In defence of the misguided youth of '76 generation

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

Herbert Vilakazi raises pertinent questions about relations between the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal.

Most importantly he highlights how the tensions between the two political parties affect governance of the province. And he correctly argues that tensions in the public life of the province does harm the private lives of all the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

There is indeed a need for concerted efforts to normalise relations between the IFP and the ANC in the name of nation building.

But I would like to raise certain issues with Vilakazi's analysis.

Firstly, he largely ascribes "the conflict, hostility, lack of brotherhood and sisterhood, distance and hatred between the ANC and the IFP" to the rise of the militant youth after the banning of the ANC and the PAC after the Sharpeville massacre.

Driven by the black consciousness movement under Steven Bantubonke Biko, these youths were in the forefront of the 1976 student uprisings.

They played the revolutionary role the ANCYL played in the 1940s, forcing the moderate ANC leaders to adopt the Defiance Campaign. They swelled the ranks of the BCM, ANC and the PAC in exile.

Buthelezi used to say he was not a collaborator because he did not accept the sham independence he was offered by the apartheid authorities.

A politically conscious youth are radical and revolutionary by their nature. they push the boundaries of moderation, which often masquerade as political maturity.

They were radical and were prepared to take up arms against the apartheid regime.

Inside the country they were part of the revolutionary vanguard that made the townships ungovernable and upped the tempo of the revolutionary fervour that captured the oppressed masses, which made them realise that freedom was "attainable in our lifetime".

But we should not dismiss the political infighting that ravaged this country in the 1980s and 1990s .

As Vilakazi has pointed out, the apartheid government fanned the tension between the warring parties with its third force. But sectarianism driven by political self-interest and brinkmanship also played a role. A third force could only succeed in a political environment fertile for it to do so.

People collaborated with the apartheid system because they benefitted from it.

One of the solutions Vilakazi proposes to bring peace between the IFP and the ANC is to acknowledge Buthelezi's role in the liberation struggle.

But the ANC has acknowledged Buthelezi and the IFP for the role they played in bringing South Africa where it is today.

The IFP was part of the government of national unity in 1994. Buthelezi has also served as a deputy president of this country and as the minister of home affairs.

He has even acted as the country's president.

But the IFP then pulled out of the government of national unity. This was a political move by Buthelezi to create political space for his party and to avoid being co-opted by the ANC.

It is obvious that Vilakazi is concerned about reconciliation and nation building, especially between majority African political parties.

But he tries to do this by ignoring that the IFP is a political party engaged in the contest for political power. It is not just an object that has and is still being played upon by forces beyond its control - such as the ANC and the "misguided youths of 1976".

lIdo Lekota is political editor of Sowetan. He received his early political education as one of the youth of the 1976 generation.