“RENEWAL OF THE ANC – THE CADRE WE WANT, THE CADRE THAT ANTON WAS, THE CADRE WE SHOULD BE”
LECTURE BY THE ANC TREASURER GENERAL, PAUL MASHATILE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE ANTON FRANSCH MEMORIAL COMMEMORATION
The family of Comrade Anton Fransch
NEC Members, here present
Leaders of provincial and regional structures of the ANC
Our hosts, the membership and leadership of the ANC Ward 49 Trojan Horse branch and the ANC Ward 31 Anton Fransch branch
Comrades from other ANC branches, regions and zones
The leadership of the COSAS, the ANC Youth League, the ANC Women’s League and the ANC Veterans League
Leaders of the Alliance, here present
Comrades and Friends:
Thank you very much for the opportunity to deliver this Lecture on Comrade Anton Fransch. I am truly honoured.
On that fateful day, the 17th of November 1989, a young freedom fighter who grew up in the streets of this community, fell in an epic battle with the apartheid security forces.
In an extraordinary act of bravery, at a tender age of 20 years, Anton single-handedly engaged in battle with the enemy for more than 7 hours, in what became known as the Battle of Athlone.
This was an act of the highest honour – an act of fortitude and an act of ultimate sacrifice.
This year marks the 33rd Anniversary of the Battle of Athlone.
This Battle is forever etched in our hearts and minds as one of the defining moments in our liberation struggle.
It symbolises victory over apartheid aggression and brutality.
It symbolises youthful courage, and a determination to defeat the enemy against all odds.
Comrades, our presence here today is to make a bold statement that: we shall never forget!
We are also here to reaffirm that Comrade Anton Fransch – the martyr of Athlone – is one of us.
In us, his spirit lives on.
On this special day, we reiterate that the many heroic struggles waged by communities of Athlone, Bonteheuwel and Michell’s Plein, here in the Western Cape; Eesterus, Eldorado Park and Riverlea in Gauteng; Newlands East, Wentworth in KZN, and many other parts of our country remain an integral part of our liberation struggle.
These communities played no small part in the attainment of our freedom.
They too deserve to share fully in the benefits of this freedom.
When we say we are building a Better life for All, we include them.
WHO WAS ANTON FRANSCH?
Those who knew Comrade Anton, closely, describe him as kind and gentle.
He loved life and was deeply loved by everyone who knew him.
He had a heart of gold.
He was willing to help others. He was fearless. He was loyal to the end.
Comrade Anton was a young person, who grew up in the normal circumstances of this community but did extra-ordinary things for his movement – the African National Congress – his community and his country.
For that we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
His best friend described him as “a guerrilla of a special type and of a special calibre.” We couldn’t agree more.
Comrade Anton belonged to that militant generation of young people worthy of the high accolade: “Young Lions.”
They responded to the call by President O.R. Tambo to render apartheid unworkable, and South Africa ungovernable.
These young people faced a stark choice: Freedom or Death. They insisted on freedom in their lifetime.
This gallant fighter, Comrade Anton, was born and raised in Bonteheuwel, here in the Western Cape.
He grew up during a time when the struggle against apartheid colonialism was at its peak.
This was also a time when the apartheid regime responded with brutal force and severe repression to the struggles of ordinary people.
Like many youth people in Bonteheuwel, Comrade Anton was inspired by another hero of our liberation struggle, Ashley Kriel, to join the struggle at a very early age.
He joined the Congress of South African Students at Modderdam High.
He later joined the Bonteheuwel Military Wing.
He was instrumental in mobilising thousands of young people in the fight against apartheid.
By the age of 16, Anton had already been detained several times.
He became a wanted fugitive, and the police regularly raided his family’s home, searching for him.
At that time many of his comrades had already been arrested, tortured, murdered or disappeared.
In September 1986 at the age of 17, Anton secretly left the country for Angola where he underwent specialist military training.
He received training in weapons, explosives engineering, communications, first-aid, urban and guerrilla warfare.
He led troops into several successful military operations against the apartheid army and their ally, UNITA.
In 1989, Comrade Anton returned to South Africa to set up new military cells and intensify the armed struggle in the Western Cape.
It was whilst living in a safe house in Church Street, in Athlone, when he was confronted by enemy forces, in the cover of the night.
This brave young soldier of our people’s army – Umkhonto weSizwe – fought back gallantly.
