Suttner’s Apartheid Experience Needs Balance And Context

Raymond Suttner’s experiences as an opponent of the apartheid government are significant for a variety of reasons. The re-issue of his book (Mercury, June 14) is a worthy contribution to the history of South Africa prior to 1994.

His pain, privation and incarceration on account of his beliefs and his association with those opposed to apartheid deserve admiration regardless of one’s political moorings. Equally of merit is the fact that despite his contribution to that struggle, Suttner is not a blind adherent to the ANC and has distanced himself from the corruption and scandals which

have engulfed the ANC under Jacob Zuma.

However, for the tapestry of history to be fleshed out requires balance and context, otherwise it becomes one-sided and is exploited for propaganda reasons.  Raymond Suttner has proved durable and enduring and a survivor. He has lived to tell his story. Many of his comrades were not so fortunate.

Among those comrades were many whose demise was not at the hands of the apartheid security police but rather at the hands of the ANC’s Mbokodo security officers. In what was called detention centres in Tanzania and Angola, cadres who were deemed “undisciplined” or  “enemy agents”  were subjected to horrific torture and interrogation using methods learned from the East German communist Stasi. Countless cadres suffered gruesome deaths as a result.

All the big names in the ANC and SACP were aware of those human rights violations and were party to such policy as the Shishita purges. The facts are contained in External Mission: the ANC in exile by Stephen Ellis published by  Jonathan Ball in 2012.

Ironically, unlike Suttner who survived, there were few if any who survived the horrors of those ANC liberation camps to regale  Mercury readers with their experiences or would risk doing so. Nonetheless, in the interests of historical balance and context, equal publicity should be afforded to their fates.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 16 June 2017.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *