Repression roused her consciousness

Nthabisang Moreosele and Botshelo Selogilwe

Nthabisang Moreosele and Botshelo Selogilwe

Ohara Diseko was literally born into a political milieu where ANC and struggle politics were the bread of life. Most of her family and neighbours were involved in one way or the other to overthrow apartheid.

"I became involved in the struggle while still young. I remember my sister (Justice Minister Bridget Mabandla) and her group coming home after they founded the South African Students' Organisation (Saso).

"When the combi stopped, the radio was blaring: Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud by James Brown, or Nina Simone's To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

The high spirits infected the younger ones, who started questioning their inferior education and the matric quota system.

"It was a control mechanism to keep blacks in order. Blacks were channelled into the classics and humanities instead of the sciences. That is why the country still has a shortage of maths and science teachers.

"But apartheid sharpened our self-worth. My mother constantly said: 'Education is your husband. You must make a book your friend.'

"Through Saso members we learnt: 'Black man you are on your own.'

"Steve Biko was our role model. He taught us to believe in ourselves."

Diseko enrolled at the University of Turfloop and joined Saso. She was fascinated by the seniors who did not look down on the juniors, but who engaged them in political discussions.

These discussions led to the discovery of black writers such as Franz Fanon, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davies and many others.

"Saso was banned when Onkgopotse Tiro put a spanner in the works. Blacks were not allowed to attend graduation ceremonies. Tiro, then SRC president, made a blistering speech about the fat, white wives of the university officials attending the ceremony at the expense of black parents.

"The news of his speech spread and we believed that the revolution had begun. We were jubilant."

The army invaded the campus. Students were expelled.

When Diseko left Turfloop, she went to teach at Soweto's Orlando North High. She was very unhappy about the kind of education black children received.

"I taught education for liberation because it can never be value-free. It was then that I went underground. Joe Gqabi recruited me. I never wavered about the cause. Tiro's and Biko's deaths only strengthened and heightened my consciousness."