in the seventies and, with much discomfort and in a low-key manner, the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that began in late 1979 and continued through the eighties.

Until then, Cuba managed to play an important leadership role in the movement of the Third World ("Non-Aligned Nations") in a manner that was compatible and supportive of Soviet goals.

Even when Castro´s policies were closest to those of the Soviet Union, in terms of nth his domestic and foreign policies, he avoided a total identification with the Soviet leaders in the eyes of the world.

As it shifted away from open support of guerrilla warfare ("armed struggle" warfare in Latin America, Cuba became increasingly interested in Africa, a region on the fringes of the American geopolitical sphere of influence where Cuban initiatives were more compatible with Soviet foreign policy.

Besides, there were fewer political risk to Cuba´s intervention in Latin America.

Cuba´s political and military presence in Africa (and in other parts of the world) also had a significant effect on the balance of its power relations with the Soviet Union.

Its global presence along with its development into a significant military power gave Fidel Castro greater leverage and room for negotiation with the Soviet leaders, who for these reasons could not treat Cuba as if it were a mere East European satellite.

The conflict between China and the Soviet Union and what was once called "Communist polycentrism" helped to give the Cuban government even grater room to manoeuvre from Moscow.

At the same time, the substantial subsidies the island received from Moscow and its economic dependence of the USSR allied it, until the late eighties, to maintain a standard of living that, although austere, covered the most basic needs of its population.
The Soviet union was able to compel Cuba to purchase its poor-quality consumer and industrial products at questionable prices … (the sugar quota issue)

…. while Moscow was able to use Cuban ports and airports to service its warships and aircraft and to establish a base (at Lourdes, near Havana) for electronic intelligence gathering and communications facilities.

During the second stage of its foreign policy in the seventies and eighties, Cuba´s strategy was orientated towards building an alliance with African nationalism.

Eventually, this alliance required the commitment of qualitatively far greater human and material resources than those Cuba ever invested in Latin America.

In the course of implementing this strategy, Cuba took independent initiatives without consulting the Kremlin, although they were generally compatible with the overall strategy of Soviet policy in the region even if occasional tactical disagreements arose between Cuba and the USSR.

The Cuban government was able to kill two birds with one stone.

It was able to exercise its own military and political muscle on the African continent without the risk of causing the clash with the Soviet Union that Fidel Castro´s earlier aggressive support of guerrilla warfare in Latin America had provoked. In the axe of Angola, Fidel Castro´s strategy, combined with his alliance with the Soviet empire, allowed him to play a very important role in the defence of that country against Western imperialism and its right-wing (surrogates) agents.

During the initial months of the Angolan operation, Cuba handled the transportation of its troops by itself but used USSR-supplied weapons. Later on, the Soviets took over the transportation operation and supplied the Cubans with a variety of weapons to stop the domestic and foreign enemies of Angolan national self-determination.

The Cubans, in alliance with the MPLA and with the help of the Namibian independence fighters (PLAN of Swapo), eventually won this conflict and delivered a heavy blow against the South African armed forces (SADF), the backbone of apartheid. This victory also opened the way for the independence of Namibia in the late eighties."

Samuel Farber: CUBA since the Revolution of 1959, A Critical Assessment, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2011.

- see especially Chapter Three: Cuba´s Foreign Policy - between Revolution and Reasons of State, pp. 96-130, esp. 105-114.
The most common reasons for Cuba´s International Solidarity with Cuba and Africa has been rationalised as one of "socialist internationalism" and "racial solidarity":

Piero Gleijeses ("Conflicting Missions" - 2003) and the prime historiographer and most quoted writer of this writes: "Prologue: p. 11 - Curiocity about Havana´s intervention in Angola sparked this book. It became the story of Cuba´s halting, self-interested, and idealistic steps in Africa, both at the governmental level and at the individual level, embodies by the thousands of Cubans who doctored, and soldiered, and taught in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.

And it became a parable of the Cold War, in which Washington was blinded by its singular focus on the great powers
…" - pp. 379 "By the early 1970s, reeling from the failure of his revolutionary offensive in Latin America and of his economic policies at home, Castro had softened his attitude towards the Soviet Union.

