People must emulate Biko – stalwarts

Steve Banku Biko, Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) icon. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Dispatch)

‘We need black consciousness now more than before. It is a permanent way of life regardless of who we are or where we are.’

Black consciousness stalwarts say people must emulate Steve Biko and start to unshackle themselves from the conditions they are in and start doing things for themselves.

Speaking Saturday in a Webinar organised by the 70’s Group on Facebook to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the death of Biko, Black consciousness leader, Professor Barney Pityana, said there was a revolutionary that must be unleashed in everybody to be able to do things themselves.

Pityana succeeded Biko as president of the South African Students Organisations (SASO), after earlier serving as its general secretary.

He lamented today’s politics that had moved from the politics was not about good and opportunity but the “politics of opportunism”.

“People lost confidence in government and believed that democracy held no future for them. They protested for government services, but often ruined and destroyed that which they sought.”

Pityana said there people in South Africa believed that democracy held no future. Under the black democratic government led by the African National Congress (ANC), everything was highly privatised – from education, public works, roads, electricity and many other things.

“The infrastructure was being destroyed including the vandalisation of railways infrastructure, stealing of copper cables, land invasions, illegal occupation of unallocated houses, violence against women and children was rampant and farmers were being killed.”

He said corruption had become the byword of the ANC government and fat cats who stole public fund before they were allocated.

Pityana said this happened because black leaders were devoid of blackness.

“People had lost confidence in the government. The ANC government lacked direction and sense of value and ethics.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet failed to condemn the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) when it unleashed violence against Clicks stores countrywide to protest racism.

“The message was lost in the violence and criminality of the EFF. But there was no condemnation of the incident from the President and the Cabinet members, only the former public protector Thuli Madonsela and Adam Habib, vice chancellor of Wits University spoke out.

“South Africa needs new politics, it needs to discover its soul….politics in South Africa is doing the opposite,” Pityana said.

He continued to say that there was increased tribalism and linguistic that emanated from the narrowing that was accompanied by the exclusion of as many people as possible by the current government.

“In each and everyone of us lies a revolutionary. We must take it upon ourselves to make our lives better. We should move away from the politics of the stomach, let’s think about going out there to ensure that our people work together for their betterment.

“There is a tendency to fold our arms to wait for some official from the government to come and deliver. We need to do it ourselves. All of us, in my view, are revolutionaries,” he added.

Former Black People’s Convention vice president, Prof Saths Cooper, said the country’s needed to recoup its humanity and called for cross-generational dialogue to “unshackle ourselves from our historic subjugation.

Cooper was elected Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) on his release from Robben Island and current founding member of the 70’s Group management committee.

Former Black Consciousness activist who became a senior member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Thenjiwe Mtintso, said she wished the way of servitude that prevailed during Biko’s time could still continue today.

“I think we have betrayed Steve Biko,” Mtintso said.

“Many South Africans had lost ubuntu or humanity – black people were burning their schools own schools and libraries and some politicians told their voters to “keep their stinking votes”.

“Self-hatred and death of values had become a way of life while tribalism, racism and other societal ills were alive and kicking.

“The Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the worst human values. We need black consciousness now more than before. It is a permanent way of life regardless of who we are or where we are.

“We cannot lock black consciousness on one organisation that can claim it to itself. Every organisation should have black consciousness,” Mtintso said.

Mtintso said no amount of harassment could sway Biko from his ideals. She added that the political-partism was a problem in South Africa.

“The political parties spent a lot of time pointing accusing fingers and not telling what should be done by the people as individuals, as citizens and as a country.”

Another former BC activist, Dr Mamphela Ramphele cautioned: “There is no revolutionary who will come and free us, we must liberate ourselves from this situation. Each of us is a revolutionary.”

Biko’s son, Nkosinathi Biko, virtually addressing a separate Steve Biko Annual Commemoration Lecture organized by Unisa and the Steve Biko Foundation, condemned the massacres or violations of human rights that occurred under the ANC-led democratic government.

He cited the Marikana Massacre, the killing of Alexandra resident Collins Khoza by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members,  and the shooting of a child, Nataniel Julies in Eldorado Park by the police.

The event was also addressed by US civil rights leader, Dr Reverend Al Sharpton. He said the African Americans continued to be oppressed in the US and praised the decades of ANC fight against oppression.

“It does not matter what whites think about us, what matters is how we think about ourselves. Freedom does not come from the oppressor but from the oppressed who say ‘I must be free’,” Sharpton said.

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