PAC, Azapo now need to make a plan

Zamikhaya Maseti

The outcome of the 2009 general elections clearly signal that smaller parties, particularly Azapo and the PAC, have hit a political cul de sac. These former liberation parties seem to have stagnated ideologically and have been unable to move forward and build a strong base among the historically disadvantaged black community.

The question we ought to ask is whether these parties are simply failing to get their messages across - or is it because what they stand for is totally irrelevant? Or is it because we are no longer interested in our being "black"?

The philosophy of Black Consciousness, as was postulated by Steven Bantu Biko in the early seventies, was acutely relevant to the broad national liberation struggle conducted by the people of South Africa. The problem came with the emergence of the United Democratic Front which then dominated the direction and content of the national liberation struggle.

The Black Consciousness Movement suffered when most of its seasoned leaders joined the ranks of the Mass Democratic Movement and unfortunately did little to promote and propagate the Black Consciousness philosophy.

Another problem was the failure of both Azapo and the PAC to connect and align with the dominant socialist forces in the country, especially after 1990.

These formations also failed to capture the moment when Thabo Mbeki articulated the vision of African renaissance. Instead of becoming the main vehicles in advancing and promoting African renaissance, they chose to stand on the sidelines and criticise Mbeki. It is these factors which better explain and account for the demise of both the Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness formations in post-apartheid South Africa.

It has become very clear during these elections that ordinary voters have shed those parties whose manifestos and ideologies are unpalatable and unclear.

Smaller parties like Azapo need to move beyond acting and behaving like non-governmental organisations. They need to act as proper political parties and confront the real socio-economic issues confronting South Africans.

They also need to look at their quality of leadership and begin to interrogate them as to how they plan to make a contribution to a modern and ever-changing South Africa.

Young people have been re-energised by the emergence of the Congress of the People. This clearly threatened the ANC, which must indeed be commended for its fight-back strategy which has paid off dividends. The question is: what did Azapo and the PAC attempt to do to capture the votes of young people? Again they stepped aside and focused on other issues.

The legacy of both Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe is as relevant today as it was ever before. The moral decay and degeneration which continue to bedevil our country need parties like Azapo and the PAC to constantly remind us of our Black values.

The problem is that the proponents of these philosophies do not create the necessary infrastructure to get their messages across.

lMaseti is a political economy analyst and heads Ngubengcuka Consulting