Cuban criticism of Soviet policies ceased, and Havana acknowledged Moscow´s primacy with the socialist bloc …
In August 1975, when Castro first considered sending troops to Angola, he asked Brezhnev to endorse the operation. In the 1960s, he had never sought Moscow´s approval before embarking on a military mission in Africa, but in the 1960s Cuba had never undertaken such a major and risky operation. To ask for Soviet support in these circumstances was not subservience but common sense …

When Brezhnev said no, Castro stepped back. At the time the MPLA was winning.

Three months later (November 1975), the South African invasion presented Castro with a stark choice: intervene or seal the fate of the MPLA.
It was a defining moment.
Castro defied the Soviet Union.
He sent his troops on Cuban planes and Cuban ships ("Operation Carlota"), without consulting Brezhnev, hoping that Moascow would come around, but without any assurance that it would.
He was no client."
"Of the 30,000 Cubans who went to Angola between November 1975 and March 1976, there were "few casualties" - at the most 200 dead, including 16 prisoners who had been captured by the South Africans, handed over to Unita and executed."

Victory in Angola in 1976 boosted Cuba´s prestige in the Third World.

"The Cubans are now the people who are regarded as the heroes in the black world", said a prominent SA member of Parliament. In 1976 the fifth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement praised Cuba for its intervention "against South Africa´s racist regime and its allies".,Cuba was chosen to host the next summit in 1979 (and therefore to chair the movement in the 1979-82 period). The Soviet leaders´initial displeasure with Castro´s decision to send troops to Angola had turned into warm approval by early 1976, as they concluded that Operation Carlota had achieved an important victory for Soviet foreign policy.

p. 389 "As US officials had predicted, the MPLA victory did not threaten major U.S. interests in Angola. Luanda´s economic tied continued to be with the West, the Soviet Union gained no naval bases, and the Angolan government soon sent signals of its willingness to improve relations with the United States.

The best epitaph to Kissinger´s Angola policy was offered by Kissinger himself. "It would´t be the first time in history", he rued in January 1976, "that events that no one can explain afterwards give rise to consequences out of proportion to their intrinsic significance".

Richard Gott writes of the period around 1988 (2005): Chapter 8: Cuba Stands alone - 1985 - 2003 pp. 272 -320 - esp. pp. 276 - 279

"The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 which had provided financial and subsidised it , and was a source of its military security over three decades, disappeared for all time.

In March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed secretary-general of the Soviet Communist Party.
The arrival of Gorbachev on the Soviet scene was seen as aseismic change likely to cause problems in its Cuban semi-colony.

Gobachev´s use of the key words of glasnost and perestroika - the promotion of political openness and economic restructuring - could be dismissed as an internal affair if the Soviet Union with little necessary effect on Cuba.
(But) The Soviet leader´s pursuit of East-West détente with President Reagan was certain to have an adverse impact.
In private Gorbachev made it clear that the old economic relationships, with the price subsidies that had long helped to keep Cuba relatively prosperous, would have to be phased out.

The Russians, in future, would expect payment for their goods in US dollars.

p. 276 "Thousands of Cuban troops ere still stationed in Africa and their safety depended on the weapons that the Soviet Union provided for the Angolan armed forces. In Gorbachev´s view perestroika and the gradual withdrawal from Angola by the Cuban and Soviet armies would mean a more friendly relationship wight he United States, as well as greater resources for the Soviet consumer at home. Dissatisfaction with the reformist winds of change in the Soviet Union was not confined to Havana. Cuba´s close African ally was also worried …

The long war in defines of his (dos Santos) sustained by 25,000 Cuban soldiers and with a heavy strategic input from Soviet advisors, had been going well in 1986. But vigorous attacks by the guerrilla forces of Jonas Savimbi´s UNITA movement, funded and armed by the United States and backed by South Africa, had caused the MPLA´s army (FAPLA) a series of setbacks in 1987. Perceiving Soviet weakness, the South Africans prepared an offensive in southern Angola, their most ambitious since 1976.

