South Africa: Apartheid Petty and Grand, Old and New Is Evil

Fahamu (Oxford)

By Ayanda Kota, 26 April 2012

The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) was formed in August 2009 to respond to the crisis of unemployment and the commoditization of essential services in a society dominated by corruption and greed. As Steve Biko said, we blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that we should be playing. We want to do things for ourselves and all by ourselves. This is a realisation that we are the protagonists of our lives and nobody will free us but ourselves; we – the unemployed – will have to be our own liberators.

Despite celebrations of freedom on 27 April every year, severe and widespread poverty persists. Our education system is in tatters, the future of many black kids has been declared futureless. Unemployment is sky rocketing, wasting the talents of many young people who are condemned to a life of permanent poverty. Many black people continue to lack access to electricity, clean water and proper sanitation. Many are terminally under nourished. All these things are happening when the elite and the government officials are living affluent lives. The president has just built a mansion in Enkandla to the tune of more than R400m. Malema has also built a house to the tune of R16m. Every weekend the elite host parties and weddings that cost no less than a million while the people they claim to represent go to bed on an empty stomach and live in absolute poverty. They do not find this morally troubling. They have no conscience, otherwise they would not have killed Andries Tatane and many other activists; they would not shoot us with rubber bullets when we protest because they have neglected us. The prophetic Biko was spot on again when he once said ‘Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security and prestige it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” It is this prestige and wealth that forms a hard shell around their consciousness so that they do not see that it is fellow human beings suffering in the poverty around them. Karl Marx put it in a different tone: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Apartheid was a tragedy, but our economic apartheid is a farce. Indeed history repeating itself. We are repeating the disaster of the post-colonial regimes that Fanon attacked fifty years ago.

We live in a society where the unemployment rate is said to be 23% while the truth is different. Our government is committed to propaganda. The real unemployment rate is closer to 40%. Continue reading

On the legacy of colonialism and the struggles against oppression today

[Nearly 50 years after the death of Frantz Fanon, the author of “The Wretched of the Earth,” this essay traces his legacy and relevance in the oppressive realities and struggles today.  Nigel Gibson, the author of this essay, presents a profound review of the reality of the imperialist stamp on the countries and peoples who have won national independence–but not social or human liberation.  The thinking and orientation of Frantz Fanon contributes much to people who are inexorably driven to challenge their ongoing oppression in the so-called “post-colonial” world.  The essay is long, but deserves attention from all whose lives and possibilities are framed by these questions. — Frontlines ed.]

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50 years later: Fanon’s legacy

by Nigel C Gibson

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/78860, Issue 564, 2011-12-21

When I was asked by Dr. Keithley Woolward to address the question of Fanon’s contemporary relevance, I was reminded of a blurb on the back of my recent book Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo which reads, ‘This is not another meditation on Fanon’s continued relevance. Instead, it is an inquiry into how Fanon, the revolutionary, might think and act in the face of contemporary social crisis.’ My comments today should be considered in that spirit.

Frantz Fanon

‘Relevance’ ­ from a Latin word ‘relevare’, to lift, from ‘lavare’, to raise, levitate ­ to levitate a living Fanon who died in the USA nearly 50 years ago this coming Tuesday in cognizance of his own injunction articulated in the opening sentence from his essay ‘On national culture’: ‘Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it’ (1968 206). The challenge was laid down at the opening of this year of Fanon’s 50th (as well as the 50th anniversary of his ‘The Wretched of the Earth’) which began with revolution ­ or at least a series of revolts and resistance across the region, known as the Arab Spring.

Fanon begins ‘The Wretched’, as you know, writing of decolonisation as a program of complete disorder, an overturning of order ­ often against the odds ­ willed collectively from the bottom up. Without time or space for a transition, there is an absolute replacement of one ‘species’ by another (1968: 35). In a period of radical change such absolutes appear quite normal, when, in spite of everything thrown against it, ideas jump across frontiers and people begin again ‘to make history’ (1968: 69-71). In short, once the mind of the oppressed experiences freedom in and through collective actions, its reason becomes a force of revolution. As the Egyptians said of 25 January: ‘When we stopped being afraid we knew we would win. We will not again allow ourselves to be scared of a government. This is the revolution in our country, the revolution in our minds.’ What started with Tunisia and then Tahrir Square has become a new global revolt, spreading to Spain and the Indignados (indignants) movement, to Athens and the massive and continuous demonstrations against vicious structural adjustment, to the urban revolt in England, to the massive student mobilisation to end education for profit in Chile, to the ‘occupy’ movement of the 99 percent.

