AZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue Number 35


Government officials, especially high-ranking and experienced politicians, are known to down-play the negatives and exaggerate the positives. So, when President Cyril Ramaphosa tells an international audience, made up of potential investors, in London that the South African government has lost between R500 billion and a trillion rand due to corruption and maladministration, we should assume that the situation is much worse than he is prepared to admit publicly.

After all, Ramaphosa should shoulder part of the blame as he was part of the second term of the Jacob Zuma presidency, which is reputed to have wasted nine years. Much as he might want to separate himself from the Zuma administration, he became Zuma’s deputy when the latter was sworn in to serve his second term in 2014.

It is worth noting that Ramaphosa was in London on a mission to attract investors with his message that South Africa is a good destination for investment. With his mission in mind, obviously Ramaphosa would want to put his best foot forward. Then he drops the bombshell: South Africa has lost close to a trillion rand to corruption!

To millions of South Africans, the statement can trigger different reactions. Those who are kind to the president may feel that he is honest enough to admit the wrongs of the past even if he was part of the collective responsible for the wrongs. They may even develop some hope that he is serious about ending the rot and that is why he is taking the first step of making a public admission on an international platform.

There are other South Africans who may not be as generous and gullible. They will see through the manipulation of the public opinion on government corruption as nothing but a ploy to further confuse the people by dressing up the Ramaphosa administration as a new broom that is sweeping the country clean of corruption. But what are the facts? The truth is that the ANC has been ruling South Africa since 1994.

During the past 25 years, we have witnessed some grand scale acts of corruption. The courts have now ruled that Zuma should go on trial for corruption relating to the arms deal. It is the same arms deal that saw ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni serve a jail term for fraud. This happened long before Zuma became president. Do people remember Sarafina II? Do people still remember why General Bantu Holomisa was fired from the ANC? That he was fired because he was hell-bent on exposing then Minister of Public Enterprises Stella Sigcau of corruption? Do people remember the case of John Block, the former Premier of the Northern Cape?

Cases of corruption are endless. In fact, they are so many that the public should have listened to former Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini when she stated that everybody has some skeleton-nyana.

To be fair, Ramaphosa cannot be blamed for not leading the charge against corruption when he was deputy president. But he has been president for almost two years now. During this period, we have had VBS bank heist. This scandal that robbed poor pensioners of their hard-earned cash was exposed more than two years ago but to date, nobody has been arrested in connection with the VBS matter.

Millions of rands have been spent on the Zondo Commission that is probing State Capture. Many revelations have been made but to date nobody has been arrested and charged with that grand theft of public funds worth billions.

The longer it takes for the law enforcement agencies to walk the anti-corruption talk, the more people will lose hope that Ramaphosa and his administration are serious about fighting corruption.

Ultimately, it is the people, the voters, who should force the government to be decisive about corruption by using their vote to hold politicians accountable. So far, it appears that the South African voter still gives politicians a blank cheque. And because of this blind loyalty of voters, Ramaphosa can say the country has lost a trillion rand to corruption without fearing that his ruling party will lose support.


October 19 has become known as Media Freedom Day in our country. It was on this day in 1977 that the apartheid regime banned The World newspaper, The Weekend World and Pro Veritate. This is the reason that journalists chose this day to reflect on media freedom.

But that is not the full story of October 19, 1977. Those publications were banned not for their own sake but they were banned because they were reporting about the liberation efforts co-ordinated by Black Consciousness Movement organisations led by people such as Steve Biko, Harry Nengwekhulu, Hlaku Rachidi and many others.

In fact, although the spotlight tends to fall on the banning of newspapers, a total of 17 BC aligned organisations were banned on that day. These organisations were banned just a month after the brutal murder of Biko in police custody.

Among the organisations banned were, the Black People’s Convention (BPC); South African Students’ Organisation (SASO); Black Community Programmes (BCP); Black Parents’ Association (BPA); Black Women’s Federation (BWF); National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO) and all its provincial structures; Medupe Writers’ Association; South African Students Movement (SASM); Union of Black Journalists (UBJ); Soweto Teachers’ Action Committee (TAC); Zimele Trust Fund; Christian Institute (CI); the Association for the Educational and Cultural Advancement of African People (ASSECA) and Soweto Students’ Representative Council (SSRC).

In an era when a section of the liberation movement is behaving as though they have a copyright to the liberation struggle in Azania, this history should be told to our children. Today’s generation should know that in the seventies and in the eighties, BCM organisations (BPC and SASO in the 70s, and AZAPO in the eighties) were the leading organisations in the country. That is why virtually everybody who was active in the liberation struggle inside the country in mid-seventies was a member of SASO.

Many of the country’s leaders of today can trace their political roots to SASO. These include Ramaphosa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and countless others who are in government today.


[AZAPO Voice publishes a 1977 interview between Steve Biko and an American business man. Biko comments on the bravery displayed by the youth in the June 16 Uprisings. Biko teaches us to be brave and unhelpful when interrogated by the enemy forces. Biko was murdered in police custody a few months after that interview.]

Steve Biko: Right. That’s absolutely correct. And of course, you see, the dramatic thing about the bravery of these youths is that they have now discovered, or accepted, what everybody knows, that the bond between life and death is absolute. You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicizing thing. So, you die in the riots. For a hell of a lot of them, in fact, there’s really nothing to lose—almost literally, given the kind of situations that they come from. So, if you can overcome the personal fear for death, which is a highly irrational thing, you know, then you’re on the way.

