AZAPO CONTINUES TO KEEP BIKO ALIVE
As it has been doing in the 40 years, AZAPO continues to keep Biko alive. AZAPO kept Biko alive at a high cost on the lives of its members and the survival of the Organisation.
Naturally, the System was out to murder Biko and erase his legacy. The strategy was to kill as many of the BC leaders as possible. Thus, Comrades like Mthuli ka Shezi, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mapetla Mohapi and Lungile Tabalaza would not be taken to Robben Island, but murdered with the hope of erasing their memory and weakening the Black Consciousness Movement. Biko was murdered in the same brutal way. To conclude its mission of destroying the BCM, the System then banned 17 BC organisations and two newspapers.
A section of the Liberation Movement had tried to stifle and scuttle the gallant efforts of the BCM and Biko to advance the liberation struggle. A vicious campaign that claimed that Biko was a CIA agent was spread. Next on the line were the ones who embraced, defended and intensified Biko’s legacy. Those were the members of AZAPO. They were necklaced, and their homes were set alight for daring to uphold Biko’s name.
Meanwhile, funders’ institutions made it a point that Biko’s Organisation, AZAPO, was to be starved of any financial support. True to the principle of self-reliance, AZAPO survived on the meagre financial contributions of its members and progressive community members.
As costly as Biko’s name was on AZAPO, this organisation carried Biko’s name with pride. By 1982 AZAPO introduced the innovation of the Black Consciousness Week. The BC Week concept was based on the concrete reality that Biko was transferred from Walmer Police Station to the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth on 6 September 1977 and died on 12 September of that same year. Therefore, the BC Week runs from 6 to 12 September of every year.
From 1995 AZAPO took on a ritual to visit the Biko Cell at Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Tshwane. AZAPO‘s call has always been that the Cell should be a National Shrine where no other prisoner would be incarcerated in that Cell again. And in 1997, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Biko’s murder, AZAPO organised a special Biko Train that ran from Musina to Qonce (KWT) where a Biko Rally was organised at the Victoria Grounds. The Biko Rally was addressed by AZAPO President Mosibudi Mangena and Dr Kwame Turè.
From 2007 AZAPO organised the annual Steve Biko Colloquium, which was graced by world-renowned scholars like Prof Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu, Rev Basil Moore, Prof Saths Cooper, Dr Ibbo Mandaza, Prof Ali Mazrui, Prof Eskia Mphahlele, Prof Kwesi Prah, Prof Molefi Kete Asante and Prof Jonathan Jansen.
Since 2011, through its partnership with the Nelson Mandela University, AZAPO has hosted successful and popular Steve Biko Lectures at the University. AZAPO is grateful and salutes NMU for this partnership.
AZAPO means it when it says “Biko Lives” because it kept our Martyr alive.
BIKO OUR BEACON OF HOPE
This week, as the nation commemorates the murder in police custody of our founding father Bantu Biko, the Police Ministry released crime statistics that showed that violent crimes are on the increase.
While there are many factors contributing to high levels of crime, including poverty, socio-economic problems and poor education, it is AZAPO’s view that one of the primary drivers of violent crimes is the absence of Black Consciousness (BC) in our people.
As AZAPO president Strike Thokoane rightly asserted in his interview on SAFM, people who understand BC are unlikely to commit the sort of crimes that we commit among ourselves. Thokoane told listeners that if we had BC, we would not be raping our women or engaging in the kind of violence that we mete out on each other.
Thokoane is right. Most people who resort to violence have low self-esteem. They consider themselves to be inferior and find the use of force and violence as a means to validate themselves. The centre of focus for BC has always been psychological liberation and a quest for true humanity.
Of course, Police should do their work efficiently. They should arrest those who commit criminal offences, including violent crimes. They should conduct proper investigation and ensure successful prosecution of those guilty of crimes. But that is the secondary matter. It is dealing with the symptoms of the problem. The real problem is that our people, through centuries of brutal colonial and apartheid oppression, have been dehumanised. They have been made to feel inadequate and inferior. They have been made to feel less than human by their oppressors. They have been made not to value themselves and their lives. People who do not value their lives are unlikely to value the lives of other people. That is the reason it is so easy for some among us to kill another human being for something as small as a cell-phone.
We can call for the employment of more police officers and the deployment of modern technology in the fight against crime, but Police would not be able to save women against violent husbands. What is required is more education based on the true value of life, education based on Biko’s teachings of BC. Education that teaches us to love ourselves and respect ourselves. If we can do that on a massive scale, we have a fighting chance of getting different and better crime statistics in future.
