On 12 April 1980, the Conference of the Black Consciousness Movement in London managed to bring together most of the disparate BC formations in exile. The Black Consciousness Movement of Azanian (BCMA) was born as an umbrella body that brought together the various BC organisations in exile.

A resolution was passed by the Conference to form a military wing of the BCMA to consolidate all previous military efforts since 1973 and advance the armed struggle. The earlier military efforts had culminated in the formation of the Azanian People’s Liberation Front (APLF), whose cadres received military training from countries such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. A Task Team, which placed Cde Mosibudi Mangena at the head of the organisation, was formed in 1982 in Botswana. Its political duty was to carry forward the work of the Executive Committee and overcome the immense challenges of the time. The Task Team also recommended that Cde Nkutšoeu Motsau should take up the position of the Secretary for Defence of the BCMA. He did so in 1983.

The BCMA then embarked upon a protracted two-pronged diplomatic offensive: to get political recognition for the Movement and to acquire facilities for military training for its army. The efforts to get political recognition by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations Organisation (UN) were opposed by both the ANC and the PAC. As a result, the Liberation Committee of the OAU, which was responsible for assisting liberation movements in Africa, could not help the BCMA. Therefore, individual African countries found it difficult to help the BCMA.

The BCMA adopted the self-reliance principle and knocked at the door of every progressive country to put its case. The countries included the Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, North Korea, the Eastern Bloc countries and Cuba.

The contact and cooperation of the BCMA chapters in the USA, Canada and Europe with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) led to the breakthrough in the effort to acquire military training. The first two members of the BCMA underwent military training in the liberated zones in Eritrea in 1985. Upon their return from training, they did not waste time but set about forming the army, the Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA). Later a planeload was sent to train in Libya. This involved the cooperation of a few African countries, despite non-recognition by the OAU. The diplomatic offensive was paying off at last!

All the members of the BCMA in exile, especially those in the Frontline States, were given military training and belonged to Squads. They were trained in the Frontline States without the approval or knowledge of the Frontline States. Recruits from Azania were also trained there under the same circumstances and returned back into the country. The trained lot started to set up bases inside Azania and trained others. Everything was done to acquire weapons and explosives. The dangerous military stunts included raiding police stations and confiscating an assortment of weapons to arm the AZANLA Fighters. It was not easy but enjoyable.

The AZANLA Day, which falls on 12 April, is meant to bring together mainly the AZANLAMVA members so that they should recollect and tell their stories; document and celebrate their involvement in the armed struggle aspect of the Azanian Revolution. It is an emotional moment where we remember the courageous and selfless efforts of the AZANLA guerrillas, which include our soldiers who fell in battle and those that succumbed to their failure of health in Azania after 1994.