How cadre deployment began – by Paul Trewhela
11 August 2022
Paul Trewhela – a former South African political prisoner – on the origins of the practice, from Stalinist Russia to the ANC of Quatro prison camp.
The reins of power handed to Jacob Zuma
In his mammoth new study, History of South Africa: 1902 to the Present, published by Penguin Random House SA in 2021 and by Hurst in London this year, Thula Simpson – associate professor of history at the University of Pretoria – shows how cadre deployment was started under Nelson Mandela’s ANC government.
Thula Simpson points to “an ANC policy document from 1996 titled ‘State Property and Social Transformation’, which advocated ‘extending the power of the national liberation movement over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on.’ …
“The document was approved by the ANC’s Mafikeng conference in a resolution on 20 December 1997 that affirmed ‘the need to deploy cadres to various organs of state, including the public service and other centres of power in society.’ The ANC established a committee on 29 November 1998 to advise the NEC on all matters of deployment. It would be led by the deputy president, Jacob Zuma.” (Hurst edition, p.373)
It is this integral policy of ANC government under every one of its presidents which Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has declared to be unconstitutional, and the chief cause of massive corruption and destruction of South Africa’s economic infrastructure.
A policy devised in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin
What Thula Simpson does not point out with the same clarity, however, is the political source in Stalin’s Russia of this calamitous policy and practice.
In an address delivered in the Kremlin to graduates of the Red Army academies on 4 May 1935 headed “Cadres Decide Everything”, Stalin said that the Soviet Union had already achieved tremendous successes. “Everybody now admits that we already have a powerful, first-class industry, a powerful mechanised agriculture, a growing and improving transport system, an organised and excellently equipped Red Army..
“This means that we have in the main emerged from the period of dearth of technique.”
What was needed, continued Stalin in this address – two years before launching the Great Terror – was “people who have mastered technique, we need cadres capable of mastering and utilising this technique according to all the rules of the art. Without people who have mastered technique, technique is dead.”
If the Soviet Union could create “sufficient cadres capable of harnessing this technique, our country would secure results three and four times as great as at present. That is why emphasis must now be laid on people, on cadres, on workers who have mastered technique. That is why the old slogan, ‘Technique decides everything’ … must now be replaced by a new slogan, the slogan ‘Cadres decide everything’. That is the main thing now.”
Cadres decide everything….
No three words sum up the ideological drive of the ANC so well in the 32 years since its return from exile, or give a sharper sense of its brutal behaviour in exile towards its own members in Angola and Tanzania. It is impossible to over-estimate the effect of the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960 on the ANC – philosophically, culturally, politically, ideologically and organisationaly. When the range of top leaders of the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), were sentenced in the Rivonia Trial in June 1964, every one of them was a member of the South African Communist Party, including Mandela. Nothing drove the ANC towards the Soviet Union more than Sharpeville. Its effect was massive, lasting to this day.
The Soviet Union – Russia – funded Umkhonto we Sizwe. With it came Stalin’s “cadres decide everything”, Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the ANC’s fundamental practice of cadre deployment.
ANC studies in the Soviet Union
This can be seen from members of the “Sharpeville generation” at Fort Hare University who completed their degrees in 1960 and 1961. In her book with Professor Apollon Davidson, The Hidden Thread: Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era (Jonathan Ball, 2013), Professor Irina Filatova was the first to report what followed, from a major interview concerning Fort Hare students:
Sindiso Mfenyana, a former secretary of South Africa’s Parliament and a former high commissioner to Tanzania, was one of the first nine ANC students [all having completed their degrees at Fort Hare in 1960 and 1961] who came to the Soviet Union in 1962. He told us that before they left South Africa, the group went to Johannesburg and met Nelson Mandela in his secret underground location. He bid them farewell as follows: ‘We are not sending you for military training, but for the continuation of your education. … The most important thing that you have to find out is how the Soviet Union can have free education, free medical service, nominal rent … How it is possible.’
So, Mfenyana continued, ‘we had a broad mandate: to study all aspect of Soviet life … Five of us went to the Kiev Economic Institute, one enrolled to each of the five faculties of this Institute. We thought that this would help us understand how the Soviet economy was managed. I studied state planning, the others, finances, statistics, agriculture.’ (pp.346-47)
In his autobiography, Walking with Giants (South Africa History Online, 2017), Mfenyana recalls Mandela telling the nine Fort Hare students: “Look, the ANC is training soldiers, but there are other important tasks which educated young South Africans can do for the ANC. We want you to study in the Soviet Union. Your mission will be to find out how the Soviets are able to provide free education, free health services, very cheap housing and virtually free public transport to all citizens of the country. This is the knowledge we require if we are to implement the Freedom Charter.” (p.115)
Three of this group from Fort Hare – Mfenyana, Tony Mongalo and Sizakele Sigxashe – became members of the ANC NEC over the crucial period from before the end of the Cold War in Angola leading to the unbanning of political organisations in South Africa and the release of Mandela in 1990, while their fellow Fort Hare graduate, Chris Hani, also a member of the NEC, was in the USSR for four years (1963-67).
