If they thought Covid-19 brought about a “new normal” in the lives of humanity, we have to wait and see what kind of “normal” the Russia-Ukraine conflict will bring to global geopolitics. While the loss of lives and infrastructure destruction we see in that war is not nice at all, but it is difficult to ignore the resolve of President Vladimir Putin to stand to the western power block. He inherited a mutilated and emasculated Russia after the glasnost and perestroika experiments that were followed by the unbundling of the Soviet Union as we then knew it.
Putin entered the world stage with a resolve to “relionise” Russia. And that country is a lion again. He quietly reorganised and built the economy, while he armed and rebuilt the army without any hype. That rebuilt muscle helped Russia outwit and outmanoeuvre the US in the Syrian Civil War which started off within the context of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. The US entered that war on the side of the rebels with an objective of toppling the Syrian government. To cut to the chase, Russia successfully defended Syria against an assortment of world forces that included the US, ISIL, Free Syrian Army, Army of Conquest and al-Nusra Front. The embarrassing US withdrawal from Syria in 2019 was soon followed by an even more embarrassing and chaotic withdrawal in Afghanistan in 2021. Even there, Russia was accused by the US allies of arming the Taliban. Russia denied all that. On the other hand, the US has still not forgiven Russia for allegedly using cyberattack to interfere in the US Presidential elections in favour of Donald Trump.
While the US wrongly accused Iraq of having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and invaded that country on the basis of that lie, North Korea kept telling the US that they have those WMD. When the US accused Pyongyang of lying, that country staged demonstrations to test their WMD for the whole world to see. Because North Korea, and unlike Iraq, really had the WMD, the US opted to the diplomacy route as against to military invasion. That goes to tell you that readiness in formidable defence is critical in this dog-eat-dog world. Meanwhile, post-apartheid South Africa is boasting and is respected of being a country that voluntarily dismantled its nuclear weapons. Iran is continually reminded of this South African “miracle”. What they are not saying is the fact that the people of South Africa were not involved in that nuclear dismantlement. Not even the current ruling party was. The white settler regime did it secretly on the eve of 1994 because it meant to hand over weakened power and render South Africa a defenseless State, so to speak.
While countries like Russia and China have built their economies to a level of beginning a new epoch of dedollarising the global economy, in South Africa a Head of State is accused of stacking millions of US dollars in a “mattress”. Those US dollars are said to have been stolen and traced Mafia-style without reporting the robbery to a local police station to generate a CAS number and lawful investigation. Of the many things that worry us in AZAPO in the reported case is the fact that the President felt he would not take the nation into confidence about the case. He chose and respected his political party over the nation. It worries AZAPO that the office of the President issued a statement admitting that the dollars were proceeds from the President’s business transactions. We thought that a Head of State knows that he cannot be involved in any profit-generating business while in office. AZAPO worries further because racists should be rejoicing and saying they are vindicated in their racist pronouncements that black people cannot be associated with clean governance. While it is right that these shenanigans are exposed for the nation to get the answers, but it worries AZAPO further that the person who opened the case against the President is the ruling party’s member who was an intelligence operative and leader. This is the unfortunate result of factionalising the intelligence institutions along narrow political party interests.
With that said, we may restate that AZAPO has called on the President to take the nation into confidence about what took place on his farm. A Head of State does not enjoy a right to silence on matters like these. He cannot hope to be deemed innocent until proven guilty. He has a political duty to come clean and take the nation into confidence. If he knows he is in the wrong, he needs to do the right thing and step down.
We talk in this manner because this is our country. AZAPO has a duty to ensure that our country does not degenerate into a failed State. AZAPO has an interest in ensuring that we live in a country that we can be proud of. Its politics must be clean, and the economy well run in favour of taking black people out of chronic poverty and resultant dehumanisation. We have no other country other than this one. We have no dual citizenship between this country and another one in Europe. This is the country of our forebears. This is the country of our birth. That is why we are prepared to die in defence of our land.
