A letter to my long distance lover

I pray time moves fast, so we can be together again. When I prayed last night, I wanted to ask God for specifics, but at the moment, I don’t even know how we can be in the same place in terms of work. It all seems so impossible. But as the going says “nothing is impossible with God”. He shall make a way for us. Perhaps it’s just a feeling that I’ll get used to again, but the emotion evoked by absence, words cannot describe. Waking up to be reminded that I won’t see you today and more weeks to come was almost crippling.
There’s this hole in my heart that I cannot describe. I sigh in despair, and tears stream down my face.
I slowly get ready for work, thinking this will make time move faster. I bury myself in work so that I can forget. But because no hour passes without the thought of you; the thought which is accompanied by those emotions I cannot explain, come rushing.
They say absence makes the heart grown fonder; I know for sure that I won’t stop loving you, but it isn’t the distance that makes me love you more. Minutes spent with you go so fast, yet when I’m away from you, time drags its feet. I’m writing this letter to you with tears streaming down my face, totally oblivious to what is around me. If anyone had to walk in now, I won’t even be able to explain all this. I know someone else out there feels this, maybe they haven’t even seen their loved ones in a year or more; but there’s no getting used to this. We’ve been at this for a long time now, but having to say ‘goodbye or see you soon’, whatever the words, is still an emotional exercise.

Yesterday, I watched you watch me drive away. I wanted to cry out. Tears welled up only to cause a flood down my face. I prayed, asking God to take me through this once again. Same prayer I’ve been praying for a while now.

Lord knows I love you and with even distance apart, my love for you cannot be shaken. It can only grown from this. I once said I’ll let the whole world know I love you so, they surely do today.

You said to me “things will change for the better sthandwa sami, God will bring us together soon”. How comforting those words were. I know you’ve got my back as much as I do. Until we are together again, do know that I love you more than words can describe. Totally unfathomable yet I hope that my actions are enough to explain this love.

My love, this is my letter to you. Although not enough to explain the exact emotions I feel because words are just that; words… I hope you at least understand the degree of my affection. How in love I am with you!


Total Strategy

NB: although recent posts/essays do not fall under this blog’s theme; it has however become imperative that such knowledge is shared with young South Africans.

1. Introduction

In 1977, increasing unrest, hostile frontline states and a broadening international campaign against SA had become problematic for the country. In a bid to find a solution that would take into account Afrikaner fears of “swart gevaar” (black threat), Prime Minister BJ Vorster appointed Minster of Defence, PW Botha to draft a new constitution. The result was implemented in 1983; five years after Botha had taken over the reins of government. A three house parliament (tri-cameral parliament) divided on apartheid lines unfortunately angered right-wing Afrikaner politicians who convinced many Afrikaners that violence was the only way to obtain political rights.

When PW Botha became Prime Minister in 1978, continuing internal unrest, economic depression and a ring of hostile neighbouring states were casting a wide pall over the future of white SA. Botha’s messages regularly called on white South Africans faced with new circumstances to either “adapt or die” while on the other hand he warned those clamouring for fundamental change that there would not be a one-man-one-vote in South African Parliament for as long as he was in charge of government. In his eleven years of rein, Botha worked tirelessly to show the world that Apartheid had a caring face. In 1979 when explaining why the policies of his predecessors, HF Verwoerd and Vorster had to be amended, he said that the world is a changing place and if the government wants to act in the best interest of the country in a changing world, then they have to be prepared to adapt their policies otherwise they die. This gave rise to a catchphrase “Adapt or Die”.

Like Verwoerd and Vorster, Botha believed that political power should remain in the hands of the white people. But in order to retain that power, he was willing to relax certain apartheid laws in return for continued white control of the republic. Botha then adopted a two-stream policy. On the one hand he advised whites about the necessity for change, while on the other hand he insisted that Africans had to exercise their political rights in their respective homelands.

2. Reform

In 1979, Botha came up with the 12 point plan which dealt with the local and foreign situations. It proposed the division of power between white, coloured and Indian people. Botha declared his intentions to eradicate “hurtful” and unnecessary discriminatory measures. Petty apartheid laws were scrapped and by 1986, the regime had regulations about separate amenities scrapped. The Job Reservation Act was removed together with the Mixed Marriages and the Immorality Acts. Throughout the decade, the regime would continue scrapping petty and at times aspects of Grand Apartheid.

3. Tri-cameral Parliament

The 1983 constitution made allowance for the SA parliament to consist of three legislative houses: The House of Assembly (178 whites), the House of Representatives (85 coloured people) and the House of Delegates (45 Indians). The objective of the constitution according to Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Chris Heunis, was to accommodate the coloured people and Indians without detracting from the self-determination of whites.

Irrespective of the majority seats being taken by whites, parliamentary decision making was set according to General Affairs (Defence, foreign affairs, justice, etc.) or own affairs (culture, education, local government, health, etc.). Participation of all three races was required for the general affairs category with whites being in the majority. The category of own affairs was restricted to each race separately. If the House could not reach a clear agreement, the matter was referred to the 60 member President’s Council for arbitration.

The new constitution also combined the position of President and Prime Minister into one executive State President. The President also presided over the cabinet as well as chairing the State Security Council plus heading the state President’s Council.

4. The Stick

The stick of the Total Strategy was undeniably grandiose. Ever since the 1980s, SA experienced an immense military build-up. During the 1970s, SA was developing a nuclear capability for military usage. During the 1980s, the state possessed seven nuclear bombs, with the assistance of various countries including Israel and Taiwan. The Botha government also had a potent intelligent component in the newly established National Intelligence Agency.

As the government was unrolling its reformist policies, it was also expanding the jurisdiction of the security services. In 1982, the government passed the Internal Security Act which empowered security personnel to detain people for interrogation, ban newspapers, keep persons in preventative detention, ban organisations, restrict individuals’ movements and control/restrict gatherings including its dispersal. The police became a symbol of apartheid’s dark inhumanity.

The police were not alone in combating the violent political upheavals. The South African Defence Force (SADF) played a central role within the Total Strategy in both its internal and external applications. It was responsible for cross-border raids against neighbouring states that housed or supported exiled groups like the ANC that launched armed attacks in SA. These controversial operations became known as Destabilisation. Due to the volatile situation, the army also played an internal role, starting with the 1984 operation Palmiet, and supporting the police in the townships throughout the decade.

