Captain of the ‘Contradiction’

Max Ozinsky is one of my dearest friends and favorite people on the planet. We worked together in our young activist days, but made some different choices along the line. These days he’s chief whip of the ANC delegation in the Cape Provincial legislature, still involved in the cut and thrust of the ever-fractious politics of the Western Cape after all these years. But we go back to the time he was first thrown out of home by his father and came to live in the same student house as me. We worked together for years after that, although Max always displayed a far deeper, and infinitely more courageous, commitment than I ever did — as well as a substantial dose of the sheer malkopheid that makes an intractable revolutionary.

I’ll always remember one particular afternoon at UCT, when we were about to go out on one of an endless series of protest marches down to the grass verge alongside the highway, only to be sent scrambling for cover as the cops charged in with tear gas and batons — but this one was a little more tense, because the previous day the cops had ratcheted up the ante by firing shotguns — and Max took me aside, as we assembled to march, and opened his backpack, to reveal five glass bottles half full of gasoline, with rags stuffed in their tops, ready to be turned into Foreign Minister Molotov’s idea of an aperitif… “Are you fucking crazy?!!!” I blurted. These student marches were all about singing praise hymns to Mandela in quavering voices and then running at the first “whumpf” of a teargas cannister being fired, and here was my close friend and comrade about to start a war….

“It’s irresponsible, Max,” I ventured. “Adventurist.” None of my erudite pleas for restraint were registering. “If you’re going to the front of the march, I’m going to the back,” I said, hurrying to the rear of a line of shiny-faced young white students singing a song in Xhosa whose words translated as “when the sun goes down, we will meet in the bush with bazookas,” although I don’t think too many of them/us meant that. (Ironically, that day the cops sneaked up from behind, so my aversion to physical confrontation ended up costing me.)

My high-minded rationalizations had done little to camouflage the fact that Max’s inclination to stand and fight simply terrified me. His slight physique and gentle demeanor suggested anything but a hard man, but he had the bottle to trade licks with the regime’s enforcers. Within two years, he was undergoing guerrilla training in an ANC camp in Angola, and then slipping back into the country. Me, I was mostly editing magazines and writing analytical commentary. (Still am, I guess.)

Unlike myself and most of my generation who moved out of politics as soon as democracy was won in South Africa, Max remained as deeply — and militantly — committed as ever. And in this extended interview in the Cape Town daily Die Burger (translated from Afrikaans), he reflects on those turbulent, yet endlessly fascinating years through which we lived — Max more intensely than most of us.

Ozinsky: Struggler without a face by Willemien Brummer
Translation: Die Burger, Friday, 14 October 2005 (Ozinsky: Stryder
sonder ‘n gesig)

vula
On the cover of the book about Operation Vula, written by the Dutch anti-apartheid activist Connie Braam, are four different faces of the same man: a bearded, macho Rhodie who longs back to Rhodesia, a spectacled yuppie businessman and a wooly-haired resident of the Cape Flats. Far left is a picture of a pliant 26-year old with sad eyes and a beard. Max Ozinsky as he looked then.

Now, 16 years later, the beard and the pliantness are still there. Only the dark eyes found a certain peace.

Because since then, has Ozinsky not only shed his status as “master disguiser” who had every policeman in this country on his trail. He also became more important within the ANC during the past year. He was appointed Chief-whip in the provincial legislature and is the deputy secretary of the ANC in the province since the ANC’s provincial conference in June.

His critics imply that he is a Rasputin-like character- “the actual power behind the throne”.

jayba

At our meeting behind a polished up table in the spacious office of the ANC chief-whip, there is still something fragile in his appearance. He poses with shyness in a beige jersey and brown corduroy pants near an ANC flag and tells his story of resistance and life on the run.

His voice is soft and modest. “My father Joseph Ozinsky, was six months old when he had to escape with his family from Lithuania because of the anti-Semitism of the military dictatorship.”
His grandfather, a Polish hawker “who actually smuggled with diamonds between Poland and Russia”, established himself in Maitland and the young Joseph soon fell in love with an Afrikaans lady – a relationship that caused heated fights between in both families.