That is also why we are indebted to the Old Generation of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) for developing a philosophy and founding a vanguard movement for the Azanian Masses. That was not achieved without sacrifices because, as Ongkopotse Tiro said, “there is no struggle without causalities”. To prove that Black Consciousness Stalwart Nchaupe Mokoape was right when he bravely declared that “sisayinde ngegazi” (we signed with our blood), the radical establishment of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) claimed the lives of the Azanian Martyrs like Mthuli ka Shezi, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mapetla Mohapi, Steve Biko and the June 16 Uprising activists. Some of the Founders of the BCM left Azania for exile in their youth to grow up in exile without the supportive comfort of parents and family. It is out of the recognition of these rich contributions and breath-taking sacrifices that the December Four Leadership thought it necessary to get in touch with our BC Stalwarts and convey our gratitude to them. To mention but a few, we got in touch with Cde Barney Pityana but our visit had to be rescheduled due to an intervening situation. We visited our Spiritual Mother Mrs Ntsiki Biko in Ginsburg. We went to Cape Town and found Cde Peter Jones – the last Black man to see Biko alive. He was incapacitated by a major stroke and could not walk and talk. All he did was to talk through his lovely smiles and tears which kept on rolling down his cheeks. We went to Gauteng and visited Cdes Bokwe Mafuna, Sandile Ntwasa and Dan Habedi who is recovering from a major stroke.
We also visited the popular artist Israel Matseke-Zulu who had just been discharged from hospital with an amputated leg. We had to do all these visits and share love because that is what BC is all about – the unconditional love of black people. Yes, gold and silver we have not, but love we have in abundance to share to the people who were not only dispossessed of their land, but also got enslaved and oppressed.
With the Founders of the Movement of Biko gradually taking their collective rest due to advanced age and bodily ailments, the stage is now set for the younger generation of Azanian Warriors to stand up and be counted. Our role should not be limited to defending our political legacy. We need to advance that legacy by achieving qualitatively new political milestones in the history of the BCM and the liberation struggle. The political history of the BCM should never be frozen in Biko and the June 16 Uprising. We should not have to turn and look in the past to justify our present and future relevance as BC activists. We must justify our political relevance in terms of our landmark contributions by ourselves and in our time where we are. What was done was done, and what needs to be done has to be done. That is not to undermine what was done, because what was done still prevails as our political reference.
If we have to #ReLioniseAZAPO, as we must do, then we must appreciate the political value that we must resist the negative temptation to monopolise AZAPO and domesticate BC. AZAPO is not an organisation of its members, but the Movement of the People. It is not a facility to breed selfish pride, but an instrument to liberate the people and our country Azania. In that sense, AZAPO must be run as a people’s movement, that it is. We must develop the confidence to open AZAPO to the people and the public such that they know about its trials and tribulations. The people need not be card-carrying members of AZAPO to contribute to the building of this noble organisation. AZAPO is theirs even more than it is of its members.
For AZAPO to be a people’s movement in a democracy, there is a need to deepen our internal democracy as an organisation. Even more than before, the membership must feel free to engage and criticise the leadership. While that criticism will be ruthless, it must also be constructive. When as a leader you are corrected of something wrong you have done, you must not be stubborn to remind us of the many good things you have done for AZAPO and black people. Of course, you were elected to do the good things, but never the wrong and bad things. The deepening of internal democracy also means that whoever criticises others must earn the right to criticise by being exemplary and do the right thing, which is the Black Thing. When you ask others to be punctual at meetings, but you come late, you are rudely showing others that you have no respect for them and their time. You can’t ask others to meet their financial obligations when you destructively keep your wallet closed. As has been said, a leader must lead by example.
When we committed to make AZAPO an action-oriented organisation we meant that AZAPO must engage in more political actions than it holds general meetings. Our Branches and members need training in “Platoonism”, by which I mean the deliberate strategy of publicly responding to political issues by engaging in protest actions through the AZAPO Platoons all over Azania. Each Province or Region of AZAPO is a battlefield. AZAPO members in these battlefields must get into the habit of sleeping with their boots on and ready for action. We must do the talking through action. As they say, action speaks louder than the words. We have said what needs to be said. It is now time to escalate and walk the talk. Action has to be the official language of AZAPO. And every member has a responsibility to learn and fluently speak the language of action. Those who have been in AZAPO before 1994 will remember that we spoke the language of action. AZAPO graffiti on the public walls in towns and townships never required a general meeting decision. Neither was it necessary for Comrades to be appointed to write the graffiti, nor was there a need to agree on what would be written on the walls. We woke up to walls painted black with a black brush directed by a black hand. It helped us to be articulate in dealing with the enemy’s hostile interrogation that the author was some unknown known. We were just fluent in the language of action.
