Struggle songs are not pop songs sung for aimless individual entertainment, writes Mosiuoa Lekota
The reaction of many people to the pointed questions I raised last Saturday night regarding the abuse of some of our movement's liberation songs has shown the need to undertake renewed political education on this matter.
May I, therefore, take this opportunity to clarify the issue.
The freedom songs of the liberation movement were always instruments of revolution. They were composed and sung to announce policy, to popularise it, and to motivate the masses to implement it. These freedom songs are also time-bound, being relevant to specific phases of our struggle. They are not like pop songs which are sung for aimless individual entertainment. They also cannot be the property of some individual or the other. They belong to the movement of the people.
I said they are time-bound, because a systematic study of these freedom songs shows that they are related to the phases our struggle went through.
lThe Constitutional Phase (1912-1949)
This is the period in which our people protested their exclusion from the 1910 Union of South Africa dispensation. The people's protests were strictly carried out within the law, largely bemoaning their right-less status in the land of their birth. Some of these songs included:
Senzeni na sihlushwa nje? Sono sethu bubumnyama
Sera sa motho ke pasa.And others.
As with the above example, many of these struggle songs were conversions of popular church hymns, but they played an important role in raising the social awareness of our people's oppressive condition.
Even in this early stage of our struggle, the nascent African working-class was taking its place alongside other classes inside Congress. The refrain of the imported: "What a system, what a system, what a crime? We can't mend it we must end it now and for all time!" became anyi- buye, Mayibuye, Mayibuye" Iafrika, eyathathwa ngabamhlophe.
l The extra-constitutional phase (1949-1961)
By the closing years of the 1940s, the docility of the people was fast changing into a mood of defiance. The war years had given impetus to urbanisation in leaps and bounds. Soldiers from disenfranchised communities returned with experiences which spoke of militancy in other parts of the continent and beyond. The humiliating treatment of these returnees added fuel to discontent of the people.
It was against the backdrop of these and other elements of the condition of our people that the Youth League moved the programme of action at the 1949 conference. That programme called for a radical change in the tactics of the ANC. It called for defiance of unjust laws over and above petitions and letters of protest.
The freedom songs announced this shift in tactics both in their rhythm and content. For instance: Nans' indod' emnyama Verwoerd
Sing' amasotsha kaLuthuli,Lapho lapho siyakhona sisimisel' ukufa kwethu.etc
l The armed phase (1961-1990s)
The banning of the liberation organisations confronted our people with a choice to submit or fight. They chose to fight, and their songs immediately announced this policy direction. For instance: Ngomhla sibuyayo kothula kuthi tu; kokhal'imbayimbayi phezulu kwentaba.
MK kea rona, Ba boi ba tjhetjhe, Baboi batjhetjhe, Batjhetjhelle morao.
As the armed struggle gained international support, the AK47 machine gun became the reputable weapon of freedom. Hence comrades composed Awuleth' umshini wamito motivate the youth to intensify the taking up of arms.
It is now more than 10 years since the movement abandoned arms. May I recall for the record, that sometime after the Codesa settlement, the late Peter Mokaba persisted with such chants as "Kill the farmer, kill the boer" This necessitated the NEC calling him to account as to why, as a serving member of that body, he was continuing on a platform that had already been abandoned by the movement.
That NEC meeting rebuked him very sharply, pointing out that it was the responsibility of ANC leaders and members to proceed in a manner that coincided with the movement's decided policy, and not reckless adventurism which could easily lead to the reversal of the gains of our national democratic revolution.
Following the Codesa democratic settlement, the movement announced its policy priorities as national peace, national reconciliation among the people, national reconstruction and the drive for a better life for all. Now, given the role of the freedom songs outlined here, one must ask what is the objective of those who daily lead the youth in singing songs whose message is to demand machine guns?
The policy of which organisation are they publicising and popularising? Just what are those who acquire such machine guns supposed to do with them at this stage of our national democratic revolution?
l Mosiuoa Lekota is chairman of the ANC.