LEST WE FORGET our past

STRUGGLE ICON: The founding father of Black Consciousness, Steve Biko, with his comrade Mamphela Ramphele.Pic. Unknown

Biko, steve (ramphele, mamphela)
STRUGGLE ICON: The founding father of Black Consciousness, Steve Biko, with his comrade Mamphela Ramphele.Pic. Unknown Biko, steve (ramphele, mamphela)

VERY generation has a story to tell about its past. The years that come with age can sometimes make a growing soul cast a loving glance backwards in fond remembrance of its younger days. In that remembrance lies moving lessons of history and heritage that this generation should embrace and extol as its proud legacy.

VERY generation has a story to tell about its past. The years that come with age can sometimes make a growing soul cast a loving glance backwards in fond remembrance of its younger days. In that remembrance lies moving lessons of history and heritage that this generation should embrace and extol as its proud legacy.

In case the valued lessons are lost to this generation, the message is this: the freedom being enjoyed today would not have materialised in the lifetime of many had it not been for that beautiful and unbreakable generation of June 16 1976.

To remember June 16 1976 is to take a measured, solemn and conscious bow of respect to those who stood tall to face the monster of oppression in the eye to pave way for this nation to be a celebrated part of the free world.

Thirty-four years ago, the notion of a democratic South Africa was nothing more than a dream battling what seemed to be an unbeatable nightmare. Sixteen years before June 16 1976, there was the Sharpeville Massacre of March 21 1960. Black people choked into silence, inaction and fear.

Just when oppressive rule had thought its repressive formula had delivered the kind of blows that would leave black people to believe their painful fate was an act of God, then came the massive awakening of the people known as Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy.

Its founding father was Steve Bantu Biko. And the force of BC became clearer with the formation of the South African Students Organisation (Saso) in 1968.

Out of the BC philosophy emerged the Black Consciousness Movement that instilled in blacks their right to initiate projects, establish platforms and political formations that asserted their independence of thought and action as a distinct force for their own liberation.

BC even made blacks to confront themselves as individuals in the form of a self-examination that saw them abandoning skin lightening creams and using African names to affirm their sense of origin.

Black Consciousness did not only exorcise black people from the strange god of fear but also imbued in them the total re-examination of themselves, which brought about a genesis of a brave new world to rediscover and rename themselves and their environs.

The black theology of liberation was forthright in teaching the gospel that God was not on the side of the oppressors; that fighting for liberation was not strange to making the will of God to prevail on Earth. Being black and proud was advanced on the knowledge that blacks were part of God's unmistaken creation and therefore a reflection of His image.

From then on, no aspect of black life was untouched by the transformative philosophy of BC.

With the reconstructive philosophy of BC, there was a discernible fragrance of dignity, decorum of respect and ethics of solidarity in the quest for true humanity so eloquently expressed in Biko's book I write what I like.

Black preparedness and fearlessness to live in an open society was ably expressed in the Saso-Black People's Convention policy manifesto: "South Africa is a country where blacks and whites live and shall continue to live on the basis of a programmatic elimination of super or subordinate relations between them." The massive parades of support for Bafana Bafana, last Wednesday, offered a glimpse of what Saso and BPC had envisioned.

Thirty-four years ago, the active force of this vision in black high schools was the South African Students Movement. The movement was the oasis of that brave class of 1976. This is the class that kept pace with the Viva Frelimo rallies to celebrate the coming of Frelimo in 1974 under Samora Machel.

It is the same class that cheered the coming into power of Agostinho Neto in Angola in 1976 and hailed Sam Nujoma in Namibia's independence on March 21 1990.

It was the class of 1976 that brought a revitalisation of the broad liberation and thus injected an unstoppable movement that found expression in the slogan: "Forward ever, backward never."

It was tough, it was rough. It was deadly. Hector Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu are some of the known martyrs of that brave class of 1976. There were many more of such martyrs. The marshalling of this student force was under the stewardship of the Soweto Students Representative Council. Out of of this body a blueprint was firmly established for the rest of the country to follow.

The first president of the organisation was Tsietsi Mashinini. The second was Khotso Seatlholo. Then came Sechaba Montsisi; followed by Trofomo Sono and Oupa Mlangeni.

The purgative cleansing nature of Black Consciousness was unyielding in its generational impact in helping its subjects rediscover themselves.

The final blow came with the banning of 18 BC organisations and the two newspapers, The World and the Weekend World on October 19 1977. The writing was on the wall that these were the last kicks of a dying horse.

Thirteen years later, on February 2 1990 oppressive rule breathed its last. Liberation movements were unbanned, the exiled returned, political prisoners were released, among them Nelson Mandela. Today South Africa is a toast of the free nations of the world.

Only fools would forget that the first step to this unfolding great future traces back to that beautiful and the unbreakable class of June 16 1976. That it is also on the 34th anniversary of June 16 1976 that the World Cup is being staged in our country is no excuse to forget.

X