An unforgettable day in the history of the struggle

NEXT week Monday, October 19, marks the 32nd anniversary of yet another important day on the calendar of the struggling people of South Africa.

NEXT week Monday, October 19, marks the 32nd anniversary of yet another important day on the calendar of the struggling people of South Africa.

It is here that some would rather abandon their senses, as though raging bulls tormented by the flap of a red cloth, than open up to the possibility of this country being renamed Azania.

Far from being a matador this is no provocation for enraged bulls to rush their horns into flesh to ooze the blood of brave fools, who risk life and limb for the mass entertainment of wise cowards, who watch the dangerous game from the safety of their grandstands.

October 19 was no spectator sport. The date teaches us that truth is inflammatory to those who fear it; that change is subversive to oppressive order, and that justice is confrontational.

Standing against the brutal might of the state the oppressed had one life to live, and with it, a fighting chance to attain fullest dignity or lose lives for the good of the cause that would see those left behind living less miserable lives.

Evidently, liberation required more than singing a freedom song, wearing an anti-establishment T-shirt or shouting a communist slogan.

For each freedom song sung the oppressors turned a deaf ear to the possibility of change that rang with determined clarity in the ears of the oppressed.

For each anti-establishment T-shirt worn, the state turned a blind eye to the writing on the wall that its days had reached terminal point.

With each chant of a black power salute, the architects of apartheid voted to bury their heads, like ostriches in the sand, in total denial of the unstoppable will of the people to be free.

And the newspapers that stood to tell the unflinching tale of black people, to free themselves, were similarly silenced for insurrection.

It was tough. It was rough. It was deadly. Standing up was a cause for security police harassment. Speaking up was an invitation for jail and banishment to remote and neglected parts of the land.

Brandfort is forever etched in Winnie Mandela's memory. The independence of black thought and action was met with isolation, brute force and, ultimately, a cold grave.

That independent force of black thought and action, for which Steve Biko was the acclaimed exponent, was reason behind him being named the father of Black Consciousness.

Unable to rise to the occasion of Biko's convictions, to match his intellectual finesse, his captors resorted to brute force and murder.

The Black Consciousness Movement stepped forward to claim the mortal remains of one of its most brilliant of sons. His burial on September 25, 1977 saw the words, One Azania, One Nation, daringly engraved on top of his coffin. The poetic flair in Don Mattera's Azanian Love Songs is a promise that the country will someday be renamed.

In death Biko loomed larger than the life ended in a prison cell. Twenty five days after Biko's burial, on October 19, the marauding harmer of the state went berserk to smash the 18 Black Consciousness organisations Biko helped to found.

Beyers Naudé's Christian Institute, its publication, Pro Veritate, went too. How then could the two newspapers, rooted in black experience, survive the prowling of a murderous system gone mad at anything called black? Ad so did The World and the Weekend World, Sowetan's predecessors suffer the same fate.

Whether it is called Black Wednesday, Media Day or Black Solidarity Day, this is what October 19 represents. So enjoy the fruits of freedom without forgetting those who shook the tree.