FBJ has a good cause by which it will stand

Oupa Ngwenya

Oupa Ngwenya

The revival of the Forum of Black Journalists recently has been given predictably acrimonious reception, as was the case on its inauguration in 1997.

The only difference this time is that the outcry was not only from white journalists, but also from those targeted as potential members - black journalists.

The event sought to kill two birds with one stone - to serve as a revival and recruitment drive for people with a shared black experience in the media.

The method of invitation is open to dispute, since it was electronically generated and prone to reach even those for which it was not intended. The communication should have carried a disclaimer.

Interestingly, the uninvited seized the opportunity to camouflage their act of provocation. They insisted to be admitted to an event billed for a specific interest group that had wished to meet ANC president Jacob Zuma. Had it given in, would the FBJ have been hailed as a nonracialists platform?

The consistent point of argument in 1997, and now, is that the FBJ has no reason to exist, as it is in the view of some within and outside the SA National Editors Forum anachronistic to South Africa's post-1994 era.

The righteousness of any black cause, it seems, remains terminally suspect outside white tutelage and supervision.

While the Black Management Forum and the Black Lawyers Association intermittently get painted with the same ink of culpable black exclusivity, the expressed mitigating factor against them is that they accept whites and are thus forgiven.

Failure by the FBJ to produce "their whites" makes them hopeless sinners who are not in tune with the drum beat and spirit of a new South Africa.

These are the self-same accusations that saw the Africanbond retreat into oblivion and the Native Club tiptoeing without a fight from their declared cause. If indeed there is violation by the FBJ, let attention be drawn to that section in the Constitution that says black action should and must always be tempered with the clairvoyance of white leadership or presence.

This does not suggest the FBJ should not consider engaging in strategic relationships and solidarity actions with people who support its cause. But no amount of support should be advanced to the total eclipse of the decisive commitment on the part of the aggrieved to initially championing their cause.

The FBJ owes this country and its fraternal solidarity organisations, locally and abroad, not just monthly off-the-record briefings, but a well-thought-out programme on the basis of which it can be attacked or defended.

Having had the benefit of the working and fighting liberating experience of the FBJ, there should be no doubt that it has a good cause by which it should stand. The basic tenet of that cause should be pursued in the full knowledge that eliminating inequality is the ultimate condition to make all forms of separation redundant. If that is a common goal on either side of the FBJ divide, then we will meet at the rendezvous of the most prized victory of true humanity that Steve Biko so dearly paid with his life.

lThe writer is a freelance journalist and former FBJ general secretary.

Charles Mogale is away. Flipside returns next Wednesday.