He smiles; answers in English: “I am more proud of my Afrikaans roots, even though one of my uncles is a commander in the AWB. The most interesting thing is that the man, who taught me to use a gun in MK, was involved in the murder on some of the farmers in Kirkwood where my mother grew up. It was on a neighbouring farm and I knew some of the victims.’

His voice is resigned. “It was war and I was a soldier. It is something you accept but not something that you celebrate.”

A photocopied medical article above his desk entitled: Professor J. Ozinsky and the World’s First Human Heart Transplant, catches my eye. I ask him about the role of his father, a distinguished anaesthetist. As well as his fallout with Prof Chris Barnard. A proud nod. “My father’s role was quite central because he had to keep the receiver of the heart alive – even when the patient had no
heart. The tension was partly due to all the publicity that Barnard received but there were also matters concerning Chris’s personal life.”

He seems uncomfortable. “It is difficult to talk about these things if you were not involved yourself.” I steer the discussion to his political career. Already in grade 12, he commanded a few school pals at the boys school SACS to also take part in a boycott in solidarity with the school boycott on the Cape Flats.

He frowns. “To my family, my political involvement meant trouble. It was only in 1991, when I received indemnity from prosecution that I realized why I did what I did.”

rhodie

That’s why his family threw him out of the house the first time he was arrested by the police during a student march. He was 17-years old and a mere three months into his BA-degree in the history of the economy at the University of Cape Town.

His face tightens. The policeman, major Dolf Odendaal said: ‘Vat die fokken moffies. Ek is gatvol vir hulle.’ We were taken to the offices of the security police where confiscated ANC placards and photo’s of weapons were all over the wall. It was obvious that they saw us as the ANC and there was soon no question about where we stood.” A pause. ‘Within a short space of time, things became extremely serious.”

Was he emotionally ready for it?

His shoulders parcel forward. “Those were extremely difficult times. We could not expect others to drive the revolution and fold our hands as Whites. For me and many others other it was quite clear that if you don’t want to fight for the South African Army, you must fight against them.

“Many of us never had a youth because everything was subjected to politics. I have never questioned the orders of ANC commanders and to reach your goal, we had to make sacrifices.”
A pause. “Even if it means that every policeman is on your trail and some family members would hand you to them with pleasure.”

Since he was 20-years old, when he joined the ANC, big parts of his life was underground. Two years later he was national media officer of the National Union of Students (NUSAS) and another year later, his girlfriend (now his ex-wife) was detained for six weeks because of her political activities.

It was then that he started to smuggle weapons to South Africa from Botswana over weekends; he even tried to plant a limpet mine at the Wynberg military base.

By this time everything was shady. With the police hot on his heels and almost all his ANC contacts behind bars, he married his girlfriend in Johannesburg. The next day, on 30 December 1987, he reported for duty at the ANC in Botswana.

I hear him sniff. “Apart from a brief encounter with her in Zimbabwe, I only saw her again in August 1990.” (Despite the fact the he stayed right under her and his parents’ noses in Cape Town as part of the very secretive Operation Vula.)

“It was probably stupid of me to get married a day before I had to flee but I did not want to disappear without any ties with the outside world.”

His voice is almost begging. “I was in love with her. It was a crazy time. I did a very mad things that year like smuggling weapons without any real military training and disguise.

“We both knew what we did but politics took its giant toll. Even when I got indemnity, politics continued to be a major player in our divorce.”

His eyes are sad; there is a catch in his voice. “I remember that we agreed to meet in George in March 1990 but Vula was uncovered and I had to run. She saw the bus I was supposed to be in arriving and all the people disembarking the bus but not me. When the bus departed, she was
crushed.

Silence.

“As a soldier I was forced to have a macho attitude. I was alone most of the time. I stayed indoors except when I had to go out.”

His voice comes alive again.