5. Opposition

As part of the Total Strategy, Botha held meetings with Samora Machel – President of Mozambique – which in result came to existence the Nkomati Accord of 16 March 1984. The Nkomati Accord was an agreement between the two countries that they would not allow their territory to be used as grounds to attack the other. In this agreement, Mozambique promised to ban the ANC from its territory while SA would ease support for the Mozambican guerrilla organisation – RENAMO (Resis tencia Nacional de Mocambique). The Mozambican government then expelled 800 ANC activists and in return, SA returned 1 000 RENAMO guerrillas.

6. United Democratic Front

The idea of the UDF sprouted on 22 January 1983 at a conference called by the Transvaal branch of the anti-South African Indian Council Committee, after the introduction of the new constitution.

The UDF was officially launched on 20 August 1983 in Mitchelle’s plain near Cape Town. A crowd estimated between 10 000 and 15 000 attended this conference and roared its approval as some of the country’s foremost anti-apartheid activists like Archie Gumede, Frances Baard and Aubrey Mokoena mounted the podium. Alan Boesak received the loudest cheer as he spoke to the crowd about three little words, words that express so eloquently their seriousness in the struggle: “all, here and now”. He said that “we want all our rights, we want them here and we want them now”.

The UDF in particular attracted the support of hundreds of political, unionist, and social groupings across the country which moved Boesak to declare that “the time has come for white people in this country to realise that their destiny is inextricably bound with our destiny and that they shall never be free until we are free”.

Not since the Congress Alliance (held in Kliptown) in 1955, had the Government been confronted with such massive unified opposition. By 1984, the UDF had the support of some 600 organisations, and an estimated 3 million people. The UDF’s first major organised protest was the “million signature campaign” against the new constitution. This exercise killed two birds with one stone as it was also able to enrol more members. In 1984, the petition had already 600 000 signatures, with some other forms beings seized by the police.

On 5 and 6 November 1984, the UDF in collaboration with student groups and the Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU), organised a stay-away in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand and Vereeniging (PWV) area. Between 300 000 and 500 000 workers did not go to work, which brought business to a stop. Government reacted by announcing a state of emergency in July 1985 on 36 magisterial districts in which riots had continued for nine months. About 1 200 activists were detained during this state of emergency. It was then lifted on 7 March 1986.

In September 1985, the UDF organised a 20 mile to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town where political prisoners such as Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada were held. Police warned the crown which refused to disperse and they then thrashed them with sjamboks. The crowd broke and ran; however, thousands of youths marched the streets of Cape Town. Police had to call on reinforcement as they attempted to disperse the crowd by throwing teargas canister and shooting at them. The crowd however answered with their own rocks and gasoline bombs. In this incident, police killed 31 people and injured many more. Boesak was then arrested by the police, saying that he instigated such riots. UDF was banned in February 1988 but continued under the name Mass Democratic Movement organised by Trade Unions.

7. National Forum

While the UDF campaigned for a unified, non-racial opposition to apartheid, the flame of black consciousness that had been articulated by Steve Biko still burned in the hearts of members of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), under the leadership of such people as vice President Sath Cooper and Secretary-general Muntu Myeza. The National Forum was inaugurated in June 1983, at a meeting in Hammanskraal, near Pretoria by AZAPO and other groups which shared its views. The National Forum’s future vision for South Africa was different from that of the UDF in the sense that the former criticized the ANC and its Freedom Charter.

8. Speech of the Rubicon: 15 August 1985 in Durban

Foreign Minister Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha had assured the world and his countrymen that Botha’s speech would signal a radical change of direction by the government, a major swing to reform in order to defend the appalling spiral of violence that had gripped the country since the imposition of the new tri-cameral parliament.

Television, cameramen, photographers and reporters from some 33 countries gathered at the Durban City Hall, while an estimated 300 million people in the republic and around the globe tuned in to see if Botha would announce the type of changes that SA and the world had been waiting for. Instead, they saw a truculent Botha warning the world not to “push us too far” and making it clear that he was not prepared to lead white SA and other minority groups to abdication and suicide. Botha informed the world that he rejected the concept of one man one vote in SA.

In 1985, more than 35 000 troops were used in black townships. Thousands of people were detained and nearly 2 000 blacks were killed in political violence. On 21 March 1985, the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, security forces opened fire on marchers attending a funeral in the township of Langa near Uitenhage, Eastern Cape; where 20 people were killed. Between 1 September 1984 and 24 January 1986, Security forces killed 628 persons and wounded 2 229 in unrest-related incidents. By August 1985, 45 out of 80 UDF leaders were detained or in trial or assassinated.

9. Effects of apartheid

In 1984, the Rand depreciated by more than 40 per cent against the American Dollar. The day after the Rubicon Speech, the rand fell even lower against the US dollar, from 44.5 cents to 38.5. By 28 August, it had gone down to below 35 cents. Economic sanctions against SA followed, which also had a more negative effect on the economy of the country. The country was banned from foreign loans and investments which severely dented business confidence. Sanctions were thrown at SA in the form of trade and products that were affected the most were iron, steel, uranium, coal, fruits and textiles. By the end of 1986, the country had a trade surplus of R15 billion.

Speeches and Quotes to take note of

1. Nelson Mandela: Response to Botha’s offer of conditional release

I am not prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free. I cherish my own freedom but I care even more for your freedom. Too many people have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only I, have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell the birthright of the people to be free. I am in prison as the representative of the people and of your organization, the African National Congress, which was banned.

What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on pass offenses? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in the banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work? What freedom am I being offered when my every citizenship is not respected?

Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. I cannot and will not give any understanding at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. (February 1985 – delivered by his daughter Zindzi to a packed Jabulani stadium in Soweto).

2. Lillian Ngoyi

We are women, we are workers, we stand together. And we will never accept passes. We will never carry passes under any conditions. We know what these passes are doing to our men. We have seen them bundled into vans and sent to farm labour camps. Passes will place us at the mercy of the police. (1956, during the women’s march)

I am still not prepared to worship a monster. Whenever police decide to swoop, political opponents will find themselves sleeping in the same cells and facing the same charges. This shows the futility of infighting when faced with a common enemy.

