07 January 2008

Nothing but the truth

I recently finished reading Nothing but the truth, by Ben Turok.

Ben Turok was a member of the Communist Party and the Congress of Democrats in the 1950s, was jailed for attempted sabotage in the 1960s and went into exile, first in Tanzania and later in Britain, where he was expelled from the Communist Party.

He returned to South Africa in the 1990s after the unbanning of the ANC and other opposition groups, and after the first democratic elections in 1994 was a member of the Gauteng provincial legislature, and later a member of parliament.

Perhaps the chief value of the book, as a political memoir, is that it provides some history os struggle politics in the 1960s, which was hidden to most South Africans, since many of the people in a position to record such history were banned, and therefore not allowed to write about such things, nor was anyone allowed to read them. Apart from that, little was recorded because of the need to keep activities secret and out of the hands of the Security Police. As Turok notes, most of those who participated in the activities of the banned Community Party and Congress of Democrats are dead, and he is one of the few survivors in a position to record what happened.

Another thing I found interesting was his inside view of some of the first things that happened after the ANC came to power in 1994. This was a different situation, the era of democracy and transparency and there was no need to hide things from the Security Police. But Turok nonetheless manages to throw some light on some mysteries, such as what happened to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). In a TV interview at a victory party when it became clear that the ANC had won the 1994 election Nelson Mandela emphasised that the RDP was not negotiable, yet within a year it had been abandoned, and the ANC had become Thatcherist.

The full story of that probably has yet to be told, but the consequences of the abandonment of the RDP are still being felt today, among them the support of Cosatu for Jacob Zuma, I suspect that the consequences will be felt in South African politics for a long time to come.


Unknown said...

Hi Steve
It would be interesting to hear what he thinks of the Zuma-takeover. He is also of course also involve in the New Agenda, a South African Journal of Social and Economic Policy.
Seeing you at the SAMS conference ??

South African Scenic Beauty said...

It always intresting to read about other people who were involved in the apartheid struggle, I am intending on buying the book, thank you.

Steve Hayes said...


I don't know about Ben Turok, but I have little hope that JZ will revive the RDP. But it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised on that score.

digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for this post. I need to buy a copy and read it.

I have been enjoying Feinstein's "After the party" (as I mentioned in a recent post).

Steve Hayes said...

I got it cheap at Fascination Books in Brooklyn Mall, where it was remaindered (Fascination seem to specialise in remaindered books nowadays). I probably wouldn't have bought it if it weren't so cheap, but it's definitely worth a read if you're interested in South African history in the second half of the 20th century.


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