Faced with imminent defeat in the south, dos Santos asked Castro for assistance …

Cuba´s first action was to send its most experienced pilots to Angola to Cuba. Based in Menonque, they were to attack the South African forces besieging Cuito Cuanivale. Prompt Cuban intervention on this second occasion, as before in 1976, was to change the history of Africa. p. 278-9 "The South African defeat obliged its army to withdraw from Angola.

This in turn was followed by the withdrawal of South African troops from Namibia, leading to a diplomatic solution - orchestrated by Chester Crocker - that allowed both for the withdrawal of Cuban troops fromAngola and for the SWAPO to come to power in Windhoek. The Cuban victory accelerated an East-West agreement on southern Africa, and the continued negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, conducted by Crocker, were joined by Cuban and South African representatives.

All four con tries signed an Angola agreement at the UN in New York in December. The internationalist spirit of the revolution lived on, not with soldiers but with doctors and teachers, deployed in ever-increasing numbers throughout Africa."

The Path of Negotiations, "Secret Talks", Global Geo-Politics and its historiography

So now let us look at how the historians and professional scribes view this issue of the negotiations that followed on the defeat of the SADF at Quito Cuanivale.

"Recognising that South Africa could no longer extend its military occupation beyond the country´s borders without risk of defeat, and that the occupation of Namibia would inevitably become vastly more costly in both money and lives, (P.W. State President) Botha in August (1988) reached an accord to withdraw all South African forces from southern Angola and to begin negotiations for the independence of Namibia (which would likely mean that SWAPO would govern the country).


"The combined impact of international sanctions and internal conflict was devastating for the South African economy. Investment in the capital goods necessary to develop a long-term import substitution policy caused, the cost of imports to rise by 60 per cent between 1986 and 1987. Unable to borrow further internationally, South Africa spent almost half its foreign exchange reserves in the 14-month period between August 1987 and October 1988 to service existing loans. The value of the rand plummeted, while the rice of gold (still South Africa´s chief earner of foreign currency) by the end of the 1980s was half of what it had been a decade before.
Inflation was chronic. Businessmen, who had benefited from the cheap labour policies for the apartheid state, became some of Botha´s strongest critics. Even within the Afrikaner business community and the government itself, there was a growing call for new political steps to be taken to alleviate the economic disaster facing the country."

p. 100-101 (Nancy L. Clark& William H. Worger: South Africa - The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, Pearson/Longman, 2004)

"With fighting bringing the country to an impasse, with the black revolutionaries unable to overthrow the white state, and the state unable to eliminate the revolutionaries, Botha contemplated negotiation, but negotiation not in order to compromise or surrender but in order to win. Such a strategy had already been raised at a meeting of the State Security Council late in 1985 when one of those in attendance, General Groenewald, reflecting the consensus of the meeting that some form of settlement with anti-apartheid forces was unavoidable in the long term, expressing the strategy thus:

´You can thus only negotiate from a position of power. If we negotiate with the ANC with the purpose of eliminating it, that is acceptable. If we negotiate with the purpose of accommodating it, that is unacceptable.´

Negotiations could weaken the ANC and destroy its revolutionary potential (TRC, 1998, vol. 2: 703)

Adoption of this strategy lay behind a series of meetings held from May 1988 onwards between a government committee (consisting of the minister of justice, the commissioner of prisons, the director general of prisons, the head of the National Intelligence Service Neil Barnard) and Nelson Mandela. A month later (August 1989) Botha was out of office … he suffered a stroke in January but in August resigned to be replaced by F.W. de Klerk who had taken over as leader of the National Party in February, and replaced him as state president. He was widely regarded as an "unremarkable foot soldier of apartheid".

At the opening session of parliament on 2 February 1990, he (de Klerk) announced that the banning orders on the ANC, SACP, PAC and 31 other organisations were to be rescinded (lifted). Such steps were necessary, he argued, were necessary in oder to carry out the process of negotiation that he considered ´the key to reconciliation, peace, and a and a new and just dispensation´(Hansard, 1990: col. 12) (op cit 102-3)

Hein Marais (2011) writes: Chapter 2: pp 39 - 68: SAVING THE SYSTEM

p. 59 "Early in the 1980s, former president P W Botha had warned whites they had to adapt or die´, by the late 1980s it was clear that adaptation within the paradigm of apartheid offered no escape. The political and social stability needed to restore and consolidate a new cycle of accumulation required a new political model that had to incorporate the basic demands of the political opposition:

* a non-racial democracy based on universal suffrage in a unified nation-state.

