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A MISCARRIAGE OF DEMOCRACY:
THE ANC SECURITY DEPARTMENT IN THE 1984 MUTINY IN
UMKHONTO WE SIZWE
Bandile Ketelo, Amos Maxongo, Zamxolo Tshona, Ronnie
Massango and Luvo Mbengo
Prelude to Mutiny
On 12 January 1984, a strong delegation of ANC National Executive Com
mittee members arrived at Caculama, the main training centre of Umkhonto
we Sizwe (MK) in the town of Malanje, Angola. In the past, such a visit by
the ANC leadership—including its top man, the organization's president,
Oliver Tambo—would have been prepared for several days, or even weeks,
before their actual arrival. Not so this time. This one was both an emergency
and a surprise visit.
It was not difficult to guess the reason for such a visit. For several days,
sounds of gunfire had been filling the air almost every hour of the day at
Kangandala, near Malanje, and just about 80 kilometres from Caculama,
where President Tambo and his entourage were staying. The combatants of
MK had refused to go into counter-insurgency operations against the forces
of the Union for Total Independence of Angola (Unita) in the civil war in
Angola and defied the security personnel of the ANC. They had decided to
make their voice of protest more strongly by shooting randomly into the air.
It was pointed out to all the commanding personnel in the area that the
shooting was not meant to endanger anybody's life, but was just meant to be
a louder call to the ANC leadership to address themselves afresh to the
desperate problems facing our organization.
Clearly put forward also was that only Tambo, the president of the ANC,
Joe Slovo the chief- of- staff of the army and Chris Hani, then the army
commissar, would be welcome to attend to these issues. An illusory idea still
lingered in the minds of the MK combatants that most of the wrong things in
our organization happened without the knowledge of Tambo, and that given
a clear picture of the situation, he would act to see to their solution.
Joe Slovo, now secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP),
had himself risen to prominence among the new generation as a result of the
daring combat operations which MK units had carried out against the racist
regime. In 1983 the SACP quarterly, the African Communist, had carried an
article by Slovo about J.B.Marks, another of the ANC/SACP leaders, who
had died in Moscow inl972. That article, emphasizing democracy in the
liberation struggle, was a fleeting glance into some of the rarely talked-of
episodes in the proceedings of the Morogoro Consultative Conference of the
ANC, held in Tanzania in 1969. It might have been written for a completely
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