“Vula’s objective was to create a climate that would enable the ANC’s national leadership to return. In May 1989, I was sent to Cape Town as a communications officer under the demand of Charles Nqakula (currently minister of safety and security). This meant that I had to use my contacts so that the leaders could have a place to stay and means to survive. The purpose of the operation was also to create a situation where an insurrection that would lead to the destruction of the regime of the day was possible.

The press later described him as a “master disguiser” – referring mostly to the disguises that Braam and her theatre friends in the Netherlands helped him with in order for him to escape the security police.

He sneers. “The problem was that it was not only a wig and a disguise. You had to become that person. The most difficult of them all was the coloured man with the Afro wig. Stage make-up can only last 8 to 12 hours and if you sweat, you never know whether or not it is the make-up.

A pause. “But it was not only the camouflage. You always had to keep your eyes wide open for the slightest signs that you might be followed.

The dark eyes blink. “It is so ingrained in me that up to now I still can not drive without constantly looking in my rear-view mirror. And then, when the accused in the state’s case against Vula were
indemnified, Ozinsky could move out of the shadows in August 1991.

Like other people.

To such an extend that his wife gave life to a son, Junaid nine years ago. He could also attend to his favourite sports, yacht racing. He laughs when I ask him about the name of his yacht, Contradiction.

max

“I’m a Marxist and the philosophy is based on contradictions. It is also a joke because yacht racing is a sport for wealthy people but I have fought my entire life for the poor. After school I actually wanted to become a yachtsman but my parents forced me to go to university. I do not take part in yacht races like in the past but the one place I feel at home, it is at sea.”

Outside it is becoming darker. We jump to the present. The past 14 years of slow progression within the ANC. His answers become more businesslike, more precise. Especially when it has to do with divisions within the party – or his involvement with the so-called “Africanists” or the Skwatsha camp.

His face looks like that of a politician for the first time. “It is an unfair and wrong label. Almost all of us in the so-called Skwatsha camp have a long history of struggle for a non-racial South Africa. And there is no split in the party. No group enjoys preference over another and we will not accept the Western Cape as a coloured provincelike some people seem to expect. We must take on racism.”

I swallow. And the rumour that he was outmanoeuvred from the provincial leadership structure of the South African Communist Party and that he is even branded a neo-liberal?

He chooses his words carefully. “I am still a member but I disagree with some over the direction the party is going. The question is how can socialism work in a democracy. The party is also fond of occupying itself with militant slogans without a real base in practice. I am concerned about the SACP because the party is extremely weak. I withdrew myself from the provincial leadership in 1996 because I was employed by the ANC fulltime and this could have led to a conflict of interest.”

A frown. “In this province ultra-leftism is a curse. It is also dangerous for any organisation to label people with something such as neo-liberalism.”

Although I knew the answer, I still asked about the accusations that he is the “power behind the throne” in the Western Cape ANC. He is childlike amused; then his voice becomes preachy: “We have a collective leadership in this province. There is no hidden power behind the throne. The ANC chairperson, James Ngculu was a guerrilla commander in the province long before I was involved with the party. In our society people – and especially the press – struggle to analyze things without racial categories. There is especially the perception that black people can’t think for themselves.”

I take a deep breath, but still ask: And the rumors that he is only rising in party circles now, even though he played a role behind the scenes?

His voice is formal. “It is not about power as such. I decided long ago to give everything to build the ANC.”

He hesitates, check if I’m writing. “At first I did not want to be the deputy secretary of the party in the province. Selfishly, I wanted to take a break. As chief-whip in the legislature you need to be on your toes the whole time.”

He reconsiders. “But it is also very rewarding. Institutions such as the legislature have the propensity to swallow you but as a revolutionary it is your challenge to change that.”

“The legislature must play a type of oversight role over the provincial government. We must ask questions even though it is an ANC government, because we have a weak opposition. The opposition is so used to being entangled in the bureaucracy that the real opposition comes from within the ANC. But this is not an attack on the ANC as a party. It is an attack on the state apparatus and what it is supposed to do.”

I hesitate, then mumble my question: If he as a white person has ever felt prejudiced against in the ANC.

