Legacies in sharp contrast

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THE passing away of two world figures will be focused on in the media over the next few weeks. One is a South African freedom struggle hero, whose life was ended by assassination 20 years ago, cruelly on the eve of the advent of the democracy that he (and others) had dedicated his life to and for which he paid the ultimate price.

The other an iron-fisted prime minister, who ruled one of the world’s most influential countries for more than a decade, lived out a baroness’s opulent life thereafter and eventually died this week at the age of 87.

Their legacies cannot be any more different: Chris Hani will forever be remembered as a champion of the poor and working class; Margaret Thatcher as one whose policies, governance and intransigent style – while earning her the title of “Iron Lady” — were unambiguous enemies of the poor and working class.

A lot, of course, will be said and written about Thatcher and opinion-makers will claim differing “perspectives” in their respective (positive and negative) assessments of her leadership of Great Britain, both in terms of how it affected the citizenry of the country and the rest of the world. Some commentators have referred to Thatcher as one who championed “freedom”.

With due respect to such commentators, I think this is stretching the imagination a tad too far. Whatever her personal views, Thatcher’s prime ministership resulted in a complete decimation of the rights of workers in that country, wholesale privatisation of the people’s assets and far-reaching right-wing policies.

It is extremely difficult to understand how anyone who actively armed and supported Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, which slaughtered millions of innocent Cambodians, Augusto Pinochet’s brutal and illegitimate rule of Chile, as well as the tyrannical and heinous apartheid government of PW Botha, can be attributed the term “freedom”. Thatcher’s policies, decisions and actions as a world leader were anathema to any element of freedom.

In the case of South Africa, yes it is true that Thatcher used publicly to state that race discrimination (apartheid) was wrong, but in the very same breath she would inexplicably praise Botha for having taken great strides in “dismantling” apartheid. Yes, some may say that she (and the British government at the time) had a right — however misplaced — to have their “own” policy and approach on how to deal with the scourge of apartheid.

But, besides the telling exception of fellow collaborator Ronald Reagan, of the US, could the rest of the world, at that time, been wrong? Or were the intelligence services of Britain and the US so “unintelligent” at the time, so as to render their leaders totally oblivious to the machinations, despicability and murderousness of apartheid?

Thatcher’s (together with Reagan’s) ill-gotten perspectives on apartheid, continual support of and dealings with the unbearably oppressive Botha regime, and the snubbing of the liberation movements of South Africa et al, directly resulted in democracy being delayed in our country by at least 10 years and the furtherance of the sufferings of the people of South Africa. Without Thatcher (and Reagan) “1994” could easily have read “1984”.

Were that the case, Hani – bless his dear soul – may still have been around to sate in the democracy he had sacrificed and fought for, and actively contribute to the building of a better, more prosperous South Africa!

Condolences are extended to the family, friends and right-wing fraternity on the passing away of Thatcher.

On the 20th anniversary of Hani’s assassination, we honour and remember his life, activism and championing of freedoms for the poor and working class.

At the same time, we unfondly remember all those who actively contributed to the negation of such freedoms.

Roland Williams, Kragga Kamma, Port Elizabeth

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