Mmegi Blogs :: A rare privilege!
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Friday 20 January 2017, 10:31 am.
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A rare privilege!

I was invited and participated in a historic conference in Algiers whose theme was: Algeria’s contribution to the decolonisation of Africa. The conference convened in Algiers, capital city from November 29–30; delegates came from the four cardinal points of Africa, East, West, North and South.
By Michael Dingake Tue 13 Dec 2016, 16:02 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: A rare privilege!








Notably, delegates weren’t ruling party official representatives, but men and women who had participated in liberation movements across Africa during the hurly-burly of the decolonisation era. By a rare privilege, I was counted among those who had had a minute input then. My gratitude goes to whoever recommended my name, the Algerian Embassy in RSA who processed the invitation from the Government of the Peoples Republic  of Democratic Algeria and was kind enough to issue a 90-days visa to enable me to attend the historic conference and renew acquaintance with comrades I shared the political trenches at some stage. Not to forget the staff of El Aurassi Hotel who made my stay in Algiers a honeyed experience!  

I was excited to meet Comrade Masala, trained in Algeria post-Algeria independence, 1962, whose deployment back in the country after training, I was personally responsible for. His contribution to the underground work of ANC/MK was short-lived as he was nabbed within weeks of his  reinforcement stint. He was tried and sentenced to 11 years hard labour on Robben Island Prison where I was later to join the temporarily incarcerated in 1966!  Unfortunately, Comrade Masala and I never made contact on the island; he served in one section of the maximum jail and I in another! Meeting 52 years in a strange city more than 10,000 kilometres from Soweto where we had last met, was like meeting on the day of the resurrection, for the two of us; it rekindled brutish memories of the past whose treachery can only be forgiven under the authority of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,  but can never be forgotten! Another delegate from RSA, retired Major General Keith  Mokoape also brought back the receding vision of the bygone cursed days. Keith and I had met before, in a military camp-in-exile, but the poignancy of meeting here decades after our last meeting was triggered by the fact that he enquired about Ausi Shirley, the hostess who harboured him while he played hide-and-seek with apartheid secret agents in Botswana; Shirley by coincidence happens to be my neighbour down the road as I write! Keith  was full of praise and gratitude to her and other Batswana who voluntarily offered freedom fighters comfort  and security from  snooping agents  from  across the border.

He profusely apologised for his unpremeditated failure to pay her a courtesy visit to thank her; he pledges to rectify the accidental faux pais in the near future, now that he has time as a retiree. Verdict: Batswana are entitled to self-backslap for their role in decolonizsng Africa, and should

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stop self-effacement!

Comrade Ndlovu, Zimbabwean, near-relative since my Zimbabwe relatives are Tlou ((Ndlovu), regaled me with his experiences in ZIPRA during the Chimurenga days; was acquainted with niece who served in ZIPRA and continues in Uncle Bob’s army! Busi, granddaughter of Maggie and Robert Resha was another hail-fellow-well-met  delegate from RSA. 

She lectures at Wits and was able to fill me up on ‘#Fees must fall’ campaign trending in RSA at the moment. Her grand-father, Robert, was my comrade-in-arms during the “Asihambi campaign’’ against Sophiatown forced removals; he was the first ANC deployee/representative in Algeria in1963! From Namibia came Comrade Theo Gurirab of SWAPO with whom I shared anecdotes about our mutual Comrade Andimba Toivo ya Toivo! Algiers was indeed a rare privilege and opportunity to interact and catch up with the past during this Africa-history-in-progress!  Intriguingly stimulating occasion, all said and done. The Conference theme as stated above, was comprehensively addressed, appreciation duly falling on the Algerian role. The FLN (Front for National Liberation) role on continental decolonisation needn’t be exaggerated.

Nevertheless, the tempo injected by the Algerian revolution shouldn’t be underrated. Africa’s liberation struggle was originally guided by the normal constitutional, nonviolent, passive efforts easily ignored by the powers-that-be. FLN war-cry, “We prefer to be 10 million corpses rather than 10 million slaves,” lent a new impetus to the rest of the African liberation movements still struggling for  recognition.

Algerians were the first to depart from the well-trodden path to resort to armed struggle against foreign colonisers and succeed. Shortly after her independence, Algeria opened her doors to the deluge of African guerrilla training of peoples faced with colonial power intransigence!  The ANC Youth League, right from its inception toyed with armed struggle, but was discouraged by  logistical impediments no less than the suitable home-grown training centres.

Sympathetic  socialist countries were there, but constrained, cautious and diplomatic within the theatre of the cold war  international relations. Algeria, an African country, didn’t suffer the inhibition suffered by the socialist sympathisers. Algeria threw the doors of African guerrilla training wide open, the moment she became independent. MK and FAPLA from apartheid SA, ZIPRA and ZANLA from Zimbabwe, PLAN from Namibia, MPLA from Angola, FRELIMO from Mozambique and trainees from the rest of Portuguese and other colonial powers flocked to Algerian facilities to up decolonisation momentum! Algeria’s bold step of training African revolutionary armies made it easy for the previously hesitant Socialist sympathisers to come on board. The success of the Algerian revolution actively supported by Castro’s Cuba, radicalised and accelerated Africa’s decolonisation! Admittedly, political independence battle has been won.

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Tue 13 Dec 2016, 16:02 pm
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