AZAPO REMEMBERS CDE NKOSI MOLALA
It is now 2 years since former AZAPO President Nkosi Potjo Molala took his final rest.
The Stalwart of the Black Consciousness Movement died on 4 September 2016 at the age of 64. He was buried at the Saulsville Arena on 11 September 2016.
Born on the 5th of September 1951, Molala was one of 8 children of Emilie and Malisela Molala. He attended St. Annes’s Roman Catholic School in Pretoria until Standard 5 and from 1966-69, went to St. Paul’s minor seminary at Hammanskraal. He subsequently matriculated in 1971 at Pax College, Pietersburg.
Molala entrenched his name in the South African football in the 1970s while he played for Pax College team in Polokwane where they would sometimes play against Turfloop University. He was soon spotted by Bantu Callies, which later changed its name to Pretoria Callies. Alongside great soccer stars like Lucas Masterpiece Moripe, Molala played for the professional side from 1972 to 1976 when he was arrested for his political activism in the liberation struggle during the heydays of the BCM.
His dribbling wizardry earned him the nickname “Let Them Dance”, or simply “LTD”. It came as no surprise that in 1974 he was picked to represent the country in the SA Black XI, which played against, among others, the Brazilian Club Fluminense in Botswana.
This is how Cde Molala rated his football prowess in a 2012 interview: “I excelled in all positions. I was good as a winger and in midfield. I also had dribbling skills and that earned me the nickname ‘Let Them Dance’ because I used to make opponents dance through my wizardry”.
From 1974-76, the trial of the 9 members of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and the Black People’s Convention (BPC) was in progress and Molala became interested in the proceedings as he had come to know some of the accused previously. Whilst at Pax College he had met Terror Lekota whose soccer team from the University of the North had come to play in Pietersburg. Molala kept attending the trial and for the first time was effectively exposed to the Black Consciousness philosophy, especially as it was explained by Steve Biko, then a defence witness. Molala began to feel he should become involved in the activities of the Black People’s Convention, a community organisation with a Black Consciousness philosophy.
His blossoming football career was cut short by his conviction on sabotage charges and spending 6 years on Robben Island. On the Island he carried on with both his politics and football. He joined other players like Kgalema Motlanthe and Mosioua Lekota, who both later served as the countries President and Defence Minister, respectively.
On his release from Robben Island prison in 1983 he became active in AZAPO. In 1985 he was elected Deputy President. In 1986-1990 he became AZAPO President and later served as the National Chairperson of AZAPO.
Cde Molala led from the front as evidenced by the loss of his eye when in 1985 he was hit by a teargas canister thrown by the police. He was leading the burial of 27 activists.
However, his involvement in politics did not diminish his commitment to football. He was instrumental in the formation of the Soccer Players Union of South Africa (SOPUSA).
During this Steve Biko Month, AZAPO pays tribute to one of the sharpest minds.
CHASING THE HERITAGE RAINBOW
September is the month that the country celebrates its heritage, our diverse cultures and different languages. As the custodian of our people’s culture, AZAPO takes great pride in celebrating our heritage and our languages.
It is this Movement that taught many of our people that they are not Jeremiah but they are Pandelani, that they are not Elijah but Themba, that they are not Brian but Hulisani, that they are not James but Tshediso. As we spread the gospel of Bantu Biko, our people appreciated their black skin and Afro-hair. At the height of Black Consciousness (BC) in the late seventies and early eighties, Black people embraced themselves and took pride in who they are.
Sadly, there appears to be regression. The weave, or the artificial white hair, is back. Many of our children do not learn any Afrikan language in school. Departments of Afrikan languages have become endangered species.
English has become the real official language. Some children who come from rich background are learning French or German as a second language. Given the increasing Chinese influence in our economy, some parents are paying for Mandarin lessons for their children.
We should not forget that language is a carrier of culture and a value system. There is a need to deliberately promote our languages and ensure that they do not die. Economic empowerment of Black people is at the heart of ensuring that our languages do not die. If Black people continue to rely on other people for employment and for education, it follows that they would naturally be forced to learn the language of the tribe that has the resources to provide employment and education.
So, as we call on our people to embrace their cultures and languages, the most effective tool to ensure that this becomes a reality is to attain economic freedom. But if we still beg a section of the white tribe to give us jobs, then we will still have to tell our children to prioritise the language of the oppressor at the expense of our languages. The cleavage of the politically correct rhetoric of promoting our languages and the reality of total submission to the dominance of English will widen.
To print and read the pdf version, please click here ⇒ AZAPO Voice Volume 1 Issue Number 29
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