When Lillian got banned in 1957, she said:

I must say I had a tough time, but my spirits have not been dampened. You can tell my friends all over the world that this old girl is still her old self. I am looking forward to the day when my children will share in the wealth of our lovely South Africa. When I die, I’ll die a happy person because I have seen the rays of our new South Africa rising.

3. Desmond Tutu (I am not defying the government, I am obeying God).

“I want the government to know, now and always, that I don’t fear them. I will do all I can to destroy this diabolical system, whatever the cost to me.” (During apartheid)

Tutu believed that every person in the world is a member of one family. He said that “would we let our own brother or sister die of hunger? What stronger bond could there be than family? A person is a person through other persons.”

“I feel that freedom is coming for us all. Maybe I am whistling in the dark, but I believe there is still a possibility of freedom coming peacefully.”

“We long to put behind us all the pain of apartheid, but we are charged to cherish the truth about our dark past and pray that all those injured in body and in spirit should be healed through the Commission. Let us not become hostages to the past. Let us commit ourselves: let it never happen again.” (Tutu spoke these words at the TRC)

4. Walter Sisulu

The ANC has created a remarkable spirit of national reconciliation by being generous in victory and forgiving in government. We have only been able to do so because of our people’s wonderful tolerance and absence of any desire for revenge. But forgiving is not the same as forgetting. We must never forget that the ANC leadership would have remained in our cells, and our people would have remained in the prison of apartheid, without the support of the many millions who struggled across the world to defeat the old South Africa. Of course we shake hands with our enemies, both inside our country and abroad. But our hearts remain with all those who supported us when it really mattered to. (Foreword – Sing the beloved country by P. Hain).

5. Mohandas Gandhi (pay careful attention to this one)

“Truly speaking, it was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now. My love for South Africa and my concern for her problems are no less than for India.”

“Let the accusation of breaking the law fall on us. Let us cheerfully suffer imprisonment. There is nothing wrong in that… if the government sends us to gaol, I shall be the first to court imprisonment. And if any Indian is put to trouble because of his refusal to register…, I will appear in his case free of charge.”

6. Reverend Isaac Wauchope

“You are going to die, but that is what you came here to do… let us die like warriors, the sons of Africa.”

I hear myself say: “Goodbye, my strength is gone” and then I feel strong hands of a Native gripping my wrists and holding me up. Then several others catch me round the chest and shoulders and drag me, nearly dead, into the boat, and so I am saved.

7. Chief Albert Luthuli

“I, together with thousands of my countrymen, have in the course of the struggle for these ideals, been harassed and imprisoned, but we are not deterred in our quest for a new age in which we shall live in peace and in brotherhood.”

“Any Chief worthy of his position must fight timelessly against such debasing conditions and laws. If the government should resort to dismissing such chiefs, it may find itself dismissing many Chiefs.”

“We should rest content in the conviction that we are performing a divine duty when we struggle for freedom”. (Speech to the Natal Congress of the People in Durban, 5 September 19540.

Other quotes

Yusuf Dadoo: We need now to fight together as one oppressed nation.

Duma Nokwe: Racialism of whatever kind is an abomination.

Tsietsi Mashinini: Students today want to be recognised as human beings (1976).

The Long March: The story of the struggle for liberation in South Africa

The roots of the ANC

“For 250 years the struggle in South Africa was mainly between expanding forces of colonialism on the one hand and various African Chiefdoms seeking to defend their land and their independence on the other hand. This phase was however put to a stop after Bhambatha was defeated in 1906. Resistance took a different shape. The colonialists defeated blacks and took much of their land away. These two groups now lived within the same boundaries, under the same government. Capitalism took over, everyone became integrated into a single economy.”

It took a while for black people to organise themselves and form trade unions. National movements were spearheaded by young intellectuals who had been educated in mission schools. From the 1880s, people became more politically aware as they started to write to newspapers, petitioning parliament and mobilising organisations to fight for black rights. The methods of resistance used at this time were deputations, mass meetings, petitions and protests.

The first modern black political organisation was formed in 1882 in the Eastern Cape. It was called the Imbumba yama Nyama (Union of Black people) named after the words of the prophet Ntsikana who said that Africans should be Imbumba yamanyama or inseparably united with the arrival of whites. This organisation was aimed at uniting Africans in political matters so that they could band together in fighting national rights. This organisation was also a direct response to the Afrikaner Boederbond, the first Afrikaner political movement.

Thomas Mzosoyana said: “How come they take our name and call us kaffirs? When they arrived Africa was already standing”.

Other organisations similar to Imbumba emerged in the Eastern Cape, known as Native Vigilance Associations, or Illiso Lomzi – the eye of the nation. Political mobilisation took a big step forward when the first independent black newspaper was established, the Imvo Zabantsundu in 1884. This was used to link up struggles in different areas and articulate their grievances. This newspaper was used as a platform to debate political issues and report on activities of their organisations.


The Eastern Cape was the birthplace of these new forms of politics because:

·         The Eastern Cape was the area which black people had the longest contact with colonialism,
·         People in this area had a strong consciousness as a result of the nine wars of dispossession that were fought over a period of 100 years,
·         The first and well known mission schools were started in this region, producing the first literate Africans and
·         The earliest African Christians were from this area.

Education was used as an alibi to prevent blacks from having an input in government affairs as only educated blacks were allowed to vote. They were seen as the upper class of the black population since they had skills such as writing, reading and comprehending.


The roots of the African National Congress can be traced as far back as early organisation in the Eastern Cape in the 1880s. Although the Imbumba Yama Nyama did not survive long, a new organisation called Imbumba Eliliso Lomzi Ontsundu was formed in 1887. It united 13 organisations and was formed to resist attempts to take the vote away.

In 1890, the South African Native Congress was formed. This organisation is seen as the driving force towards the establishment of the ANC in 1912. Although it was based in the Cape, its name shows that it wanted to unite all blacks in South Africa as it played a crucial role in the establishment of The Transvaal Native Congress.

