A new beginning

By Lybon Mabasa

By Lybon Mabasa

This year's anniversary celebrations of the Soweto uprising is a special day for the Black Consciousness Movement.

The Azanian Peoples Organisation (Azapo), the Black Peoples Convention (BPC) and the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa) will for the first time in more than a decade hold a joint June 16 commemoration at Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto on Monday.

These organisations are the leading political formations of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) that have in the past not been able to find common ground to work together and operated separately and disparately. This indeed made a mockery of black consciousness and Steve Biko's call for black solidarity.

Our rallying slogan since Biko's BPC, through to Azapo and Sopa, has been constant - One People, One Azania, One Nation.

This year's joint commemoration marks new beginnings for the organisations to build and restore the dignity of the BCM. Millions of our people throughout the length and breadth of our country yearn for the movement that they loved and respected.

The collective consciousness of this nation cannot forget the sterling leadership and commitment by the BCM throughout the darkness of apartheid oppression. It defied the odds and rose during the unfathomable callous repression while other liberation movements found refuge deeper underground.

The BCM rose at the time when fear had demobilised everyone, when it was a crime - punishable by a minimum sentence of five years - just to mention the names of people who were convicted of so-called communism or terrorism It was the movement of defiance, fearlessness and bravery. It did and said what the regime thought could not be said and done.

We commit ourselves to building an organisation that will position itself within the struggles of all our people in their quest for true humanity. It will be an organisation that will not only provide an authentic and independent political voice, but leadership in this period of great reversals of the guiding message of black consciousness.

The BCM instilled in our people a positive self-image and love that would have made words such as "xenophobia" an anathema to all our communities in this country.

Together with our people, we developed a sense of pride and love for everything that is black and African. What has happened is not only a distortion of what people in this country stand for, but a deformity has crept in because of the existing situation.

Maybe that's what prompted E'skia Mphahlele in 2004 to say: "Common suffering unites. But when suffering becomes intolerably acute, when it reduces people to abject, dehumanising poverty and insecurity, suffering disunites.''

We will gather on Monday to reclaim and advance the revolutionary message of June 16, which was mainly about black power - political liberation, social and economic emancipation of black people.

In the new neo-liberal dispensation, black people still remain relatively far off from achieving this. The majority of our people continue to suffer extreme and excruciating poverty while a few make more than just a political and economic killing.

We want to build an organisation that will wrest political power and use it to reverse the unacceptable situation that assails our people.

The three organisations, theBCM's historical leadership within and without the organisations, and the South African Youth Revolutionary Council (Sayrco), which was born out of the BCM June 16 leadership, will participate. Also included are the many fraternal spirits and supporters who believe there is no better time than now for the movement.

We will mark our efforts in placing June 16 in its proper context. It is not just a Youth Day where our youth can practise decadence; it is a day that marks a watershed, a turning point in the politics of our country. It is a national day of resistance where our people charted the perimeters of their resistance and engagement of the regime. Passive resistance died on June 16 1976.

At this commemoration, leaders will pronounce on the current crisis, epitomised by rocketing food, energy and fuel prices, and the cost of living. It is unacceptable and is tied to neo-liberal economic policies. That is why we are advocating a different political and economic framework.

Our movement's fundamental plan is black consciousness and scientific socialism. We will seize the time and make revolution the only hope of the hopeless.

This commemoration will change the BCM's fortunes. It will bring into focus the leadership and political role of young leaders Tsietsi Mashinini and Khotso Seatlholo. We will remind everyone of the bravery of Sibongile Mkhabela, Nana Sabelo, and those who lost their innocence in pursuit of the liberation of their people.

Monday's commemoration will start with a wreath-laying ceremony at Avalon Cemetery in Lenasia at 7am. We will then proceed to Regina Mundi at 10am. At 1pm there will be a march to Moroka police station to present a memorandum, demanding the renaming of Old Potchefstroom Road to Tsietsi Mashinini Road and Roodepoort Road to Khotso Seatlholo Road.

l Sopa's Mabasa writes on behalf of Sopa, Azapo and BPC