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After months of behind-the-scenes meetings , Azapo, BPC and Sopa have finally closed ranks, writes Ido Lekota

By unknown | Dec 07, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The three exponents of the Black Consciousness Movement in the country have decided to bury the hatchet and reunite.

The three exponents of the Black Consciousness Movement in the country have decided to bury the hatchet and reunite.

This week, the leaders of Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa) and the Black People's Convention (BPC) announced they are coming together "to form a formidable organisation of the Black Consciousness Movement".

The move is long overdue because these parties have divided whatever support base they had - and in the process undermined their ability to affect the current political landscape.

Sopa and the BPC broke away from Azapo - which was the internal wing of the Black Consciousness Movement during the liberation struggle days.

The split was due to leadership disputes after 1994 - when some of their members felt Azapo should not be part of the newly elected ANC-led government.

The Black Consciousness Movement has an impeccable track record of mobilising the dispossessed in this country, at a time when the apartheid state security machinery had forced organisations such as the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the ANC to go underground after they were banned in 1960.

Many of the current leaders in government and business are products of this movement.

Given the continuing economic disparities along racial lines in this country, the Black Consciousness philosophy remains relevant even today.

Speaking at a media briefing announcing the merger, Azapo president Mosibudi Mangena said the new party saw its support base as the majority of black people who continue to live under abject poverty and face the scourges of unemployment and economic deprivation.

Mangena said the majority of South Africans have not yet arrived where they should be after attaining political freedom.

The question that the new party has to deal with is what will they offer that is different from the ANC as the ruling party.

For example, during his SABC interview this week, President Thabo Mbeki outlined some of his government's achievements in improving the quality of life for those previously excluded by the apartheid system.

He, however, went on to say that despite these achievements, the majority of South Africans - who are black - continue to be excluded from the economic mainstream and continue to bear the brunt of the apartheid legacy.

This in a nutshell is what Mangena has also expressed.

The issue, therefore, becomes how the new BCM party believes it can deal with these issues in a manner that is qualitatively different from that of the ANC.

One thing that the new party can do is to get involved in tackling those bread-and-butter issues that have seen many communities taking to the streets, to express their unhappiness about the manner in which the ANC-led government is dealing with them.

For example, the new party has expressed its commitment to the non-privatisation of basic services such as water and electricity.

The community of Phiri in Soweto has taken the Johannesburg City Council to court, challenging its decision to instal pre-paid water meters.

Essentially, the community's argument is that the installation of these meters undermines its ability to equitably enjoy its socio-economic rights as entrenched in the constitution.

These are the people that the new party should see as its constituency.

On the other hand, there is the question of the quality of education that the majority of black children continue to receive.

Schools are closing in the townships because of parents who feel their children are receiving poor- quality education in these areas.

In desperation, some of these parents take their children to fly-by-night institutions in the city that are run by unscrupulous operators who are cashing-in on the situation.

The new party must help black communities reclaim their institutions of learning and turn them into centres of excellence.

They must work with the parents and teachers to create a situation where children go to schools outside their community not because they are looking for quality education somewhere else but out of choice.

Those who know the history of the Black Consciousness Movement will realise that these are not lofty ideas.

During apartheid the BPC - under the leadership of Steve Bantu Biko - ran self-help programmes in communities.

These projects ensured that communities received quality healthcare and education.

A typical example of this is the Zanenpilo Clinic in King William's Town that was established under Black Community Programmes (BCP).

In the process they also inculcated self-reliance in these communities - a trait that is critically needed in those communities that continue to suffer the legacy of apartheid.

Most importantly, the new party must include a new leadership.

The Black Consciousness Movement is in need of a new generation of leaders - who will propel the new party to new heights.

Simply put, the BCM needs fresh blood with fresh ideas.


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