After the Anglo-Boer War, the whole country fell under the hands of British. Black political leaders held that if a new government was to be formed, they wanted their rights to be protected. They were angry that despite their services in the war, Britain still signed the Peace Treaty with the Boers and black people were not represented. More organisations were formed in other parts of the country to make black people politically aware.

It was only after the whites only National Convention which released the draft constitution that black people from all different parts of South Africa came together. This draft took away political rights of all black people as well as the right to vote for Africans in the Cape. Africans then held numerous meetings discussing the draft constitution. The Native National Convention then decided to send a delegation to London to discuss the draft with the British government since they had the last say. The British however turned a deaf ear to their plea and the new whites only Union of South Africa came into being on 31 May 1910. When they realised that their pleas fell on deaf ears, the delegation which had gone to London toured the country to report back and persuade the people that a permanent political organisation for blacks was necessary.

In 1911, Pixley ka Seme sent a circulation in which he called for a new South African Native National Congress. He said only such a congress will enable the black grievances to be taken seriously. In a famous appeal, Seme called on African leaders to forget about their personal differences and selfishness. He said:

“The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tsongas, between the Basotho and every native, must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among enough blood. We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies are the cause of all our woes and all our backwardness and ignorance today”.

On 8 January 1912, the founding conference of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) took place. This makes the ANC the longest national liberation movement on the whole African continent. The delegation which met in Bloemfontein rejected the new white Union of South Africa and demanded a state that gave equal rights to all people. More than 60 delegates from all parts of South Africa cheered as the decision to form the organisation was made.

The executive office was chosen at this conference which included

·         J.L Dube who was chosen as President in his absence,
·         Seven vice-Presidents were elected which was aimed at representing the different tribes, regions and founding organisations
·         Sol Plaatje was elected Secretary,
·         Pixley kaIsaka Seme was elected as treasurer,
·         Thomas Mtobi Mapikela was junior treasurer.

The first National Executive Committee of the ANC consisted of lawyers, ministers of religion, journalists, teachers, interpreters, and building contractors. These were people who went to mission schools and some of them had studied overseas. The chiefs were however also included since they represented people in rural areas. Therefore two houses were created in the new “Native Parliament”, a lower house of commoners and the Upper House of chiefs and dignitaries. Among the 22 chiefs who made up the Upper House were the:

·         Dalindyebo of the Thembu
·         Dinizulu, the Zulu chief who was banished to Transvaal by the British,
·         Khama of Bechuanaland,
·         Lewanika of Barotseland, part of Zambia,
·         Letsie II of Basutoland
·         Marelane of Mpondoland and
·         Moepi of Bakgatla.

The only non-chief in the Upper House Dr Walter Benson Rubusana who was the only African to hold an elected legislative position in South African history. He also helped translate the Bible into Xhosa.

Issues discussed at the conference were: ill-treatment of workers and the high death rate at the mines, the harassment of women, the land question and education. The congress was ended by a note by Philip Modise who represented the King of Lesotho. He said that “everyone must return home and tell their people that they were identified with different tribal names just as the different tribal names and dialects just as the different trees in the woods were known by different names… they were now trees of one and the same forest”. 

These are extracts from the Book: The Long March: The story of the struggle for liberation in South Africa. I Libebenberg et al.

The exile experience: Impact on the functioning of Liberation Movements

The exile environment: An overview

The exile environment was characterised by threats, opportunities and challenges, which were the result of the interaction of a variety of factors both internal and external to the host countries. For the exile liberation movements, the Southern African environment was generally precarious, dynamic and unstable. During the period 1960 to 1990, the exile environment was characterised by a pervasive counter insurgency war causing devastations across the Southern African continent. Counter-insurgency was nonetheless mounting. It was led and fed by the Portuguese occupied territories of Angola and Mozambique until 1975, Rhodesia until 1980 and apartheid South Africa until 1994. As a result, no neighbouring state was able or willing to provide a secure rear base for guerrilla infiltration into South Africa, and none seemed likely to do so openly until 1994.

The period 1960 to 1968 was a period of the establishment of the first generation of independent states in Southern Africa. During this period, Tanzania gained independence in 1961, Kenya in 1962, Malawi and Zambia in 1964, Botswana and Lesotho in 1966 and Swaziland in 1968. These developments generated a mood of optimism among South Africans, including the winds of change speech delivered by Harold Macmillan on his visit to South Africa in 1960. In 1971 to 1976, the South African government, through its intelligence wing, Bureau of Security Service – better known as BOSS – launched an initiative aimed at the destabilisation of Zambia, the home of the African National Congress (ANC), code named “Operation Dingo”.

Between the years 1975 and 1976, South Africa was involved in the war in Angola. The following period 1977 to 1994 was dominated by a “silent war” waged by the South African government in collaboration with Rhodesian security forces against the Frontline States. The South African government planned strategies and diplomatic initiatives such as the Nkomati Accord between the latter and Mozambique. These developments further shifted the liberation movements to focus their military and political strategies further away from the target which was South Africa. As a result, the period was characterised by increased mass mobilisation against apartheid inside the South African borders. Uprisings which occurred from 16 June 1976 and again on March 1985 were important landmarks showing the changes of strategy and attempts to revive the liberation struggle within the borders of South Africa. At the same time, space for the operation of liberation movements such as South Western African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) was opened outside South Africa, following the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. This period was one of despair as well as hope for the people of Southern Africa.  

The Frontline States and the OAU in the Southern African liberation struggle:

The Organisation of African Unity and the Frontline States were two organisations which were critical players in the African continent. The OAU was founded in 1963 and was the umbrella organisation for all independent African states.

The emergence of the Frontline States (FLS):

The FLS can be defined as a grouping of independent Southern African states such as Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and Botswana, sharing a common vision about the political and economic developments in Southern Africa and common policies towards South Africa, based on their adherence to the Lusaka Manifesto of 1969 and the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration of 1975. The FLS began as an informal consultation forum between the Tanzania President, Julius Nyerere and Zambian President, Kenneth Kuanda in the mid 1960s. Negotiations between the two heads of state were precipitated by their concern about the “institutional paralysis that characterised the formulation of African positions on Southern Africa by the OAU.