It seems as if he was expecting the question. “I don’t think the ANC functions on the basis of race. The ANC is in many ways far ahead of our society that is being curbed by racial division.”

I nod. Yes race does play an important role. We talk about the organisation Not in my Name that he started with Ronnie Kasrils (minister of intelligence) to distance themselves as Jews from
Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians. Ironically enough, he and Kasrils are now being branded as anti-Semite.

He seems tired for the first time. “I get lots of threats from the Jewish community. The leaders in this community were quick to criticise us. Somebody even wrote that I am not really Jewish.”
A frown. “Yet I was attacked on school for being Jewish.” He wipes his temples. “There are various direct parallels with the struggle against apartheid. We had the moral right to resist, even through an armed struggle. The Palestinian nation also has a right to oppose Israel.”

A tired smile. “But it is not a new position that I assumed. Even on campus the Zionists painted swastikas on my posters.”

It suddenly feels as if we are back where we began. At a circular course of resistance and someone who will never be really at home. I look him in the eyes: Could he make up for his lost youth?

His face impenetrable. “I probably made up for my lost youth in certain aspects. But it is not a short-term struggle. Change is a long-term thing.”

His face is again each one on the book cover. Also the one with the sad eyes.

His voice is gentle. “Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese revolution once said: “A revolutionary owns nothing, not even his own name”.

Or his own face, I wanted to say.

A day later he sent me a song by James Phillips alias Bernoldus Niemand. To him it is a song that encompasses what it means to be young in the eighties. “I’m a white boy who looked at his life
gathered in his hands,” I read.

It is actually these words that strike me: “And you wonder what happened to all those sacred things? They got shot down in the street.” (Download soundclip of the song here.) It was then that I really wondered if one will ever be able to catch up.Max Ozinsky is one of my dearest friends and favorite people on the planet. We worked together in our young activist days, but made some different choices along the line. These days he’s chief whip of the ANC delegation in the Cape Provincial legislature, still involved in the cut and thrust of the ever-fractious politics of the Western Cape after all these years. But we go back to the time he was first thrown out of home by his father and came to live in the same student house as me. We worked together for years after that, although Max always displayed a far deeper, and infinitely more courageous, commitment than I ever did — as well as a substantial dose of the sheer malkopheid that makes an intractable revolutionary.

I’ll always remember one particular afternoon at UCT, when we were about to go out on one of an endless series of protest marches down to the grass verge alongside the highway, only to be sent scrambling for cover as the cops charged in with tear gas and batons — but this one was a little more tense, because the previous day the cops had ratcheted up the ante by firing shotguns — and Max took me aside, as we assembled to march, and opened his backpack, to reveal five glass bottles half full of gasoline, with rags stuffed in their tops, ready to be turned into Foreign Minister Molotov’s idea of an aperitif… “Are you fucking crazy?!!!” I blurted. These student marches were all about singing praise hymns to Mandela in quavering voices and then running at the first “whumpf” of a teargas cannister being fired, and here was my close friend and comrade about to start a war….

“It’s irresponsible, Max,” I ventured. “Adventurist.” None of my erudite pleas for restraint were registering. “If you’re going to the front of the march, I’m going to the back,” I said, hurrying to the rear of a line of shiny-faced young white students singing a song in Xhosa whose words translated as “when the sun goes down, we will meet in the bush with bazookas,” although I don’t think too many of them/us meant that. (Ironically, that day the cops sneaked up from behind, so my aversion to physical confrontation ended up costing me.)

My high-minded rationalizations had done little to camouflage the fact that Max’s inclination to stand and fight simply terrified me. His slight physique and gentle demeanor suggested anything but a hard man, but he had the bottle to trade licks with the regime’s enforcers. Within two years, he was undergoing guerrilla training in an ANC camp in Angola, and then slipping back into the country. Me, I was mostly editing magazines and writing analytical commentary. (Still am, I guess.)