And in interrogation the same sort of thing applies. I was talking to this policeman, and I told him, “If you want us to make any progress, the best thing is for us to talk. Don’t try any form of rough stuff, because it just won’t work.” And this is absolutely true also. For I just couldn’t see what they could do to me which would make me all of a sudden soften to them. If they talk to me, well I’m bound to be affected by them as human beings. But the moment they adopt rough stuff, they are imprinting in my mind that they are police. And I only understand one form of dealing with police, and that’s to be as unhelpful as possible. So, I button up. And I told them this: “It’s up to you.” We had a boxing match the first day I was arrested. Some guy tried to clout me with a club. I went into him like a bull, I think he was under instructions to take it so far and no further, and using open hands so that he doesn’t leave any marks on the face. And of course he said exactly what you were saying just now: “I will kill you.” He meant to intimidate. And my answer was: “How long is it going to take you?” Now of course they were observing my reaction. And they could see that I was completely unbothered. If they beat me up, it’s to my advantage. I can use it.

They just killed somebody  [Mapetla Mohapi] in jail—a friend of mine—about ten days before I was arrested. Now it would have been bloody useful evidence for them to assault me. At least it would indicate what kind of possibilities were there, leading to this guy’s death. So, I wanted them to go ahead and do what they could do, so that I could use it. I wasn’t really afraid that their violence might lead me to make revelations I didn’t want to make, because I had nothing to reveal on this particular issue. I was operating from a very good position, and they were in a very weak position. My attitude is, I’m not going to allow them to carry out their program faithfully. If they want to beat me five times, they can only do so on condition that I allow them to beat me five times. If I react sharply, equally and oppositely, to the first clap, they are not going to be able to systematically count the next four claps, you see. It’s a fight. So, if they had meant to give me so much of a beating, and not more, my idea is to make them go beyond what they wanted to give me and to give back as much as I can give so that it becomes an uncontrollable thing. You see the one problem this guy had with me: he couldn’t really fight with me because it meant he must hit back, like a man. But he was given instructions, you see, on how to hit, and now these instructions were no longer applying, because it was a fight. So, he had to withdraw and get more instructions. So, I said to them, “Listen, if you guys want to do this your way, you have got to handcuff me and bind my feet together, so that I can’t respond. If you allow me to respond, I’m certainly going to respond. And I’m afraid you may have to kill me in the process even if it’s not your intention.”

Interviewer: How did they deal with that?

Biko: Well, the next day, everybody was telling me that they are not going to hit me at all. They don’t use that form of interrogation, and so on. I was interrogated with my cigarettes next to me, smoking, sitting down, talking, being given coffee and tea. That’s because they had assessed my response. I told them, “I regard being forced to stand a form of torture. I’m not going to stand and answer your questions. I don’t do that normally. It’s got to be as normal as possible if you want to continue.”

When I went into jail, as I said, my friend had just died. He was the 24th person to die in jail since 1973. When I came out, they were talking about number 27. And this is happening increasingly now, because of the frustration the police are having. They want quick information. Now, there is an extent to which a person can absorb beating without revealing information. But sometimes it so happens that, in fact, the person being assaulted doesn’t [have the information]. And they simply go on and on and on hoping to get to the point where this guy will just have to give in. They go on and on with a towel around your neck saying “Speak”—and you say nothing—”Speak”—you say nothing—and the bloody brutes are not trained well enough to realize when enough is enough. So, by the time they release the towel you have probably been dead for a couple of minutes. They have not realized it, they are in such a frenzy. Now I’ve never experienced it myself, as I say. The guy who assaulted me really and truly could have done it in the street. It was a fight, let’s put it that way.

Interviewer: One last thing. What do you see that those in the United States who support the struggle of the people in South Africa can do?

Biko: It’s a difficult question. The most useful contribution would be mounting pressure on the United States government to take the most radical policy toward South Africa. I’m an advocate, absolutely, of isolation of the country in virtually all spheres. Now the United States is seen as a sufficiently important country for South Africa to want to please most of the time and I think America can afford to make preconditions to any exchange they have with the country. [Regarding] investments, for instance, I would speak in terms of total disengagement, but I know this is not a realistic hope. The tendency is to speak in terms of minimum conditions under which investment should continue. I would also talk of cultural boycotts, certainly the level of sport, music, and so on. The whole question of diminishing the level of bilateral trades, except on certain conditions would also be important. These are all obviously compromise things I’m talking about. [It] is said that America must not be involved at all, to the point of not even having a diplomatic form of representation here. You see what I mean when I say Russia [has] clean hands: they just don’t have a damn thing here. They’ve got no representative. They’ve got nothing that they owe the country. No form of bilateral trade. But America has a long history [of relations] so they have got to cut back on what they have done. And of course, the other thing is the use of the American vote in the Security Council, especially the veto. One wants to see them using that veto very sparingly, and certainly not to let it spoil whatever pressure programs are being built up by other people through the United Nations.

I think individuals could assist in making the issue a little bit more topical, because the more topical it is in the States, the more it can be used for pressure purposes. Many Americans just don’t know where South Africa is, who Vorster is. They couldn’t be bothered right now. But then we are having, or we will have here, a Vietnam situation at some stage. There is no doubt about that if America continues the present policy. This situation here, I think, should begin to be seen in the same sort of light. I cannot speak on behalf of liberation movements because we have chosen to operate on a different plane, not because I condemn what they are doing. We don’t pass any judgement on what they are doing. We are operating within a country which has restrictive laws that stop you even from commenting positively on what happens at the borders. So, I don’t want to say to you assist [one liberation group] and not [another] or that I approve of [one] and not [the other]. But I do think they have their own spokesmen and it’s an area that should be looked at. That’s all I can say, you know.

To print and read the pdf version, please click hereAZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue Number 35


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