As early as March 1986, National Party (NP) ministers had grasped this point … what baffled them was how to proceed. A leap was needed. In 1986, corporate capital fell in line behind state repression - but without offering a congruous strategy for how to proceed once the uprising had been quelled.

By mid-1980s, however, a cluster of ´visionary´corporate and political figures in the ruling bloc (including the top security officials) understood that a political exit had to be carved open and that it would have to involve the ANC.
Meanwhile, two developments had combined to create a favourable balance of forces within the NP and the government.

The NP had jettisoned its far-right supporters and there had been centralised within the party and government
Reformists took heart from the crushing of the 1980s uprisings: by 1990, a five member committee headed by the Minister of Justice Kobie Cortzee, and National Intelligence Service chief, Daniel (Neil) Barnard, had met with Nelson Mandela 47 times.

Facilitation was provided by social-democratic entities like the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) (megabucks funded by Western governments - esp. Scandinavian and German-EU funds and development agencies) was instrumental in establishing the climate and forging the trust that would lead to formal political negations.
A new pack of cards had been dealt."

(Marais: pp 58-59); also; #1 below, footnote :Willie Esterhuyse: Secret Talks and the End of Apartheid, Tafelberg, Cape Town (2012)


Here are some of the factors that tilted the balance of power towards the proponents of political negotiations in the ANC, the NP and the government, and the corporate camp and to establish a broader context that favoured that route.

* International sanctions handicapped efforts to slow the slide of the economy(although how severely remains a point of debate).

Certainly, government´s options for dealing with with internal resistance were influenced by the prospect of harsher sanctions (boycotts and penalties).

At the same time, South African exports experienced an upturn from 1987 onwards, despite sanctions.
The main impact of sanctions seemed to be their negative effect on foreign investment flows and government´s ability to secure financial assistance to offset balance of payments difficulties.

Those pressures would not relax substantially until a political settlement was reached.

In other words, the economic sphere could only be rescued if the political framework could be restructured.

* The absurd duplication of state institutions (3 chambers of parliament, dozens of governments performing the same tasks for racially defined sections of the population, expensive homelands administrations), as well as the costs of the Namibian occupation and the war in Angola, all increased financial strains at a point when the economy was slumping into its worst recession since the 1930s.

* The NP had weaned itself from its old multi class social base, enabling it to free its policies from the ideological straightjacket of (grand) apartheid and transform itself into a party championing the interests of the white middle classes and bourgeoisie.

A power-struggle in the ruling NP ended in the election of F.W. de Klerk as leader, with the party´s ´young turks´ grouping around him.

* The internal anti-apartheid forces had regrouped with the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM inc. the UDF and new Congress-aligned union federation Cosatu) and were capable of noun ting resistance campaigns which, while not posing immediate threats to the state, could further raise the costs of avoiding a political force with sufficient legitimacy and authority among the excluded majority to make the deal stick. The ANC had clearly emerged as as that force.

* A profound process of class restructuring was underway in urban African communities.

A small but distinct black elite had emerged, especially in the homelands where this layer was also invested with political and administrative power. The rise of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in particular (and with it organised black political ethnicity) raised hopes that the hegemony of the ANC could be reduced during and after a negotiations process.

These developments fed exaggerated expectations within the NP that a ´non-racial´centre-right political alliance could be mustered to challenge or hold the ANC in check.

* The military defeat suffered by the South African Defence Force (SADF) at Cuito Cuanivale in Angola pushed militarist hardliners onto the defensive, as did Namibia´s almost anti-climatic achievement of independence and the progress towards a peaceful settlement of Angola´s civil war.

* Pressure from Western governments, principally the US, and their touting of the reassuring examples of ´managed transitions´ to democracy in the Philippines and Namibia softened the reluctance to opt for negotiations.
The options appearing before the ANC, in particular, and the (internal) anti-apartheid movement, in general were influenced by the following factors:

* Withering (unrelenting) state repression, along with organisational and strategic dysfunction (political conflict) in the democratic movement, had dashed the dream of overthrowing the apartheid state by force (military means).
Those favouring an unremitting confrontation with the apartheid state were weakened - a long period of rebuilding the internal popular forces lay ahead.