Unlike myself and most of my generation who moved out of politics as soon as democracy was won in South Africa, Max remained as deeply — and militantly — committed as ever. And in this extended interview in the Cape Town daily Die Burger (translated from Afrikaans), he reflects on those turbulent, yet endlessly fascinating years through which we lived — Max more intensely than most of us.

Ozinsky: Struggler without a face by Willemien Brummer
Translation: Die Burger, Friday, 14 October 2005 (Ozinsky: Stryder
sonder ‘n gesig)

vula
On the cover of the book about Operation Vula, written by the Dutch anti-apartheid activist Connie Braam, are four different faces of the same man: a bearded, macho Rhodie who longs back to Rhodesia, a spectacled yuppie businessman and a wooly-haired resident of the Cape Flats. Far left is a picture of a pliant 26-year old with sad eyes and a beard. Max Ozinsky as he looked then.

Now, 16 years later, the beard and the pliantness are still there. Only the dark eyes found a certain peace.

Because since then, has Ozinsky not only shed his status as “master disguiser” who had every policeman in this country on his trail. He also became more important within the ANC during the past year. He was appointed Chief-whip in the provincial legislature and is the deputy secretary of the ANC in the province since the ANC’s provincial conference in June.

His critics imply that he is a Rasputin-like character- “the actual power behind the throne”.

jayba

At our meeting behind a polished up table in the spacious office of the ANC chief-whip, there is still something fragile in his appearance. He poses with shyness in a beige jersey and brown corduroy pants near an ANC flag and tells his story of resistance and life on the run.

His voice is soft and modest. “My father Joseph Ozinsky, was six months old when he had to escape with his family from Lithuania because of the anti-Semitism of the military dictatorship.”
His grandfather, a Polish hawker “who actually smuggled with diamonds between Poland and Russia”, established himself in Maitland and the young Joseph soon fell in love with an Afrikaans lady – a relationship that caused heated fights between in both families.

He smiles; answers in English: “I am more proud of my Afrikaans roots, even though one of my uncles is a commander in the AWB. The most interesting thing is that the man, who taught me to use a gun in MK, was involved in the murder on some of the farmers in Kirkwood where my mother grew up. It was on a neighbouring farm and I knew some of the victims.’

His voice is resigned. “It was war and I was a soldier. It is something you accept but not something that you celebrate.”

A photocopied medical article above his desk entitled: Professor J. Ozinsky and the World’s First Human Heart Transplant, catches my eye. I ask him about the role of his father, a distinguished anaesthetist. As well as his fallout with Prof Chris Barnard. A proud nod. “My father’s role was quite central because he had to keep the receiver of the heart alive – even when the patient had no
heart. The tension was partly due to all the publicity that Barnard received but there were also matters concerning Chris’s personal life.”

He seems uncomfortable. “It is difficult to talk about these things if you were not involved yourself.” I steer the discussion to his political career. Already in grade 12, he commanded a few school pals at the boys school SACS to also take part in a boycott in solidarity with the school boycott on the Cape Flats.

He frowns. “To my family, my political involvement meant trouble. It was only in 1991, when I received indemnity from prosecution that I realized why I did what I did.”

rhodie

That’s why his family threw him out of the house the first time he was arrested by the police during a student march. He was 17-years old and a mere three months into his BA-degree in the history of the economy at the University of Cape Town.

His face tightens. The policeman, major Dolf Odendaal said: ‘Vat die fokken moffies. Ek is gatvol vir hulle.’ We were taken to the offices of the security police where confiscated ANC placards and photo’s of weapons were all over the wall. It was obvious that they saw us as the ANC and there was soon no question about where we stood.” A pause. ‘Within a short space of time, things became extremely serious.”

Was he emotionally ready for it?

His shoulders parcel forward. “Those were extremely difficult times. We could not expect others to drive the revolution and fold our hands as Whites. For me and many others other it was quite clear that if you don’t want to fight for the South African Army, you must fight against them.

“Many of us never had a youth because everything was subjected to politics. I have never questioned the orders of ANC commanders and to reach your goal, we had to make sacrifices.”
A pause. “Even if it means that every policeman is on your trail and some family members would hand you to them with pleasure.”