A crucial factor relating to the “Sharpeville generation”, however, was that the teaching of Soviet-type Marxism became very limited within South Africa during the remainder of the 1960s and well into the 1970s, as a result of severe apartheid state repression. Instead, the most influential political and intellectual current was the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement, led principally by Steve Biko, feeding directly into schools and universities through the South African Students Organisation, founded by Biko and his colleagues in 1968.
Confronting Biko and Black Consciousness
This was the direct precursor of the school students’ rebellion in Soweto on 16 June 1976 against the apartheid regime’s decision to impose Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools, with its repression leading to the mass exit of young people into exile, providing the ANC with the vast majority of its troops in Umkhonto we Sizwe in the Cold War in Angola.
It was these non-Marxist, non-Russian communist-type young soldiers in the June 16 and Moncada detachments of MK during the Cold War in Angola who made an independent decision on democratic grounds to withdraw from fighting on behalf of Angola’s Marxist MPLA regime against its UNITA adversaries, and returned to Viana camp outside Luanda in February 1984 to present their democratic demands to the MK High Command. They were then suppressed by armoured troops of the MPLA presidential guard, called in by the MK High Command, represented by Chris Hani.
These “76 generation” troops had been instructed at Novo Catengue camp that Steve Biko was a “CIA agent” by political commissar and former Fort Hare student, Francis Meli (birth name Allan Wellington Madolwana), who had received a PhD degree in the German Democratic Republic while his former Fort Hare colleagues were studying in the USSR. This was immediately prior to Biko’s murder by the apartheid regime’s security police in September 1977.
As Biko’s Wikipedia site states, even after his murder “Several figures associated with the ANC denigrated Biko during the 1980s. For instance, members of the ANC-affiliated United Democratic Front assembled outside Biko’s Ginsberg home shouting U-Steve Biko, I-CIA!, an allegation that Biko was a spy for the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).”
Biko’s biographer, Xolela Mangcu, recalled: “We would confront the crowds to defend Steve’s name, at the risk of our lives.” (Biko: A Biography, Tafelberg, 2012. p.295)
The ANC’s Quatro prison camp
In a democratic election at Viana camp, the “76 generation” troops chose individual fellow members as a Committee of Ten to represent their views in discussions with the MK High Command. After they surrendered their weapons rather than be massacred by the MPLA presidential guard, their ten elected representatives were tortured in Luanda State Security Prison by the ANC security department, known as Mbokodo (the grindstone), before being brutalised during four years in the ANC’s Quatro prison camp. Following the Crocker accords in November 1988, when the ANC was required to remove all its personnel from Angola, the majority of Quatro prisoners were taken as non-prisoners to Dakawa camp in Tanzania. As free ANC members, they conducted themselves energetically in developing facilities for themselves and fellow exiles, whom they had found on arrival in a dispirited condition.
In September 1989, all ANC exiles in Tanzania took part in democratic elections, choosing candidates by name for office in various committees. Two Quatro veterans – MweziTwala and Omry Makgoale – were elected as chair and secretary of the most senior ANC elected body in the country, the Regional Political Committee, while other Quatro veterans were elected to other committees. In late December 1989, only weeks before the unbanning of ANC, the response of the ANC NEC in Lusaka was to send two of it Fort Hare elite, Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela, to dissolve the elected committees.
This sinister omen for the future of South Africa was described below in the collective memoir drawn up by the Quatro veterans in Dakawa, Bandile Ketelo et al, “A miscarriage of democracy”, which I was able to publish in London in a banned exile magazine, Searchlight South Africa, in July 1990, also republished in my book, Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO (Jacana, 2009).