* The armed struggle never reached a point where it posed a military threat to white rule.
By the late 1980s its potency had faded to the point where the ANC would later admit ´there was no visible intensification´.

(taken together with the Mutiny/"Mkatashinga" in the MK camps in Angola 1982-84 had sown further dissatisfaction with the leadership by the rank-and-file, and resignation and defeatism in the broader layers of the exile movement). After the Namibian settlement, the ANC lost its military bases in Angola and was forced to transplant then as far afield as East Africa (Uganda). There was no foreseeable prospect of re-establishing them in the region again.

* The collapse of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union´s shift towards demilitarising its relations with the West (perestroika/detente) and dramatically reducing its support for revolutionary projects in the south) deprived the ANC of its main (financial and political) backers and effectively curtailed its armed struggle initiatives, and accelerated an endemic retreat by radical forces worldwide.

The radical social transformation (although based on a one-party state model of Soviet/Cuban vintage) projects attempted in Mozambique and Angola had been destroyed through a massive destabilisation campaign by the apartheid state, reinforcing South African hegemony throughout the subcontinent.

* During the 1980s, the ANC had received substantial ideological hegemony among the popular masses and their main organisations (the Charterist current), bolstering their claim to be the ´government-in-waiting´.

* The balance of power within the ANC tilted towards a well-organised (and funded) pro-negotiations faction (clustered around the core SACP figures of Slovo, Mbeki, Jordan, Loots) of "moderates" that got the upper hand over the hardliners ("militarists") embarrassed by the collapse of their insurrectionary strategy ("Operation Vula", Hani and Maharaj) and alarmed by the disappearance of the long-term support traditionally drawn from the Soviet bock.

Thus, political pressure had been put on both the ANC and the apartheid government - the ANC was notified that it, too was best served by "seizing the moment" and accept "constructive engagement".

The collapse of the Soviet bloc meant that post-apartheid South Africa would be knotted into a world wide economic system dominated by the US, Western Europe, Japan and now also China.

"Neither side could claim to have triumphed, but the balance of forces still favoured the incumbents (old regime), who remained in control of the economy, the state (particularly its repressive apparatus) and the media. The apartheid state had weathered turbulent uncertainties and retained the (provisional) support of powerful Western governments.

The retreat of radical projects (Cuba) internationally favoured the consolidation of centrist political alternatives.
Growing class (social) differentiation and the emergence of other contradictions in African communities (the rise of political ethnicity) emboldened those who believed that they could save the system by sacrificing it." (p. 61-62)

Negotiations, talks, compromises and normal political processes were to become the new paradigm of liberation: the discourse that spoke of the violent overthrow of the apartheid state had been foreshadowed by a more moderate one that seemed inclined towards a negotiated settlement.

It was the failure of a strategy centred on an insurrectionary of armed struggle that tilted the ANC onto the negotiations path reconnoiter and explored by Nelson Mandela since 1986.


#1 Willie Esterhuyse: Secret Talks and the End of Apartheid (2012) gives us an "insiders" version of the wooing and courting of Mandela by the Afrikaner elite: It has a useful chronology/timeline for the uninitiated: From the dust jacket: "The full story of the secret meetings between ANC leaders and a select few Afrikaners in the turbulent 1980s, told for the first time by someone who was there himself.

Stellenbosch professor Willie Esterhuyse (he was also my philosophy professor on the "Island" in Durban harbour, on Sailsbury Island, Durban University-College in 1967). A verligite Broderbonder and a wiley political fox!

"Endgame recounts how these talks, held behind closed doors in England, … kick-started negotiations in South Africa …

Esterhuyse´s first-hand account, filled with anecdotes, offered a fresh look at many South African leaders.

It contains fascinating information on secret discussions in prison, what went on in P W Botha´s situation room, and how the NIS tried to save South Africa from widespread violence by covertly intervening in the high-stakes game played by "enemies".

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