As sites of cultural memory’s crystallisation the texts of Sol Plaatje are vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation. Where those engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle found in Plaatje resources for resisting racial oppression, post-apartheid readings have detected the presentiment of liberation and reconciliation. Simultaneously Plaatje circulates as a model of principled rectitude with which to admonish the corrupt and a shield vindicating the maligned integrity of the political elite. This essay aims to loosen the bonds of these investments by reframing Plaatje as a tactician of resistance. Mhudi is interpreted against the mutually reinforcing criticism of his naïve appeal to morality and lauding of his unerring sense of justice. The hypothesis is that the literary critical debate around Plaatje’s resistance mirrors the complementary idealisms at work in competing diagnoses of the problems of contemporary South Africa.