South Africa needs unity

The 1976 stu­dent up­ris­ing marked the turn­ing point in the South African strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion, writes Mole­batsi Masedi

African Times - - Front Page - Mole­batsi Masedi a Polok­wane, Lim­popo-based pro­po­nent of Rad­i­cal So­cio-Economic Trans­for­ma­tion. Twit­ter: @ Mole­bat­siMasedi

IFEEL pity for the Pan African­ist Move­ment in South Africa and its Black Con­scious­ness cousin, they are al­ways mourn­ing about how the govern­ment is not ac­cord­ing them much de­served recog­ni­tion. This is tan­ta­mount to want­ing in the board­room, what they failed to win in the cru­cible of strug­gle.

My feel­ings of pity for the two strands of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment come as the coun­try celebrates Hu­man Rights Month. Com­mem­o­ra­tions of the Month will cul­mi­nate with Hu­man Rights Day on March 21.

Hu­man Rights Day owes its ex­is­tence from the Sharpeville mas­sacre which oc­curred in Sharpeville when the apartheid po­lice turned on the PAC anti-pass march with dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

On the day a crowd of about 7 000 peo­ple marched on the Sharpeville po­lice sta­tion. The po­lice fired live am­mu­ni­tion. When the shoot­ing stopped many peo­ple were in­jured, 69 were killed.

As if the mur­der of the in­no­cent was not enough, the set­tler-colo­nial regime banned all strands of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

The PAC named the day Sharpeville af­ter the town­ship where the tragedy oc­curred. March 21 be­came an an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tive day in the cal­en­dar of the strug­gle in the coun­try and else­where in the world. Azapo com­mem­o­rated it over the years as He­roes’ Day.

An­other tragedy would oc­cur on 16 June 1976. Stu­dents marched, peace­fully and bear­ing no weapons, against the whole­sale im­po­si­tion of Afrikaans as the medium of in­struc­tion. As would be ex­pected, an­other mas­sacre hap­pened. The apartheid po­lice maimed and killed many stu­dents.

The 1976 stu­dent up­ris­ing marked the turn­ing point in the South African strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion. Thou­sands of young peo­ple skipped the bor­ders and went into ex­ile to train as soldiers to free their coun­try. Or so did the youth of 1976 think. It would be years be­fore the coun­try could be free and safe for them to re­turn home. They would be much older when free­dom came, some would have died in ex­ile.

With the dawn of free­dom and democ­racy the two events would be el­e­vated in sta­tus in the na­tional cal­en­dar. March 21 be­came Hu­man Rights Day to cel­e­brate every­body’s rights as en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion of the coun­try.

As for June 16, it be­came Youth Day to com­mem­o­rate the brav­ery of the youth who stood up against a regime armed to the teeth.

The recog­ni­tion and el­e­va­tion of the two his­tor­i­cal events is clothed in anger and bit­ter­ness by the Pan African­ists and Black Con­scious­ness. At the heart of their anger and bit­ter­ness is the his­tor­i­cal con­flict of who was be­hind March 21, 1960 and June 16, 1976.

The PAC claims own­er­ship of March 21, 1960 and would have pre­ferred that they would lead in its an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion as Sharpeville Day and not Hu­man Rights Day as the govern­ment has re­named it.

March 21 and June 16 are a clas­sic ex­am­ples of how vic­tors ar­ro­gantly re­write his­tory by writ­ing them­selves in and oth­ers out or re­duc­ing them to mi­nor roles in his­tory.

As his­tory is told and recorded, the ANC solely bore the bur­den of lib­er­at­ing the coun­try. The na­tion owes the party eter­nal grat­i­tude for tak­ing it out of the bonds of op­pres­sion.

Dur­ing the strug­gle years, the ANC sought to cast it­self as the sole in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the op­pressed peo­ple of South Africa. It be­came big brother of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. Con­se­quent to its cast­ing as the sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple, it re­ceived more recog­ni­tion and sup­port across the world. Other strands in the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle were re­duced to the role of ex­tras.