Since he was 20-years old, when he joined the ANC, big parts of his life was underground. Two years later he was national media officer of the National Union of Students (NUSAS) and another year later, his girlfriend (now his ex-wife) was detained for six weeks because of her political activities.

It was then that he started to smuggle weapons to South Africa from Botswana over weekends; he even tried to plant a limpet mine at the Wynberg military base.

By this time everything was shady. With the police hot on his heels and almost all his ANC contacts behind bars, he married his girlfriend in Johannesburg. The next day, on 30 December 1987, he reported for duty at the ANC in Botswana.

I hear him sniff. “Apart from a brief encounter with her in Zimbabwe, I only saw her again in August 1990.” (Despite the fact the he stayed right under her and his parents’ noses in Cape Town as part of the very secretive Operation Vula.)

“It was probably stupid of me to get married a day before I had to flee but I did not want to disappear without any ties with the outside world.”

His voice is almost begging. “I was in love with her. It was a crazy time. I did a very mad things that year like smuggling weapons without any real military training and disguise.

“We both knew what we did but politics took its giant toll. Even when I got indemnity, politics continued to be a major player in our divorce.”

His eyes are sad; there is a catch in his voice. “I remember that we agreed to meet in George in March 1990 but Vula was uncovered and I had to run. She saw the bus I was supposed to be in arriving and all the people disembarking the bus but not me. When the bus departed, she was
crushed.

Silence.

“As a soldier I was forced to have a macho attitude. I was alone most of the time. I stayed indoors except when I had to go out.”

His voice comes alive again.

“Vula’s objective was to create a climate that would enable the ANC’s national leadership to return. In May 1989, I was sent to Cape Town as a communications officer under the demand of Charles Nqakula (currently minister of safety and security). This meant that I had to use my contacts so that the leaders could have a place to stay and means to survive. The purpose of the operation was also to create a situation where an insurrection that would lead to the destruction of the regime of the day was possible.

The press later described him as a “master disguiser” – referring mostly to the disguises that Braam and her theatre friends in the Netherlands helped him with in order for him to escape the security police.

He sneers. “The problem was that it was not only a wig and a disguise. You had to become that person. The most difficult of them all was the coloured man with the Afro wig. Stage make-up can only last 8 to 12 hours and if you sweat, you never know whether or not it is the make-up.

A pause. “But it was not only the camouflage. You always had to keep your eyes wide open for the slightest signs that you might be followed.

The dark eyes blink. “It is so ingrained in me that up to now I still can not drive without constantly looking in my rear-view mirror. And then, when the accused in the state’s case against Vula were
indemnified, Ozinsky could move out of the shadows in August 1991.

Like other people.

His son, Junaid, entered his life nine years ago. He could also attend to his favourite sport, yacht racing. He laughs when I ask him about the name of his yacht, Contradiction.

max

“I’m a Marxist and the philosophy is based on contradictions. It is also a joke because yacht racing is a sport for wealthy people but I have fought my entire life for the poor. After school I actually wanted to become a yachtsman but my parents forced me to go to university. I do not take part in yacht races like in the past but the one place I feel at home, it is at sea.”

Outside it is becoming darker. We jump to the present. The past 14 years of slow progression within the ANC. His answers become more businesslike, more precise. Especially when it has to do with divisions within the party – or his involvement with the so-called “Africanists” or the Skwatsha camp.

His face looks like that of a politician for the first time. “It is an unfair and wrong label. Almost all of us in the so-called Skwatsha camp have a long history of struggle for a non-racial South Africa. And there is no split in the party. No group enjoys preference over another and we will not accept the Western Cape as a coloured provincelike some people seem to expect. We must take on racism.”

I swallow. And the rumour that he was outmanoeuvred from the provincial leadership structure of the South African Communist Party and that he is even branded a neo-liberal?