The informal consultation between Nyerere and Kuanda was gradually developed and broadened to involve Zaire, Kenya, Uganda and Botswana, following the independence of the latter in 1966. The consultation forum that took place afterwards, resulted in the formulation of the Lusaka Manifesto in 1969. The consultation forum evolved into a larger close-knit group after 1975 when Mozambique and Angola we included following their independence.

Towards the end of the 1970s, the activities of the FLS went beyond the promotions of regional conflict resolution and began to encompass issues of regional economic developments. The FLS facilitated political liberation through diplomatic initiatives and political support for the liberation movements. Ideological differences, particularly among Lesotho, Swaziland and Malawi on the one hand and the FLS was put aside and emphasis was placed on those issues, which united them as Southern African states. They recognised the importance of liberating their economies from excessive dependence on the Republic of South Africa.

Profiles of Frontline States:

Tanzania and Zambia

Tanzania received its independence in 1961 and Zambia in 1964. Zambia was economically dependent on South Africa, and this dependency was worsened by the fact that the country is land-locked without access to a port and harbour facilities. The economic difficulties of the country provoked political discontent which resulted in two failed attempts to overthrow President Kuanda, first in October 1980 and again in June 1984.

Tanzania also experienced difficulties as three years after the formation of the state of Tanzania, President Nyerere announced in October 1962 a policy for the reconstruction and development of Tanzania based on socialist principles. This however became non-successful.

Despite their economic and political differences, these two countries never relented in their commitment and support for the liberation movements in Southern Africa. Hence, both Zambia and Tanzania, until 1990, continued to provide a haven for the ANC, PAC, Black Consciousness Movement and other elements of the liberation movement.

The BLS States – Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland:

Botswana and Lesotho received their independence in 1966 and Swaziland in 1968. All the BLS States had economic links with South Africa and were heavily dependent on these links since their internal resources were underdeveloped. The countries were also dependent on South Africa for the employment of the majority of their labour forces. It was estimated that in 1984, Lesotho had 14 000, Swaziland 20 000 and Botswana 25 000 of their labour force working in South Africa. It was therefore difficult for the BLS States to condemn apartheid due to their dependence on the country. Even though they supported the liberation movements and were members of the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) and the FLS, they never allowed liberation movements such as the ANC and the PAC to establish military bases in their countries or to use their territory as an infiltration corridor into South Africa.

These newly independent countries did not want to compromise their newly found independence and therefore the ANC and the PAC were not allowed to maintain guerrilla camps in these countries. Despite this situation, members of liberation movements still enjoyed support on the BLS countries because these countries were fully supportive of the struggle against colonialism and racism.

Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe:

These countries received independence in 1975, 1976 and 1980 respectively. They obtained more than half of their imports from South Africa. Besides this, South Africa invested in the physical infrastructure in Mozambique and Angola. Zimbabwean labour force employed in South Africa in 1984 was estimated at around 7 000 and the Mozambican labour force at 60 000. Due to these economic reasons, Zimbabwe had to reconcile her rejection of apartheid South Africa. By 1987 almost 90 per cent of Zimbabwe’s external trade and fuel supplies depended on South African transportation networks.

Angola was the only one of the three countries without clear and stable economic links with South Africa because of the state of war in the country during this period. Angola provided five military training camps to the ANC. In 1984, Angola together with South Africa signed the Lusaka Accord which committed both countries to cease fire and withdraw South African troops from Angola. In 1988, another agreement was between Angola, Cuba and South Africa in New York. This paved the way for the final withdrawal of South African troops and the finalisation of talks for the independence of Namibia. This had serious implications for the presence of ANC guerrilla forces in Angola. They were then expelled from the country in 1989.

Mozambique on the other hand suffered a series of attacks from the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO – Portuguese: Resistência Nacional Moçambicana) which was sponsored by the South African government. The impact of these attacks was so profound that the country was pulverised into a condition of famine and destruction. As a result, Mozambique signed a pact called the Nkomati Accord which stipulated that the South African Defence Force (SADF) would cease support for RENAMO in exchange for Mozambique denying military bases for the ANC. This represented a major setback for the liberation movements because the ANC military operations were terminated and its cadres flown out of Mozambique as a sign of commitment by the Mozambican government to the signed peace accord. The Nkomati Accord failed because of the covert operations by the South African military intelligence which continued its support for RENAMO even after the signing of the agreement.

The South African offensive in Southern Africa:

During the period 1960 to 1990, South Africa was at the centre of the conflict in Southern Africa. In the period 1977 to 1990, the country was characterised by a “carrot and stick” approach in dealing with independent neighbouring Southern African states. After 1976, following the independence of Mozambique, South Africa felt exposed to the perceived communist onslaught from the north. Therefore South Africa formulated strategies which would remove the ANC from its borders. It involved attempts to diminish the hostility of the neighbours by offering economic support, while seeking to destabilise the regimes by means of economic and military pressure.

The cross-border raids by the South African government towards ANC and PAC camps in exile had a negative effect on most states in Southern Africa. The South African regime also exacted a heavy political toll within those states by revealing them as defenceless in the face of foreign military attack and as unable to protect their own citizens.

Super powers and the conflict in Southern Africa:

From the early 1960s, the superpowers played an important role in the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. Before the PAC was banned in April 1960, two of its leaders, Nana Mahomo and Peter Molotsi were sent to the United States of America (USA) to influence and mobilise political opinion to support the movement and raise funds in order to establish the PAC external mission, the same which was done by the ANC when OR Tambo was sent abroad to establish the ANC’s external diplomatic mission and raise funds for the organisation. The superpowers were individually involved in various ways in the liberation of Southern Africa as some gave financial support, trained cadres as well as sponsored the liberation movements with arms. These superpowers renounced violence as a strategy towards a solution.

The experience of liberation movements:

The problems and difficulties confronting all liberation movements in Southern Africa involved; maintaining and sustaining organisational coherence and unity, keeping of sound relations with the government of the host country, maintaining good relations with all sources of funding and remaining politically effective in terms of programs and activities inside the country to be liberated as well as outside of it. It became difficult for the South African liberation movements (PAC and ANC) to infiltrate the country because of the Southern African countries economic dependency on South Africa. It became difficult for the ANC and PAC to reside in these countries, therefore moving them further away from their target – apartheid South Africa. The ANC experienced serious problems during the exile period. Unlike the PAC, whose legal existence was short-lived inside South Africa; the ANC [before it was banned] had developed internal systems which made it possible to withstand the challenges of exile. In anticipation of being banned, the ANC sent Tambo to London to lay foundations for some networks before the ANC went into exile in 1960.

