The following is a direct translation of the following Afrikaans article : "Wat gebeur as mense só dink"
THE abuse and rewriting of history for the sake of political gain is as old as mankind itself.
This week I am quoting this jewel from the recently published book by Tom Holland about the origins of Islam, In the Shadow of the Sword: He discusses the world wherein Islam arose in the seventh century after Christ - the Byzantine and Persian Empire, as well as the rich theological development of the exiled Jews in Mesopotamia. He discovered that the Persians at that time had lost virtually all knowledge about the illustrious founder of the empire, Kuros (Cyrus of the Bible), in the sixth century BC already. This in contrast to the Greeks in the Byzantine Empire, whose memory of Kuros was very alive. Why?
Simply because successive Persian kings monopolized the history writing and ensured the repeated rewriting thereof to strengthen their own power. Historians were employed by the king and had to answer to him.
In contrast, the historian in Greco-Roman tradition was independent and was able to research and document history as accurately as possible. The names of people like Herodotos, Tukidides, Polubios, Cornelius Tacitus and Suetonius still serve as valuable sources.
From here I jump to a particular sentence in Rian Malan's devastating review of prof. Willie Esterhuyse's book "Eindstryd" about the latter's experience in the preparatory talks with the ANC that led to the breakthrough of 1990 - '94.
He believes that Esterhuyse and others "was not born able to admit that his disapproval of apartheid blinded him to the true nature of those who tried to overthrow it."
Let us agree that apartheid, as the NP government applied it right from the beginning, was immoral. Logic then dictates that those who argue against it are morally right, and those who defend the policy, are morally wrong.
Correct? Not necessarily. It depends on what the protesters wanted to replace apartheid with and how they wanted to do it. Historical sources allow no misunderstanding: They wanted to replace apartheid with a Leninist one-party dictatorship like that of the Soviet Union and Cuba, among others through random terrorism.
Since 1990 the ANC has, like the Persian kings of old, been doing its best to rewrite history. The movement's submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the epitome of hypocrisy.
Thabo Mbeki was part of it. It is true that in the second half of the 1980s he realized terrorism works perversely and he also adopted a less ideological attitude towards Marxist-Leninism. But sources show that earlier in the decade he was an avid supporter of terrorism and that he was even the father of the idea that South Africa should be made ungovernable.
Mbeki's terms of office show that he had left the rigid communist approach behind. But he, like his fellow ANC's, never let go of their desire to get a complete grip on all spheres of life in the country. And they did not utilise that power to the benefit of their fellow poor black countrymen. If you look at the deeds underneath the layer of sugar-coated words, many did it just to plunder the state for personal gain.
I guess that's why Rian Malan so angry. He and others (I include myself in this circle) are adherents to the Greek-Roman tradition of independent history writing. It seems to me that the Persian tradition, resounding in the African imbongi-tradition, still reigns supreme within the ANC.
Dr. Leopold Scholtz is Media24's correspondent in Europe.