He chooses his words carefully. “I am still a member but I disagree with some over the direction the party is going. The question is how can socialism work in a democracy. The party is also fond of occupying itself with militant slogans without a real base in practice. I am concerned about the SACP because the party is extremely weak. I withdrew myself from the provincial leadership in 1996 because I was employed by the ANC fulltime and this could have led to a conflict of interest.”

A frown. “In this province ultra-leftism is a curse. It is also dangerous for any organisation to label people with something such as neo-liberalism.”

Although I knew the answer, I still asked about the accusations that he is the “power behind the throne” in the Western Cape ANC. He is childlike amused; then his voice becomes preachy: “We have a collective leadership in this province. There is no hidden power behind the throne. The ANC chairperson, James Ngculu was a guerrilla commander in the province long before I was involved with the party. In our society people – and especially the press – struggle to analyze things without racial categories. There is especially the perception that black people can’t think for themselves.”

I take a deep breath, but still ask: And the rumors that he is only rising in party circles now, even though he played a role behind the scenes?

His voice is formal. “It is not about power as such. I decided long ago to give everything to build the ANC.”

He hesitates, check if I’m writing. “At first I did not want to be the deputy secretary of the party in the province. Selfishly, I wanted to take a break. As chief-whip in the legislature you need to be on your toes the whole time.”

He reconsiders. “But it is also very rewarding. Institutions such as the legislature have the propensity to swallow you but as a revolutionary it is your challenge to change that.”

“The legislature must play a type of oversight role over the provincial government. We must ask questions even though it is an ANC government, because we have a weak opposition. The opposition is so used to being entangled in the bureaucracy that the real opposition comes from within the ANC. But this is not an attack on the ANC as a party. It is an attack on the state apparatus and what it is supposed to do.”

I hesitate, then mumble my question: If he as a white person has ever felt prejudiced against in the ANC.

It seems as if he was expecting the question. “I don’t think the ANC functions on the basis of race. The ANC is in many ways far ahead of our society that is being curbed by racial division.”

I nod. Yes race does play an important role. We talk about the organisation Not in my Name that he started with Ronnie Kasrils (minister of intelligence) to distance themselves as Jews from
Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians. Ironically enough, he and Kasrils are now being branded as anti-Semite.

He seems tired for the first time. “I get lots of threats from the Jewish community. The leaders in this community were quick to criticise us. Somebody even wrote that I am not really Jewish.”
A frown. “Yet I was attacked on school for being Jewish.” He wipes his temples. “There are various direct parallels with the struggle against apartheid. We had the moral right to resist, even through an armed struggle. The Palestinian nation also has a right to oppose Israel.”

A tired smile. “But it is not a new position that I assumed. Even on campus the Zionists painted swastikas on my posters.”

It suddenly feels as if we are back where we began. At a circular course of resistance and someone who will never be really at home. I look him in the eyes: Could he make up for his lost youth?

His face impenetrable. “I probably made up for my lost youth in certain aspects. But it is not a short-term struggle. Change is a long-term thing.”

His face is again each one on the book cover. Also the one with the sad eyes.

His voice is gentle. “Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese revolution once said: “A revolutionary owns nothing, not even his own name”.

Or his own face, I wanted to say.

A day later he sent me a song by James Phillips alias Bernoldus Niemand. To him it is a song that encompasses what it means to be young in the eighties. “I’m a white boy who looked at his life
gathered in his hands,” I read.

It is actually these words that strike me: “And you wonder what happened to all those sacred things? They got shot down in the street.” (Download soundclip of the song here.) It was then that I really wondered if one will ever be able to catch up.

This entry was posted in Shameless Cronyism. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Captain of the ‘Contradiction’

  1. Erica says:

    Thanks for posting this, I had wondered how good old “comrade card index” was getting along.

  2. Tony says:

    Comrade Card Index? I’m lost. Then again, I can’t claim to have been privy to all of his nommes de guerre…

  3. kay says:

    i believe that Mr Ozinsky is an amazing and selfless man, he is an example of what it means to have compassion and love for ur fellow man.

  4. hi,nice pants in your post,I love thatgreatpants,I need to find one for me,bill

  5. ludwig says:

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