We need to reflect on how past solidarity can benefit us now, writes DAN HABEDI

This year marks 30 years since 17 Black Consciousness organisations were banned, their leaders hauled into detention without trial or forced into exile, while many of their followers were left to hurriedly work out ways of dealing with the ever-escalating repression and dehumanisation.

This year marks 30 years since 17 Black Consciousness organisations were banned, their leaders hauled into detention without trial or forced into exile, while many of their followers were left to hurriedly work out ways of dealing with the ever-escalating repression and dehumanisation.

Thirty years later, we do not only have to live with the haunting memory of how the apartheid regime dealt a devastating blow to the solidarity that had come to characterise our people's liberation efforts.

We also have to contend with the unfortunate rise of the spirit of individualism, which manifests in vulgar materialism, self-preservation of the individual at the expense of the collective, and a cynical attitude towards all views that promote collective actions and approach.

It is interesting to note that in 1977, the apartheid regime did not find it sufficient to deal with the political organisations of the time, mainly the Black People's Convention, which was the only overt political organisation of the oppressed.

The regime also dealt with individuals, religious and youth organisations, civic organisations such as the Committee of Ten, journalists and their organisations, and even newspapers.

There is no doubt that the solidarity that prevailed then made it difficult for the oppressive regime to differentiate between friend and foe. They had to cast their net as widely as possible, hoping that approach would enhance their chances of making direct hits. As we now know, they won some battles but lost the war.

The bannings might not have succeeded in stopping the long march to democracy, but they seem to have left an indelible mark, which continues to defile the spirit of community solidarity and patriotism.

It is so disappointing today that we are unable to agree on what is central to our developmental needs as an emerging nation. We do not agree on the path that has to be followed to restore humanity to society, which has the potential to give the world ". the best gift possible - a more human face".

Today we find it difficult to agree on what to call the days that mark our liberation calendar, and even more difficult to agree on how to commemorate such days.

Some of us think that, faced with the challenges of reconstructing our society, we need to steer clear of the traditional way of reflecting on our past. We need to stop commemorating with the objective of reliving our painful past, rekindling the fires of group hate, or even trying to prove and justify the profundity of thought and the effectiveness of our programmes compared to our fellow countrymen and their organisations.

We need to show why and how solidarity in action confused and humbled the agents of apartheid and their masters. We need to use our reflections to forge innovative ways to deal with the demands of our times. We need to agree on ways in which the type of solidarity we had in the past can be used to benefit us in the present.

There are many lessons that can be gleaned from the pre-October 19 1977 type of solidarity and unity in struggle.

Our country still needs the principled unity that existed then. We need the kind of initiative that saw black people form themselves into different units of struggle, which gave impetus to the multi-pronged attack on racial domination and oppression.

the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) has always advocated that the day be declared a day of national solidarity, which will be used to rally together all South Africans and their organisations to act in principled unity to confront present socio-political and economic challenges.

The day can be used to reflect on existing or necessary programmes, which can help consolidate the gains of our struggle, and to identify and counter activities that undermine our national democratic revolution.

Solidarity in action should be the nucleus of our development programmes.

There is need for us, as we reflect on that Black Wednesday, to focus more on activities that unite us, enhance development and transformation, while at the same time laying emphasis on activities that will help improve the lives of the poor, who are still struggling to make sense of their unchanging plight.

lDan Habedi is secretary general of Azapo.

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