He pushed back for more than 7 hours.
He succumbed to a hand grenade that was thrown into the room he was held up in.
Comrade Anton paid the ultimate price in order for us to be free!
His was a defiant death.
It emboldened freedom fighters countrywide.
Anton died with his boots on, in selfless service to his country and its people.
His name is synonymous with heroism and patriotism.
It embodies the spirit of no retreat, no surrender.
Up to this day, his battle cry, as he was fighting the enemy: Ko haal my as julle kan” – (“Come and get me if you can!”) echoes in our hearts and minds.
It galvanises us to face our challenges head-on.
It removes fear in our hearts.
It propels us to forge ahead even as the challenges may seem overwhelming.
Anton is one of those comrades to whom we look up to for inspiration in our moments of sadness, anxiety, fear and doubt.
When we say we stand on the shoulders of giants, we refer to comrades of Anton’s calibre.
Comrades lets us draw comfort in the knowledge that men and women like Comrade Anton never die.
They become a part of who we are.
They assure us that ours is a worthy and noble cause.
DEFENDING THE PROUD LEGACY OF ANTON FRANSCH
Comrade Anton left us a proud legacy. We must defend and deepen it.
As part of defending Anton’s legacy, we call on government to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to his brutal death.
We know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission only heard the version of the police. We need the whole truth!
Those responsible for Comrade Anton’s death must be held accountable. They must face the full might of the law.
We welcome the re-opening of the inquest into the murder of Ashley Kriel and Imam Haroun by the National Prosecuting Authority.
We now await the inquest into Anton Fransch’s death.
Comrade Anton must also receive the recognition he deserves as a true hero of our struggle for liberation.
His story must continue to be told.
Equally, his family must be fully supported to enable them to heal from their deep wounds and scars.
The conditions of poverty, unemployment and deprivation – conditions that forced Anton to join the struggle at young age – must be dealt with urgently and decisively.
The ANC of Anton Fransch must make it its mission that no young person grows up in the same circumstances that Anton grew up in.
This requires that we win the war on unemployment, poverty and under-development.
We must also win the war against rising costs of living, crime, drug and alcohol abuse as well as gender-based violence.
The delivery of quality services, and the provision of opportunities for sustainable livelihoods must transcend barriers of colour, race or creed.
They must reach all South Africans, including communities of Athlone, Bonteheuwel and Michell’s Plein, Gugulethu and Langa here in the Western Cape.
RENEWAL AND UNITY OF THE ANC
Comrades, the best tribute we can offer to Comrade Anton is to intensify the genuine renewal and rebuilding of the ANC.
We must make this our generational mission – and we dare not fail in it.
We have made some progress in renewing and rebuilding our movement.
However, we must act with greater purpose and urgency going forward.
We need to renew the ANC in order to restore its relevance, and to narrow the social distance with the people.
Renewal will enhance the ANC’s capability and credibility as an effective force for transformation and a trusted agent for change.
A renewed ANC is an ANC that is not pre-occupied with itself and its internal dynamics.
It is an ANC that is in touch with communities – an ANC that is responsive to the needs of the people.
Renewal requires that we deal decisively with the reality that many of our structures are in a poor state.
They are focused on internal organizational conflicts, factionalism and furthering the self-interest of individual leaders.
They have abandoned the people they are meant to serve. We must reverse this!
Renewal is also about renewing our commitment to the values of the ANC including hard work, honesty, selflessness, democratic debate, discipline, criticism and self-criticism.
It is about strengthening the organisational culture, winning the fight against corruption and building an ethical movement.
Furthermore, renewal is about modernising the ANC.
A renewed ANC will demand accountability from its leadership and deployees in government.
Within a renewed ANC, members will be able to debate issues without retribution, in appropriate forums of the organisation.
Renewal also means that the ANC must recommit to its non-racial values and traditions.
It must be a home for all – a true Parliament of the people of South Africa.
Part of the renewal process must also include strengthening branches of the ANC – the nucleus of our organization.
All branches must have clear programmes of action, including sustained political education of members.
ANC branches also have a responsibility to lead and give direction to the daily struggles of communities.
Our branches must never be absent in the midst of challenges facing communities.
We must be the first point of call for communities when they face problems.
