I thank God for people like Professor Ismail Mohamed, who helped us as the younger generation hold on to the hope that freedom would come in our lifetime and that we could defeat the apartheid system.
With his peers, he catapulted us from the tribal and ethnic corners of apartheid and led us into a space where we, together, acted like a pointer to the type of society we were struggling for.
As a leader, he lived this future against all odds.
I met him as we engaged in this project of liberation and the construction of a new society. As a student of mathematics, then, what fascinated me about him was he was a top mathematics professor involved in hard politics.
Mohamed broke through the barriers of the abstract scientific world using his mathematical prowess and logic in the same way he helped destroy the apartheid system and usher in a nonracial democratic society where we should now be able to produce mathematicians to solve the complex and, at times, abstract challenges of today.
When I was young and in search of justice – what I would have called God’s justice – that transcends class, colour or creed, the generation of Mohamed and the values they stood for made me gravitate to the ANC as the closest approximation to a movement that reflected the justice and righteousness of God.
They approximated what I understood then as the Kingdom of God – the ideal community where the God of justice and righteousness reigns.
In this mathematically closest approximation of a just world and a just course, people like Prof Mohamed were ready to sacrifice their professions and status to pursue justice.
Many do not know Prof Mohamed constructed the Heineken-Mohamed theorems in 1968 with Professor Heineken. The theorems solved a major problem in the field of group theory.
As a fitting tribute to comrade Prof Mohamed, I felt we, as a movement, should construct a mathematical formula of political group theory to ensure his ideals are not lost in this new era, where comrades are tempted to deviate from the course and pursue personal or individualistic interests and those of friends and family at the expense of the poor.
Some of the elements of the ideals Mohamed stood for, which must be factored in, include the following:
» A just society where no one will be discriminated against on the basis of colour, class, creed, gender, ethnic group, and so on;
» A society where everyone will be equal before the law and where there will be no one who will go to jail just because they are poor and have no resources to defend themselves while the powerful and rich go scot-free too easily;
» A society where political and government leadership see their positions as a calling to serve the people rather than themselves and factions they belong to; and
» That in serving, they will have a bias towards the poor and weak instead of the interests of the powerful and privileged (at the expense of the poor).
Once we have this formula, we will need to put each of us (from top to bottom) through it to measure ourselves against these ideals Mohamed and his peers in the struggle stood for, and for which some died.
The mathematical construct will measure the angles of deviation (from these ideals) for each of us. This will not be the Heineken-Mohamed theorems, but will be called the “Mohamed and Peers Mathematical Formula”.
Once we know how far we have deviated from the course of the national democratic revolution and the culture of the movement, which was always about the people rather than the self, family, friends, and factions, we would all be given a chance to make amends, which is part of the culture of this, our glorious movement.
Those who do not only fail this test but fail to make amends must never be allowed to get close to the levers of power or the resources of the nation, notwithstanding their positions of power or influence.
We must liberate ourselves from the power of those who deviated long ago from the line we got from the Prof and his comrades of old.
We must use the Mohamed and Peers Formula to keep in line with the national democratic revolution of Mohamed and his peers – comrades Oliver Reginald Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and many others.
I am personally convinced our movement will not achieve its strategic revolutionary objectives of ending poverty and building an equitable society unless the cadres of this movement go through the Mohamed and Peers Formula to cleanse ourselves, to be able to better serve our people.
This mathematical formula will tell you battles among ourselves will not save the movement but will lead to a loss of support from the masses. In fact, battles among comrades are bound to the deathbeds and burial sites of the movement.
The formula will also tell us that battles that will save the movement and the masses are those waged at the cutting edge of the transformation of our society to serve all the people of South Africa – black and white, and not friends, family or faction.
The legacy Mohamed leaves us is his life and the way in which he waged the struggle for liberation, which we must emulate.
» Chikane is president of the Apostolic Faith Mission International and former director-general of the presidency. This is an edited tribute Chikane delivered at Prof Mohamed’s memorial service recently
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