Under instruction from the NEC, Chris Hani and Stanley Mabizela arrived in Tanzania from the HQ shortly thereafter and called for ANC community meetings in Mazimbu, and on 24 December 1989, in Dakawa. At these meetings, Stanley Mabizela announced the decision of the NEC concerning groups of people who had been imprisoned by the ANC. There were three categories that they mentioned:
1. A group of self-confessed enemy agents who had been imprisoned and released unconditionally. These had a right to take part and even occupy office in ANC structures;
2. A group of enemy agents who had been imprisoned and released conditionally. These had no right to take office in the structures of the movement; and 3. A group of 1984 mutineers who had been imprisoned by the ANC. These were also not allowed to take office in ANC structures. And hence, he concluded, the NEC had decided to dissolve the RPC. He then instructed the communities to support and strengthen the Interim RPC. …
At the meeting at Dakawa on 24 December, Chris Hani felt he could not tolerate the confrontation and howled from the rostrum at those who challenged the decision. ‘The decision is unchallenged, it is an order from the NEC’, he shouted, beating the table with his fist. A commotion ensued as Hani’s security tried to arrest those who talked, and a reinforcement of the armed Tanzanian Field Force was called to the hall by Samson Donga.
The meeting ended in confusion and the whole community was astonished by the autocratic behaviour of that ANC leadership delegation. On 28 December a paper was circulated, officially banning nine members of different committees in Dakawa This time again, those who sought the democratisation of the ANC were arrogantly silenced by a decree from the strong opponents of apartheid undemocracy.
This was followed six months later on 11 June 1990 by the murder in Mthatha, carried out by two of Chis Hani’s bodyguards, of the Quatro veteran, Sipho Phungulwa, and the attempted murder alongside him of his Quatro companion, Luthando Dyasop, who describes the event in his memoir, Out of Quatro: From Exile to Exoneration (Kwela Books, 2021). I published an account of what happened according to what Quatro veterans sent me, in the article published in Searchlight South Africa in January 1991:
On the day of the appointment, when the comrades [Phungulwa and Dyasop] arrived in the office they were told that the man they were supposed to meet was not present and therefore they were asked to wait a bit. When the comrades realised it was getting late they began to leave, but officials insisted that they should wait until six o’clock as there was going to be a meeting and the man they were looking for would surely attend. But as the comrades could not wait any longer they left.
Outside the office there was a car with two occupants who sternly looked at them. On their way to the location they saw the same car following their taxi. At the point of their destination, the car overtook and blocked the taxi and that was where Sipho Phungulwa was shot. Dyasop managed to flee and tell the story. (“A death in South Africa: The killing of Sipho Phungulwa”, Searchlight South Africa, January 1991).
This was clearly an official ANC assassination, as confirmed at the TRC hearing on 20 April 1998 by the assassin, Mfanelo Matshaya. His evidence to the TRC, followed by Dyasop’s, makes it clear that under the administration in Transkei of General Bantu Holomisa, ANC had complete freedom to kill those it wished to kill.
The ’76 generation fights for democracy
The conflict between ANC’s top-down command structure and the efforts of the “76 generation” to create democratic accountability of leaders to members – with enduring significance for today – was best expressed in Sipho Phungulwa’s words, as I reported in Searchlight South Africa in January 1991 and re-published in 2009 in my book, Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and Swapo (Jacana).
Phungulwa fought alongside his prison comrades from Quatro to reverse this system of administrative decree. At the annual general meeting of the Zonal Youth Committee (ZYC) in Dakawa on 14 December  – in the presence of the SACP leader Rusty Bernstein, of the Regional Department of Political Education – he argued that ANC officials should not dictate ‘who should be elected’.
He opposed the idea that individuals elected to the RPC should agree to participate in an appointed ‘dummy structure’. A person who was elected by the people, he stated, ‘should serve the interests of the electorate not certain individuals. As the ANC has taught us, we should elect people of our choice’, (minutes, signed by the ZYC administrative secretary, Neville Gaba, 28 December 1989) [Inside Quatro, p.54]
Phungulwa’s words give a clear picture of how the ANC’s Soviet-type command system in exile continues in South Africa’s parliamentary system of cadre deployment, up to today. The post-apartheid, party-list system of proportional representation excludes voters from having the power to “elect people of our choice”, who will “serve the interests of the electorate, not certain individuals.”
Voters in South Africa remain blocked from choosing “who should be elected.” Black voters remain excluded from the power held by white voters under apartheid’s racially restricted constituency system, in which even a prime minister, General Jan Smuts, was removed from parliament as an MP by voters in his constituency in 1948.
It is the powerlessness of voters to choose their own MPs and provincial councillors that gives ANC party bosses the power of cadre deployment.
There will be no proper democracy, and no check on corruption, state capture and the demolition of South Africa’s inherited infrastructure, without proper electoral reform.
Stalin rules OK. Cadres decide everything.
A looter continua….