ANC members must participate actively not only in ANC branch meetings, but also in other organs of people’s power such as School Governing Bodies, Community Policing Forums, meetings of civic associations, local sports bodies and ward committees.
This will ensure that the ANC’s transformation agenda finds expression at all levels of the community.
As we renew and revive our movement, let us also recommit ourselves to uniting our movement.
Unity is the very basis upon which our organization was founded. It is, therefore, sacrosanct!
It is a fundamental principle and pillar on which as the ANC we stands or falls.
Let us also make it clear that we are not pursuing unity for its own sake.
Ours is principled unity, based on shared values and a single-mindedness towards the success of the National Democratic Revolution.
Comrades, it is only a renewed and united ANC that will allow us to say, when faced with difficulty; Ko haal my as jullle kan” (“Come and get me if you can!”), like Comrade Anton Fransch did, 33 years ago.
THE CADRE WE WANT
In this era where our movement has been weakened on many fronts, as a result of both subjective and objective factors, we need more comrades of the calibre of Anton.
Drawing lessons from his life of sacrifice, we need cadres who are driven by a genuine desire to serve selflessly.
We need brave cadres. We need decisive cadres. We need cadres who are dedicated and loyal to the cause, even in difficult moments.
We need cadres who, like Comrade Anton, care deeply about others – cadres who can supress the self in order for the collective to emerge.
We need revolutionaries of a special type and of a special calibre like Comrade Anton.
We also need cadres who are genuinely committed to the unity, renewal and rebuilding of the African National Congress.
Young people in particular must draw lessons from Comrade Anton.
He was young and was prepared to take his destiny into his own hands.
He sought to be the change he wanted to see.
Young people must follow in the footsteps of Comrade Anton. They must write their own history. They must shape their own future.
In all they do young people must, like Comrade Anton did, act with utmost revolutionary discipline.
They must understand that militancy and bravery do not equate to ill-discipline.
Comrades, the cadre we want is also a cadre that takes personal responsibility to advance their own academic and political development.
This will improve the quality of our membership.
It will also equip our members with tools of analysis to correctly diagnose problems and offer appropriate solutions.
It will enable members to engage, effectively, in the battle of ideas.
THE CADRE WE SHOULD BE
Comrades, interventions by our movement to develop a cadre that is fit for purpose date back many years.
For instance, in the 1985 January 8th Statement, we declared the year, 1985, as the Year of the Cadre.
In defining what a cadre is, we asserted that: “The distinctive feature of the revolutionary cadre is a high level of discipline, dedication and courage in carrying out the tasks assigned by the movement.”
We further stated that: “The strength of any organization lies in the calibre of its individual members and units…. We need cadres of unquestionable loyalty, dedication and understanding of our struggle.”
The year 1997 was declared “A Year for Re-Affirming the ANC Cadre”.
We said: “The democratic breakthrough of April 1994 must now be decisively consolidated and taken forward. Central to this will be rekindling a sense of a common moral vision, a new patriotism and a collective effort to transform our country. Absolutely central to all of that is the ANC and the re-affirming of the ANC cadre.”
The 53rd National Conference pronounced on the “Decade of the Cadre”, which comes to end in 2023.
In implementing the “Decade of the Cadre” we committed to a decade-long-programme of organizational renewal to safeguard the core values of the ANC and strengthen its transformative capacity.
Our commitment to the “Decade of the Cadre” was in recognition that the absence of cadre development was at the heart of most of the weaknesses and challenges faced by our movement in the post-1994 era.
Most significantly we said in this decade we want a cadre that is:
- Ideologically rooted and schooled in ANC politics
- Skilled and competent to undertake assigned tasks
- Ethical and
Comrades, in addition to cadres that we want as part of the Decade of the Cadre, we need cadres who exhibit high levels of dedication and courage; cadres of unquestionable loyalty and understanding of our struggle; and cadres with a common moral vision, a new patriotism and a collective effort to transform our country.
All of these are the values that Comrade Anton Fransch possessed in abundance.
He lived and died for them.
It is these values that we are today called upon to embrace as we renew unite and rebuild our movement.
These values must also carry us as we advance towards our 55th National Conference.
Comrades, let us follow in the footsteps of Comrade Anton Fransch.
Let us emulate his life of service and sacrifice.
Let his death not be in vain. Let it inspire us to serve all the people of South Africa with equal dedication.
Long live the undying spirit of Comrade Anton Fransch!