06/06/2018 07:48 BST | Updated 06/06/2018 08:21 BST

EFF Attack On Momoniat: Why Floyd Shivambu Needs A Lesson In History

Floyd Shivambu has tried to paint Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat as a corrupt person who undermines black people, but history tells a different story.



From being a "national security threat", a racist who undermines Africans, a neoliberal, part of a "cabal" that sought to undermine the Mass Democratic Movement, and more, Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat has been accused of just about every crime a politician can commit this week.

But the allegations against him don't quite hold up to closer scrutiny.

Floyd Shivambu, EFF chief whip in Parliament, sparked the controversy when he questioned Momoniat's constant presence in finance committee meetings, accusing him of undermining "African" officials at Treasury.

The racial attack on Momoniat continued in a statement by the EFF which included the allegation that:

"Momoniat has no regard for black, particularly African leadership in National Treasury and this includes his disrespect of Director General and African Ministers and Deputy Ministers (sic). To him, leadership that deserves respect is only those of Indian, Coloured or White origin. In virtually everything that National Treasury does, Momoniat dictates."

On Twitter, Shivambu then turned to the O'Mally Archives, where he relied on a document which alleged the presence of a "cabal" of Indian anti-apartheid activists in the 1970s and 1980s, insinuating further that Momoniat had a history of undermining black people.

The document in question, from March 1990, details factional difficulties experienced by various anti-apartheid structures, the ANC and the UDF, in the apartheid years. It is specifically labelled as not for public consumption, and clearly marked as "incomplete".

It details an inquiry that was held into allegations that a loose "cabal" made up of mostly Indian cadres, which was operating within the various structures, undermined senior leaders and created divisions.

"We firstly discussed the effect of the existence of a cabal within the UDF and were unanimous in our belief that it manipulates strategy, lacks democratic practices and stifles free and open debate necessary for the growth of organisation and for the advance of the struggle. We also understand the problem to be a serious one both because of the deep suspicion and widespread dissatisfaction within the MDM, and the public disclosure of the problem following the NIC conference. We are convinced that the cabal issue is a very real and national problem that needs to be formally addressed by the MDM and the ANC with a realisation that the problem, is it currently exists, seriously hampers our ability to advance closer to our goal of liberation," the document states.

The "cabal" reportedly included well-respected cadres such as Pravin Gordhan, Amos Masondo, Zac Yacood, Dullah Omar and Ebrahim Patel. Momoniat is also named.

But the document also details the chaotic, factionalised nature of the movement at the time, and the cabal is described as more a factional problem than something more sinister, as suggested by Shivambu.

The document clearly locates the problem within the movement's difficulties at the time:

"We also stress that the problem of the cabal is an aspect of broader problems relating to our organisations. This includes lack of democracy, the dependency on sectoral organisation, weak structures, etc," its authors state.

The "cabal" reportedly included well-respected cadres such as Pravin Gordhan, Amos Masondo, Zac Yacood, Dullah Omar and Ebrahim Patel. Momoniat is also named.

But Twitter soon came to Momoniat's defence, and it was pointed out that the O'Malley Archives, in their totality, don't quite paint the picture that Shivambu would like.

As HuffPost editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee pointed out that, perhaps Shivambu should have read further.

In another document from the O'Malley archives, this time dated December 1990, Momoniat tells an interviewer that the "cabal" allegations were "a lot of nonsense". He explained that there were tensions between younger comrades, especially those who wanted to see the Indian Congress revived, and only ones who "were afraid to take risks", understandably, due to their experiences.

This resulted in a "lot of infighting" and to-and-fro allegations that people were spies, "or blah, blah, blah", he said. But the younger group came together and "pushed" the movement. In the lengthy interview, well over 10 000 words, Momoniat explains in fine detail the position of the movement of the time, the activities they undertook, the issues involved, as well as the enthusiasm and commitment of the comrades involved. He also explains the activities of people like Pravin Gordhan, the underground movement, meetings abroad, and the formation of the UDF.

The level of detail and the extent of Momoniat's involvement in the struggle against apartheid makes the "cabal" document look like a footnote to history.

In responding to the "cabal" allegations and detailing the activities of the younger group, Momoniat continues: "I don't know if you remember, for example, the way we projected the Freedom Charter, in that it was the first campaign that projected the Charter very, very extensively. We used to go to every town; we used to start to send our activists there, get them to do mass work a few days before, a week before, go door-to-door, call them to meetings. I mean, at meetings, we would use Congress symbols. We would - you know, OK, you couldn't talk openly about the ANC, but you would get Albertina Sisulu, unbanned for a few months, she would address our first meeting; we would garland her; talk about the Freedom Charter, talk about Luthuli. So, you know, there was a lot of that. And songs began to emerge. And although in the Indian community, they couldn't really sing a lot of these songs, we would get comrades from the townships who would come and sing and really give this thing that really clear bent."

Momoniat's more recent history was also explained by Haffajee and other journalists on Twitter, who pointed out his efforts to stamp out maladministration.

Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganago also defended Momoniat.

In a comment piece by Business Day deputy editor Carol Paton, Shivambu's motives in attacking Momoniat on the basis of race are called into question.

"Leaving aside for a moment the EFF's racial campaign against white officials, there are other dimensions to the attacks on the Treasury that expose this as more of a political than an ethical concern. One of these is the EFF's support for VBS Bank. The party recently wrote to Nene, Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane and the Reserve Bank to lobby them against putting VBS into curatorship, despite evidence of its enormous failure and possible fraud. It has also taken up a partisan role regarding the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

"It sunk a discussion in the standing committee on finance on the controversy surrounding the PIC's proposed investment in Iqbal Surve's Sagarmatha," she wrote.