Former president Thabo Mbeki has been hailed as the only South African post-apartheid president to have recognised the role played by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) in the struggle for democratic liberation, according to Azanian Peoples’ Organisation (Azapo) veteran Dr Mosibudi Mangena.
On the 41st anniversary of the death of BCM founder Steve Bantu Biko yesterday, Mangena, who is Azapo’s honorary president and a former Cabinet minister, described relations between the ruling ANC and organisations espousing the black consciousness (BC) philosophy as “cordial at times but sometimes icy and patchy”.
So low were relations with the ANC that Mangena charged: “At some point, the ANC wanted to destroy BCM.”
“It was only during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency that we saw a genuine relationship between the ANC and the BCM, which we now need to rebuild,” said Mangena.
Mbeki created unity across the ideological divide by appointing some BC and Pan Africanist adherents, like Mangena, Mojanku Gumbi and Cunningham Ngcukana, to key government positions during his presidency.
Mangena said although President Cyril Ramaphosa was delivering a Steve Biko memorial lecture tomorrow at the University of South Africa, this did not mean there were good relations between the two political formations.
“President Ramaphosa has not been invited by Azapo to deliver the Steve Biko memorial lecture, but by Unisa.”
Mangena said Biko’s political legacy and his teachings were significant for SA as a whole.
“He played an important role in the struggle for freedom by conscientising so many people, especially the young generation, not to have the fear their parents had of whites and the colonial system.
“What followed this massive mobilisation by Steve was the 1976 student revolt that saw students confronting armed police with bare hands and stones. If not for BC, I doubt it would have happened,” said Mangena.
He said the deterioration of the BC philosophy has led to blacks “losing love for one another and causing untold harm to each other. We’re floundering, hence the corruption we see in government today. We need to rid ourselves of the legacy of colonialism.
“How do you explain the trashing of hospitals with no regard for patients – some of whom were infants – if we loved one another? We are all guilty of having failed Steve Biko by not carrying on with his noble teachings,” he said.
If Biko was alive, said Mangena, he “would have played an important role in giving the country a strategic direction due to his intellectual integrity”.