For us to #ReLioniseAZAPO, we need to radically reinvent the Movement of Biko. And a new organisation needs a new member and a new leader who must not be trapped in the shadow of the old leader. The old leader did their bit in the context of their circumstances, space and time. That is why we have a proud legacy today. We are indebted to them. But to try and do what has been done may require us to go back in time by pressing the repeat button of political history. Unfortunately, the repeat mode will not expose us to new sounds or propel us forward. As a new member and new leader of AZAPO, you have to live your own life and die your own death in your own circumstances, space and time. As we ride on the momentum of old legacies, we are building new legacies that will catapult us into new heights.
Our example is in nature. In the march of time, there is a conflict between the body of the snake and its skin. While the snake grows, its skin doesn’t grow. There is a level of bodily growth beyond which the snake’s skin is not designed to accommodate. But that bodily growth cannot. It is at this point of conflict that the snake renews and liberates itself by shedding its old skin which stands on the path of its necessary growth. There are a lot of things in AZAPO that were good in their time that we now have to forgo. That is called change. To #ReLioniseAZAPO means we must introduce new ways of doing things. It does also mean we must discard old habits and introduce new ones. While institutional memory is of cardinal importance in leading and driving an organisation, there is a sense in which there is also a need to develop new institutional memories that will serve as a dynamic reference for the new growth. We have no choice but to progressively build a new organisational culture.
If you joined AZAPO 40 years ago and still find it to be the same organisation you joined 40 years ago, you have to be very worried. Someone who is conservative and perpetuating a legacy may be pleased by that constancy. But a progressive person will know that there is no growth, development and movement if my AZAPO remains the same as I joined it 40 years ago. It does not always happen that the people who founded organisations live to be happy with what they founded. That’s because an organisation may outgrow some of the objectives for which the founders formed it. It is at this point of conflict that an organisation may dispose of its founder in favour of attracting dynamic human resources that will harness and promote growth and forward movement. It is the question of the snake shedding its skin.
To #ReLioniseAZAPO may mean that AZAPO may have to throw caution to the wind and move to operate in the risky political spaces. Even in politics, the saying is true that the higher the risk, the higher the dividends. A political organisation that conservatively plays safe will not be a factor in setting the political agenda and influencing the movement of history. We have to realise that AZAPO cannot hope to champion the liberation struggle alone and in isolation. We shall have to work with other political forces whose political objectives coincide with ours. In this regard, there may come a time where the AZAPO-PAC Cooperation may prove insufficient for advancing the Azanian Revolution to new heights. That would be the time when there would be a need to make the circle bigger by inviting more political forces into the Azanian Front to attain land repossession, total liberation and socialism. That development will come with its own risks and challenges. The retarding limitation of political parties in an electoral democracy is that they tend to be preoccupied with winning and increasing Parliamentary seats and forget that the struggle for land repossession and socialism cannot be exclusively waged in the straightjacketing Parliamentary confines. That is why they avoid a fighting united front because they need to be seen to be the sole ones who made things happen. Everything these political parties do is done with the electorate in mind. For sure, the electorate is important for its votes in an electoral democracy. But we should not forget that the masses play a decisive role in the struggles outside Parliament. And those struggles are the ones we need to set the agenda for law makers in Parliament. Before we conclude coalitions to solve the problem of hung Parliaments, we need the fighting united front to take us to Parliament and beyond. Before we go to Parliament, we must go to the village.
For the eruption of the new AZAPO we want, we need disruption in our modus operandi. This attitudinal and strategic change is sometimes called pivoting. This pivoting cannot succeed with political activists that have no appetite for risk. By risk, I mean calculated risk. Political pivoting requires the agility of young people and their adventurism. It goes without saying that we have to populate AZAPO with young people and women. Our political character and the tempo of our political activism must therefore resonate with the urgency of young people and the deliberateness of women.
A pivoted AZAPO will have the political confidence to remind the ruling party that the driver of a car is not always the owner of the car. As things stand, the owner of the car is the white ruling class that is sitting at the back of the car. The ruling party is nothing more than the chauffeur of the white ruling class. In the townships we know that the taxi driver is seldom the taxi owner. This is despite the fact that the taxi driver may beat the commuter up for banging the door. Yes, the taxi driver collects and count the money. But he must hand over the money bag to the taxi owner. We have to keep on making the distinction between the ruling party and the ruling class until the taxi drivers know that they are not the taxi owners.
Once more, let us be reminded that our mission as this Central Committee is to sharpen the weapon in the hands of the Azanian people. That weapon is AZAPO. By sharpening this weapon, we are putting a smile on the lips of Biko. Let us spare no effort in our mission to #ReLioniseAZAPO.