SIKI MGABADELI: Time now for our Tipping Point feature. It’s where speak to prominent South Africans who are leaders in various spheres of South African life. They talk to us about their journeys and what made them who they are. Today we speak to Themba Godi. You’ll know him, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. He is also the leader of the African People’s Convention, the APC. Thank you so much for making time to talk to us today.
THEMBA GODI: Thank you very much.
SIKI MGABADELI: I’m always interested to ask politicians at what point, when you were a young person, did you become aware of the state of affairs and that you wanted to do something about it?
THEMBA GODI: I remember very distinctly what happened. My father used to work as a messenger in Sandton at the testing station. As a messenger he was making tea for them. But he used to stay at the house of the chief licensing officer, who used to stay in Rivonia in some smallholding.
So when I was in Standard Five, many years ago, I went during the during the holidays with my father to go and look after the cattle and work around. I remember one time I was working with my father’s colleague and that’s when I said to him: “You know what, when I grow up I don’t want this, because I think something is not right.”
And from there I think it just is not right up to maybe where we are today.
SIKI MGABADELI: So you stock exchange that, you realise that this is not the future that you envision. You see on a political basis – I suppose here I’m asking when Pan-Africanism became your footprint.
THEMBA GODI: Well, I’m not sure what grade it is called now – we were boys together but one was older than us and used to work in the mine. He had come back and was chatting to us and telling us that, you know what, when we are free this country will be called Azania.
And at school, I think when I was doing Form 2, Form 3, I was chairing the debating society – and those were always the platforms around which we would comment about social issues.
When I went to high school there were a lot of developments. When I was doing Matric a group of friends formed what we called Front for the Liberation of Azania, because we were seeing those people in the rural areas who were not involved in politics. And yet after liberation there would be complaints about we are being side-lined, we are being this and that.
At that stage I had read a number of books on slavery in America and Marcus Garvey. I was doing physical science but my sister was doing history, so I went into those history books and there were a few things that I picked up. Around December/January I bought a book – remember every holiday I was going to my father to go and work so I would be paid. When I was about to go home my father took me to I think Wynberg, and I said I wanted a book. Lucky for me I bought a book by Professor Tom Lodge, “Black Politics in South Africa” since 1945 and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, “Petals of Blood”. I started reading that book in the bus as I was going home. That’s when [thought], I don’t know anybody in this party called PAC, but this is going to be my home and I’m going to devote my life to building it, whichever way.
And then in February I met other PAC people and then everything got formalised.
SIKI MGABADELI: So then, leaving the PAC after the suspension in 2006, and forming the APC – how did that feel?
THEMBA GODI: Well, the squabbles we had around 2005/6 were sorted out and I went to the congress in QwaQwa in 2006, where I was re-elected for a second term as deputy president. But the shenanigans there in QwaQwa caused so many people to come to me to say, look, there is no future here. But I was very reluctant, because I had known no home other than the PAC.
But what transpired then…starting in 2007 to move out. I must say that I was really sick for a week or two, because I could just not imagine a way of life outside the PAC. But thereafter we accepted it and closed that chapter and moved forward.
SIKI MGABADELI: Would you say that was the toughest time on your journey?
THEMBA GODI: It was one of the worst, because every other thing that I’ve done I’ve never regretted. Fortunately for me I’ve never had it easy. I was always on the toughest front in the PAC, which I think had gone a long way in tempering my political character. That was a very, very sad one, and I can publicly say that I’ve left the PAC, but i don’t think the PAC has left me. That is why I’ve never insulted the PAC. I would never do that, because I look back on it with pride and reverence.
SIKI MGABADELI: What’s been the most fulfilling part of your job?
THEMBA GODI: The most fulfilling part for me is when. Like if you have a community complaining about things and I’m able to successfully have it resolved. That is always what I find very, very fulfilling, even through the journey to that, especially when people explain their plight, it really always emotionally still gets at me. But when we find resolution I always feel very, very happy.
SIKI MGABADELI: Thank you so much for making the time to talk to us today.
THEMBA GODI: Any time. Thanks a lot.
SIKI MGABADELI: That’s Themba Godi.