THE DEBATE ABOUT INDIANS IS UNFORTUNATE
Our political father, Steve Bantu Biko, was once asked if the government of the day in a free Azania would ensure the protection of rights of minorities. His answer was straight and simple. He said in a free Azania, “there shall be no majorities or minorities but just people”, individual people.
The genius that Biko was, he was acutely aware that the best way of breaking the stereotypes would be to treat people as individuals and not as groups. In the context of One Azania One Nation, protection of individual rights is the best way of ensuring that the population is protected without further classifying people as a particular group.
Biko’s explanation of this matter is quite relevant today when the country has suddenly been thrown in a reactionary debate about racism between the indigenous people and the people of Indian ancestry. The recent debate was triggered by comments made by leaders of a political party who raised concerns about how people of Indian origin treated other people – especially indigenous Africans. Then there was a counter-argument of why the Indians that were born on this Continent should not be described as Africans. That is an argument for another day.
In the classic definition of the term “Black”, the Black Consciousness ideology describes “Black” as those who are politically oppressed, economically exploited and socially discriminated against as a group; and who unite to fight for their liberation and reconquest of the land. This definition includes the so-called Natives, the so-called Coloured, and the so-called Indian. So, in terms of BC, people of Indian origin are part of the broad definition of the term “Black”.
But Biko went further. He said, “the fact that we are not all white, does not mean that we are all black”, adding that “being black is not a matter of skin pigmentation” but rather a state of mind of somebody who is fighting all forms of oppression that seek to keep him or her in bondage on the basis of his or her skin colour.
In terms of this definition, some people of African origin such as Lennox Sebe and Patrick Mphephu, who were puppets of the apartheid regime and who collaborated with the system to maintain apartheid, do not qualify to be Black. They are non-white, according to Biko.
Instead of putting people in the same category because of how they look or where they came from, we should rather consider the commonality of their history of landlessness, oppression and exploitation.
It is a simple truth that there are reactionary indigenous Africans as much as there are progressive people of Indian origin. Our advice as AZAPO is that leaders should avoid utterances that further divide the masses, and rather focus on addressing the real issues. Currently, the debate is anchored on the divisions that people have according to their physical appearances. What will be next? The language that they speak? As it is, the demon of tribalism is being revived in certain parts of the country.
We understand that some leaders may lack the sophistication and the finesse to appreciate some of these dynamics, but our plea is that they should read Biko and embrace Black Consciousness. Biko continues to be our guide when the situation is dark.
A REVOLUTIONARY PROGRAMME OF AZANIANS BY AZANIANS
The 1983 AZAPO Congress adopted a resolution for the formation of a united front of revolutionary organisations, and worked towards the implementation of the resolution. The result was the convening of the National Forum (NF) in June 1983 with 800 delegates representing more than 200 organisations. AZAPO’s Saths Cooper became the Convener of the NF. That revolutionary platform gave rise to the adoption of the Political Programme below:
The Azanian Manifesto
Our struggle for national liberation is directed against the historically evolved system of racism and capitalism which holds the people of Azania in bondage for the benefit of the small minority of the population, i.e. the capitalists and their allies, the white workers and the reactionary sections of the middle classes. The struggle against apartheid, therefore, is no more than the point of departure for our liberatory efforts.
The Black working class inspired by revolutionary consciousness is the driving force of our struggle for national self-determination in a unitary Azania. They alone can end the system as it stands today because they alone have nothing at all to lose. They have a world to gain in a democratic, anti-racist and socialist Azania, where the interests of the workers shall be paramount through worker control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In the socialist republic of Azania the land and all that belongs to it shall be wholly owned and controlled by the Azanian people. The usage of the land and all that accrues to it shall be aimed at ending all exploitation.
It is the historic task of the Black working class and its organizations to mobilize the oppressed people in order to put an end to the system of oppression and exploitation by the white ruling class.
Successful conduct of the national liberation struggle depends on the firm basis of principle whereby we will ensure that the liberation struggle will not be turned against our people by treacherous and opportunistic “leaders” and liberal influences. The most important of these principles are:
- Anti-racism, anti-imperialism and anti-sexism.
- Anti-collaboration with the ruling class and all its allies and political instruments.
- Independent working class organization, free from bourgeois influence.
In accordance with these principles the following rights shall be entrenched in Azania:
- The right to work,
- State provision of free and compulsory education for all, Education shall be geared towards liberating the Azanian people from all oppression, exploitation and ignorance.
- State provision of adequate and decent housing for all.
- State provision of free health, legal, recreational and other community services that will respond positively to the needs of the people.
In order to bring into effect these rights of the Azanian people, we pledge ourselves to struggle tirelessly for:
- The abolition of all laws institutions and attitudes that discriminate against our people on the basis of colour, sex, religion, language or class.
- The re-integration of the Bantustan human dumping grounds into a unitary Azania.
- The formation of trade union that will heighten revolutionary worker consciousness.
- The development of one national culture inspired by socialist values.
By Don Mattera
Night drops liquid darkness
From a wound in the sky
Men look on my darkness
As a weed that must die
Here in the dark
I feed on bitter bark
And my hands bleed
From planting thorny seed
Come glorious light
Heal my broken sight
Ah, black sunbeams fall on the slope
Bringing new light to fulfil my hope
Ever conscious of their scared duty
Then sweet, sweetly my blackness blooms
And becomes my beauty
THE STRENGTH OF DEMOCRACY DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF THE VOTER
When Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng handed down the ruling of the Constitutional Court on Party Funding, he made an interesting point. To paraphrase the Chief Justice, he said the strength of democracy is a function of the quality of information at the disposal of the voter.
Just as a reminder, some non-governmental organisations had approached the courts to make an application that would force political parties to declare their funders. The court ruled in favour of the applicants, basically ordering political parties to declare their funders.
In making the ruling, Justice Mogoeng said voters should have access to information about who is funding the parties that are contesting the election. The argument of the applicants was that the voters should know if a party that they are voting for is not doing a bid for its secret funder. For instance, if a tobacco company has poured millions into an election campaign of a particular party that suddenly develops a policy position that argues against the tightening of tobacco legislation; arguing that the tobacco industry is contributing to economic growth; and that it sustains thousands of jobs, voters should know that the politicians are simply singing for their supper. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
The argument is simple and straight forward. AZAPO supports this judgement because we have always argued that money is undermining the will of the people. As things stand, Elections are essentially about money and not necessarily about the best ideas and the best political programmes. And parties that have a close association with capital, or those that champion the interests of capital get funding because capital wants its interests to be safe-guarded.
The court should instruct the public broadcaster to offer equivalent airtime to political parties to share their ideas with the public during Elections. Currently, too many of our people know very little about the policies and programmes of the parties contesting Elections. Because of the lack of information on the history and our struggle, the ruling party has fashioned itself as the de-facto party of liberation that has exclusive copyrights on our liberation struggle. There is very little mentioning of AZAPO in relation to the struggle for freedom in this country.
So, while we welcome the ruling of the Constitutional Court on funding of political parties, we think that the court should go a step further. It should guide further direction designed to empower the voter with sufficient information to make informed choices during Elections. We cannot expect the ruling party to take the lead in this struggle because the ruling party benefits from the status-quo. The more the voters are kept in the dark, the better for the ruling party. Little wonder that when the voters are not happy with the quality of service delivery, they say they will not vote. For many of them, voting means retaining the ruling party in office.
To print and read pdf version, please click here AZAPO Voice Volume 1 Issue 18