The exiled ANC established its headquarters in Morogoro, Tanzania. ANC guerrilla camps were spread in Tanzania in Kongwa, Mbeya, Bagamoyo, and Morogoro. The first ANC guerrillas to be deployed were in 1967 during the Wankie campaign which was however not successful as a number of Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU) and ANC guerrillas as well as Rhodesian soldiers were killed. In 1968, some members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) complained that the failure of the Wankie campaign was due to miscalculations by the leadership. These cadres also accused their leaders of extravagant living and ethnic favouritism. These and other complaints led to the summoning of the Morogoro Conference. This conference revived confidence in the leadership of the organisation and helped restore a degree of unity. This however did not put an end to its internal conflicts.

There were also concerns raised about the role of white communists in the ANC. This group felt that white South African Communist Party (SACP) members wanted to control the organisation as an attitude of white supremacy over blacks. Throughout these bitter conflicts, the ANC was able to retain a degree of continuity and bedrock political unity – to such a degree that it was the envy of a number of liberation movements elsewhere.

The reconstitution of the PAC as the Liberation Movement in Diaspora (1960-1963):

This section focuses on how the first group of PAC exiles established themselves in Maseru before the launch of a formal PAC structure in 1962. It also explains the conditions under which the exiles lived in and the impact these conditions had on the development of the organisation. The banning of the PAC in 1960 and the imprisonment of its leader Robert Sobukwe had an adverse effect on the growth of the organisation which was only 11 months old. Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison and his colleagues in the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PAC were given two years, while other members of the organisation were given 18 months. The only leaders who were not arrested included Nanha Mahomo and Peter Molotsi, who had left the country in March 1960 on the instruction that he should mobilise the international community, including the rest of Africa against apartheid as well as generate resources that would help establish the PAC in exile. In 1960, Sobukwe had appointed ZB Molete as acting President of the PAC; therefore this helped to provide a limited degree of leadership inside South Africa whilst the PAC was in exile. In 1962, the PAC built headquarters in Maseru. The headquarters were however relocated to Dar-es-Salaam in 1964 but Maseru continued to function as a PAC mission.

In 1962, P.K. Leballo after serving his two year sentence for his involvement in the anti-pass campaign took over from Molete as Acting President. A significant presence of PAC membership established itself in Maseru, and sympathetic citizens of Lesotho accommodated these members. The network relatives of Leballo also helped provide temporary accommodation to members of the PAC. As the number of PAC exiles increased, Ellias Skamanie, a member of the Black Community Programmes (BCP) provided accommodation to almost all the PAC exiles. Despite Skamanie’s accommodation, some groups of newcomers in the exile community were still in need of shelter and as a result, were accommodated in temporary shelters in the back yards of houses. The more the number of PAC exiles grew in Lesotho, the more serious the problem of accommodation became. As the exile community expanded, security became a serious problem among the Lesotho-based exiles. PAC members were arrested regularly by members of the Basutoland police, either on the grounds of entering the country without a permit or on pure suspicion of pursuing a political agenda not acceptable to the government of the day.

During the first few months of the exiled PAC, their main concern was of survival, food and accommodation. The fact that these people were regarded by Basutoland authorities as illegal brought about even more problems for the organisation. The leadership was also at some point arrested for entering the country without permits. They were required for a long period to report to the nearest police station on a daily basis. Under such circumstances, political activity was difficult; however, structures were set up for the operational exile organisation.

The reconstruction of PAC leadership structures in exile:

The Presidential Council was formed in Maseru in September 1962. The formation of the Presidential Council was followed by the declaration of a general statement of policy to regulate the relations between the Presidential Council and other previously existing PAC structures inside South Africa. PAC representatives abroad were issued a set of policy instructions which emphasised the centralisation of all powers and decision-making at headquarters. The existence of a formal leadership structure assisted in the conceptualisation of a few strategic documents for the exiled PAC refugees from South Africa and a single point of reference when authority on PAC matters was sought.

Development of strategy documents:

The Presidential Council developed strategy documents and guidelines for the exiled organisation. One of the strategy documents drafted by the PAC was the “Self-reliance and the Mobilization of resources in the PAC. This document emphasised the importance of self-reliance and its application under conditions of exile in general and under conditions in Lesotho, in particular. It explained self-reliance as a three in one principle which all PAC exiles had to follow in the following manner:

It is a principle, a policy and a method of struggle. It is a principle because it is unchangeable under any circumstances, for example, during the liberation struggle it is applicable and after liberation it is a guiding principle in nation building.

According to this document, the PAC was to develop its own strategies of survival in the exile environment and not to rely completely on the support of other nations. Self-reliance was seen as a method to be used in the battle against the SA government. The document also contained sound strategic proposals but the problem was that these were never implemented nor was there any official mechanism or system to ensure their implementation, resulting in the chaos which dominated the period of Leballo’s leadership. At the same time there were efforts even though limited to implement some of these strategies of self-reliance in Lesotho.

The second policy document was called “Guidelines on PAC cells abroad”. This document resulted in a set of official procedures and later adopted as a policy by the PAC at its new headquarters in Dar-es-Salaam after 1964. According to this document, all PAC members were to organise themselves into cells consisting of not less than 10 members. The cells were administered by a three person committee consisting of a chairperson, treasurer and secretary. The PAC cells inside South Africa focused on political mobilisation and agitation, whereas the PAC cells in exile focused on liaison activities with international solidarity groups, non-governmental organisations, embassies and donor organisations. These were intended to collect contributions from PAC members who were employed in various countries.

An examination of how Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement challenged the apartheid regime in the 1970s


The apartheid era in South Africa brought about significant, but rather negative implications in the lives of many South Africans. These discriminatory laws passed by the National Party (NP) government not only abused human rights, but at the same time degraded black people, ill-treated and also dehumanized them; reasons are given in the essay below.