And yet, as the revolts inevitably face new repression, elite compromises and political manoeuvrings, Fanonian questions ­ echoed across the postcolonial world ­ become more and more timely. (How can the revolution hold onto its epistemological moment, the rationality of revolt?) Surely the question is not whether Fanon is relevant, but why is Fanon relevant now? Continue reading

South Africa: Remember the Black Consciousness Movement, and the 1977 Murder of Steve Biko

Steve Biko

“It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die” — Steve Biko

Fahamu (Oxford)

South Africa: ‘Biko Lives!’, 34 Years Later

Khadija Patel

15 September 2011


Like Che Guevera, Steve Biko is the poster child for revolution. His face adorns the T-shirts and posters of a generation who may know nothing of his teachings except that his is a face with some erstwhile significance. Thirty-four years after his death, Steve Biko is an icon but he is also a lot more than a trifling symbol of an ancient idea. Khadija Patel talks to Steve Biko scholar, black consciousness thinker and organiser, co-editor of ‘Biko Lives!’ and publisher of the journal ‘New Frank Talk’ Andile Mngxitama about Biko’s legacy.

Andile Mngxitama

On 11 September 1977, apartheid police loaded Steve Biko in the back of a pickup truck. Tortured, dehumanised, naked and restrained in manacles, he began the 1,100km trek to Pretoria where he would purportedly be imprisoned in a facility with medical amenities. So severe were the injuries Biko sustained at the hands of the police during his detention that he died shortly after his arrival at the Pretoria prison. It was 12 September 1977. State officials claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions, and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain haemorrhage from the severe injuries to the head. To everybody outside the state apparatus, it was clear that Biko had been brutally clubbed by his captors. It was Helen Zille, back when she was just a journalist, as well as Donald Woods, another journalist and close friend of Biko, who eventually exposed the shocking truth behind Biko’s death.

Thirty-four years later, Helen Zille is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, the opposition party taking the fight to the ANC, and Biko haunts the political subconscious of the “new dispensation”.

“Steve Biko… we say Biko lives. Steve Biko lives,” insists Mngxitama, “The biggest mistake of the apartheid regime was to think they could kill him and his ideas.” Mngxitama believes Biko himself understood the need for longevity in his ideas when he wrote, “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” Steve Biko is certainly more than a T-shirt. His were ideas that galvanised the struggle against the apartheid and a realisation of self-worth among black people themselves. Continue reading

AZAPO Youth Organization speaks about the struggles of black youth in South Africa

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Veli Mbele, President of AZAPO Youth Organization

‘The only thing that has changed is the colour of those who now manage the system.’

Comrades and friends:

I bring you revolutionary greetings from the national executive committee of the Azanian Youth Organisation. I also wish to take this opportunity to salute the Mohlakeng branch, not just for organising this remembrance of our Movement’s founding father, Steve Bantu Biko, but also for choosing to have it on this day of special importance.

As you might be aware, the 25 September is the exact day on which Steve Biko was laid to rest in the Township of Ginsberg 33 years ago, after his cold-blooded murder in detention by the agents of the settler-colonial regime.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that Biko’s funeral was attended by well over 20,000 people. And to confirm the extent to which the settler-colonial regime feared him – they still saw it necessary to set up road blocks, with the view to harass and stop those fellow Azanians who were travelling to his funeral. The white racist regime was still engaging in these cowardly actions even though they had just murdered Biko a few days before.

It is these and other Fascist tendencies of the settler-colonial regime that fortify the view that Biko became more of a threat to the settler-colonial state, in death than in life. This is perhaps understandable given the impact of his ideas on those who engineered and led the student uprising of Soweto in June 1976. Besides; it was Biko himself, who just before he was killed, said:  ‘You are either alive and proud or you are dead and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway because your method of death itself can be a politicising thing.’

 

Soweto uprising 1976

For the purpose of our discourse here today, I propose to focus more on the implications of Biko’s ideas in order for us black young people to reflect on what lessons we can draw from the life of someone who is as iconic as Biko. And most critically, what practical things we can do, as the AZAPO youth, to ensure that the teachings of Biko speak to the conditions of black young people today.

Because I am speaking to people who are as young as me, as a launch pad for my talk, I wish to use something that we as young people love and understand very well and that is music.

Continue reading