In the coun­try turf bat­tles were fought and re­sulted in losses of life and de­struc­tion of prop­erty. Peo­ple were up­rooted from their com­mu­ni­ties as a re­sult of this in­ternecine vi­o­lence. The United Demo­cratic Front (UDF) and Aza­nian Peo­ple’s Or­gan­i­sa­tion (AZAPO) fought pitched bat­tles in Soweto, Bekkers­dal and Port El­iz­a­beth in the Eastern Cape.

There was the Inkatha fac­tor in the hos­tels and ru­ral Kwa-Zulu Natal where much lives were lost as or­gan­i­sa­tions fought for hege­mony. Where an or­gan­i­sa­tion dom­i­nated, it de­clared the area a no-go zone for oth­ers. This ten­dency nearly had Kwa-Zulu Natal ex­cluded from the first demo­cratic elec­tions.

IFP was even­tu­ally ca­joled into be­ing party to the elec­tions and peace re­turned to the war-torn re­gion over time. There are still spo­radic in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence and po­lit­i­cal killings in Kwa-Zulu Natal. They are not as they were at the dawn of free­dom. Dif­fer­ences are man­aged bet­ter to­day and po­lit­i­cal par­ties are more tol­er­ant to­wards one an­other.

Po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence is bred by in­tol­er­ance among par­ties, with each party im­pos­ing its will on oth­ers to a point of si­lenc­ing them. His­tory abounds where in­tol­er­ance de­stroyed coun­tries. In Europe you had NAZI Ger­many. Rwanda had its own spate of in­tol­er­ance which had many peo­ple killed.

As the coun­try celebrates hu­man rights month, it be­comes equally im­por­tant that we pluck the gaps in our his­tory. The gaps in our his­tory can be plucked by ac­knowl­edg­ing that the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion was more than the ANC. Recog­ni­tion must be given to the en­tirety of the broad lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

PAC and BC have had their own trou­bled times dur­ing the strug­gle and post 1990, this how­ever doesn’t di­min­ish their con­tri­bu­tions in the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion. They contributed as much as the ANC did and need to be ac­knowl­edged ac­cord­ingly.

Of course there have been ac­knowl­edge­ments of both

PAC and BC to var­i­ous de­grees by the govern­ment. Ad­vo­cate Mo­jankun­yana Gumbi was the le­gal ad­vi­sor in the pres­i­dency dur­ing the time of Thabo Mbeki.

Then Azapo pres­i­dent, Dr Mosi­budi Man­gena was var­i­ously deputy min­is­ter and min­is­ter. An­other for­mer Azapo leader, Dr Itume­leng Mos­ala, was the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture.

Themba Godi, for­merly of the PAC and now of the African Peo­ple’s Con­ven­tion, is long-serv­ing chair­per­son of the key Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Public Ac­counts. The her­itage agency is in the process of con­struct­ing a statue for Robert Sobukwe, the fa­ther of Pan African­ism in South Africa.

There is the Steve Biko statue in Port El­iz­a­beth and an aca­demic hospi­tal named af­ter him. Sev­eral ANC lead­ers like Nel­son Man­dela, Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel have de­liv­ered Steve Biko Memorial Lec­tures.

Black Con­scious­ness and Pan African­ism have found home in the ANC and so­ci­ety in gen­eral, more es­pe­cially those who feel be­trayed by the new dis­pen­sa­tion. They find so­lace in the twin philoso­phies of BC and Pan African­ism.

The bits and pieces of recog­ni­tion to BC and PAC are half hearted. They don’t ad­e­quately com­pen­sate their con­tri­bu­tions to the lib­er­a­tion of the coun­try.

As the ANC en­ters un­charted waters of rad­i­cal so­cio-economic trans­for­ma­tion and ob­vi­ous re­sis­tance it will en­counter, it may re­alise that it needs all strands of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle on its side. This way the com­plete his­tory of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle will be writ­ten by those who shared trenches to­gether.

Can the ANC find it easy to merge with the Na­tional Party than with PAC and Azapo, it re­mains to be seen what the fu­ture holds in this re­gard. The fu­ture is unity of the his­tor­i­cal lib­er­a­tion move­ment. Fail­ure to forge unity of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment will see the gains of free­dom be­ing re­versed.

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