During this era, there was much opposition by affected parties. For every law passed, there would be a reaction from the people affected, and then the government would also react by passing even harsher laws, so the cycle continued over again. It became rather unpleasant to live in and be associated with that era.

Through the liberation struggle, black people had tried mass protests, petitions, letters and talks with the government, until the people decided that one last resort was the armed struggle. This however proved to be difficult due to reasons that will be mentioned later in this document. However, Bantu Steven Biko came with a different angle, not fighting the government, but instilling back the pride of black people. He wanted black people to stop relying on the white man to give them liberty, but for them to liberate themselves.

After the banning of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1960, following the Sharpeville massacre many leaders of the liberation movements were jailed, put under house arrest or exiled. This caused the liberation movements to become inactive for a long period. During the 1960s, Prime Minister B.J. Vorster created a set of security laws that turned South Africa into a police state. These laws suppressed any protests against the regime and attempted to silence any opposition in every way possible. Black people then came up with a movement which would formulate a conscious black people that would reject any form of oppression, and reject the apartheid policy with all its forms.

For the purpose of this document, the researcher has looked at the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), how it was received by the black people, how the government reacted to it and whether this movement became a success. The BCM became a new perspective of looking at the world, on a black person’s eye. The BCM decided that black people will only be liberated once they emancipate themselves from mental slavery and feelings of inferiority and thus start to conduct their own political campaigns instead of relying on the white liberals to do it for them. The BCM also believed that they could not form alliance or allies with white people simply because they were the same people who oppressed them. Through the BCM, blackness became something to be proud of and worth fighting for.

A brief biography of Bantu Steven Biko

Biko was born on the 18th December 1946 in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. He moved to the Catholic School in Natal after he was expelled from Lovedale College in the Eastern Cape for his brother’s involvement in politics. He then went to further his studies at the medical school in Natal University – black section. His father Matthew Mzingane worked as a clerk while his mother Alice Nokuzola worked as a domestic servant. He got exposed to politics at an early age when his brother was arrested in 1963 as he was a PAC activist. In 1972, Biko dropped out of University to continue his work with the Black Community Programme in Durban.

Biko married Nontsikelelo Mshalaba at the age of 23 in 1970. The following year they gave birth to their first son, Nkosinathi. He then had an affair with Mamphela Ramphela and they had a daughter together in 1974, who died at the age of two months. Through his political life, Biko rejected the ANC’s policy to collaborate with white people. The rest of his political life will be discussed in the content below.

Political atmosphere in South Africa during 1960-1970

The period 1960 to 1970 was marked by a number of political events, i.e. the Sharpeville massacre, formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe and Poqo, the Treason Trial in 1961, and the Trial of Samson Ndou and 21 others in 1969. For every action by the oppressed, the government would react with even harsher and stricter laws. After the pass protest on 21 March 1960, the government banned public meetings on the 24th of March and a state of emergency was imposed from the 30th of March to the 31st of August 1960, in terms of the Public and Safety Act of 1953; which stipulated that the state could declare a state of emergency and suppress the normal operation of law. 

By May 1960, about 1 600 people had been detained and were held without the right of access to lawyers or even family. In the end, about 18 000 people were arrested and more than 11 000 of them were detained under the emergency regulations. The government also passed the Unlawful Organisation Act no 34 on 8 April 1960 when the ANC and PAC were declared unlawful. After this act was passed, many people got arrested for unlawful meetings, intimidations, incitement, public violence and various pass law offences. There were also about 307 prosecutions under the Suppression of Communism and the Public and Safety Acts resulting in 142 convictions.

In May 1961, the ANC called for a National Convention stay-away from the 29th to the 31st [May]. The government then reacted by passing the General Law Amendment Act, no 39 of 1961, which allowed the police force to hold people in detention without trial for 12 days. About 10 000 people got arrested and detained under this law, for example, Nelson Mandela was arrested in August 1962 and was held for 12 days before he could come before the court of law and was then given five-years imprisonment for leaving the country without permit and for inciting people to rebel against the government.

Government enacted the General Law Amendment Act, no 76 and the Sabotage Act in June 1962. The Sabotage Act stipulated that the acts of sabotage would be accounted for on the same scale as treason including the death penalty.

“Any person who committed any wrongful and wilful act whereby he/she injured, obstructed, tampered with or destroyed the health or safety of the public, the maintenance of law and order, the supply of water, light, power, fuel, or foodstuff, sanitary, medical, or fire extinguishing services, could be tried for sabotage”.                

Under the General Law Amendment Act, no 37 passed in 1963 – commonly known as the Ninety-Day Law – police were authorised to detain any person suspected of a political crime for a period of 90 days without access to a lawyer. The ninety-days would be renewed after their expiration, so an individual could end up being held for years because of the renewal of these days.

When BJ Vorster became Prime Minister in 1966, he created a Bureau of State Security (BOSS) which reported directly to him. This security police force helped all chiefs who headed Bantustan governments to deal with their opponents. This security force seemed to be working as they instilled peace back in South Africa after the Sharpeville massacre as well as track down MK and Poqo activists.

Resistance pattern in the era 1960-1970

In 1961, the PAC and the ANC set up military wings in exile. The PAC’s military wing was called Poqo. Poqo was organised from Maseru in Basutoland (Lesotho) where recruits were sent there for guerrilla training. Poqo led armed risings during 1962 to 1963 in the Transkei and Cape Town, attacking both human and non-human targets. Police stations and shops in the centre of Paarl near Cape Town were attacked with firearms and burnt down. In the Transkei, police claimed that Poqo had assassinated 17 chiefs and headmen and had murdered white tourists. Later in 1963 the British colonial police in Basutoland raided PAC offices in Maseru and handed over a PAC membership list to the South African police. About 5 000 PAC members were detained and Poqo was weakened.  

The ANCs military wing on the other hand called Umkhonto we Sizwe – MK – was founded in 1961. The MK started sabotage acts within the country where they would bomb electricity supplies and government buildings. Their first attack was on the 16th December 1961 where Durban offices of the Department of Bantu Administration and Development (BAD) were bomb attacked. The second explosion took place in Johannesburg at the offices of Bantu Affairs Commissioner. More attacks followed the next 18 months, however, most of them minor.

Government reaction was a very strict one as MK headquarters in Rivonia were discovered and this led to the arrest of MK leadership. This had a negative effect on the struggle against apartheid in the sense that there was a communication breakdown between the leaders of MK and its supporters. This put a silence to many revolutionary acts as some historians argue that the period from 1961 to 1970 was a quiet one. Resistance from black people continued, but the arrests of these political leaders had an adverse effect on the MK strategies as infiltration proved to be difficult and there was not enough authority to plan sabotage acts and the way forward for the movement.

In order to keep the struggle alive, Biko and his fellow colleagues came up with the BCM in which from it brews a number of organisations that assisted the black people with the continued struggle against apartheid unjust laws. They then decided that it would be done through means of consciousness where blacks would be made aware of themselves, their position, culture, history and through the cultivation of certain anti-western values.


Black Consciousness Movement
Origins of Black Consciousness

The ideology originated in America by Africanists who never set foot on African soil. Booker T. Washington was most influential during the years from 1895 to 1905. He became the spokesperson for educational programs designed to provide vocational and industrial training in close connection with intellectual learning. Washington put much emphasis on economic upliftment for the Negroes and especially that grab every opportunity at trade which they came across in order to economically uplift themselves. He once said that “much will depend upon the sense of justice which can be kept alive in the breast of the American people, almost as much will depend upon the good sense of the Negro himself. That question, I confess, does not give me the most concern just now. The important and pressing question is; will the Negro with his own help and that of his friends take advantage of the future in general terms, he will be treated with justice, will be given the protection of the law and be given the recognition in a large measure which has useful and ability warrant”.

Another American figure who developed the concept double consciousness was WEB du Bois who said that black Americans were trapped in double consciousness between their African heritage and their American citizenship. He said that the problem faced by the African Americans was the fact that they wanted to create a single consciousness “out of an identity made up of dual perspectives”. Du Bois also fought against discrimination and prejudice towards the black Americans. He simply wanted to make it possible for black Americans to be both African and American “without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunities closed roughly in his face.

Black Consciousness Movement

The NP government during the 1960s passed even harsher laws, extending its use of torture, imprisonment and detention without trial. In the 1960s, the government had jailed, banned, and exiled the majority of the liberation movement’s leaders. For example, the ANC and the PAC had been banned in 1960, while the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) got banned in 1950 with the introduction of the Suppression of Communism Act after the May Day strike. This organisation later reformed underground and became the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1953. In response to this harsh treatment, black people developed new organisations. These organisations aimed to fill these gaps that had been left by the banned SACP, ANC and PAC.

When Dr H.F. Verwoerd decided to create “tribal colleges” for black people, he had no idea that this would be a platform for the growth of black consciousness among the black students. Black Consciousness was not an organisation, but a set of ideas that helped create a sense of belonging amongst the “displaced” black people.

National Union of South African Students

The National Union for South African Students (NUSAS) was founded in 1924 as a body for representing and promoting the interests of students; such interests like the protection of students’ rights as well as cater for the students grievances at the time. This organisation was open to university and college students of all races.  Initially NUSAS was formed by white students who in the 1960s became sympathetic to the back students’ cause, and as a result black students sought out membership to NUSAS. Many black students however became frustrated at the inability of NUSAS to tackle race issues and discrimination in South Africa, especially students and polices at universities. The black students then broke away from NUSAS after a conference held at Rhodes University for its membership in 1967. Biko, who was at the time elected to the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the University of Natal, attended the conference where the host refused to allow mixed-race accommodation or eating facilities. Due to this, Biko dismissed all talks of the liberation as an “empty gesture by whites who really wished to maintain the status quo and keep blacks as second-rate citizens.

Late 1960s, black students started to question NUSAS’s ability to be an effective tool for fundamental social and political transformation. They [black students] had felt that the organisation failed to cater for black students whose number was increasing within the organisation. Black students then withdrew their recognition of NUSAS as a national union and started their own organisation named the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO).

South African Students’ Organisation (SASO)

Between 1961 and 1962, African Students’ Association (ASA) and the African Students’ Union (ASU) were formed as student wings of national resistance movements. They however collapsed after the authorities of universities for black people prohibited students’ representation councils from having dealings with NUSAS.

Formation of SASO was sparked or motivated by the formation of the University Christian Movement (UCM) in 1967. UCM was an inter-denominational religious movement which allowed students from different universities to meet in a regular basis. At a UCM meeting in 1968, black students formed a caucus and it was then decided that there was a need for an exclusively black student organisation. Caucus decided that in order for this organisation to be formed, a conference was needed. Therefore, a conference was organised for December of 1968. This conference was attended by 30 members from various black universities in South Africa, which was held in Marianhill, Natal. It was at this conference that SASO was born, and in July 1969, SASO had its inaugural conference held at the University of the North, near Polokwane. Steve Biko then became its first President.

SASO was founded when a group split from NUSAS – as an all-black student organisation. Split occurred after the NUSAS conference mentioned above. Although this incident coincided with the laws of separation at the time, black students were angered by the non-condemnation on the part of the white students over such racial acts. The following year Biko attended a conference organised by the UCM. Unlike NUSAS, UCM was allowed to exist on black campuses as at that time it had not developed a bad reputation with the officials. CUM leadership was still white, compared to the majority of its members being black. Biko then came to the realisation that black concerns did not match white ones. The following year SASO was formed and at its founding conference the founders said that:

“The complexity of the South African scene makes it impossible to have a pluralistic organisation that satisfies the aspirations of all member groups. Social and political stratifications in the country coupled with preferential treatment of certain groups result in differing aspirations prevailing in the different segment of the community”.

BCM rejected the idea that white people could play a role in the liberation of black people. According to Barney Pityana, who served in the executive of the BCM as well as a close friend to Biko, “the main idea was to get black people to articulate their own struggle and reject the white liberal establishment from prescribing to people”. The aim of the BCM was to create awareness of the merits and dignity of black people – to remind black people how important they were – and to encourage them to take credit for their own achievements. Building black identity, black self-definition and the liberation of the individual black person’s make up and psyche that had been destroyed through the discriminatory laws which came with colonialism and the policy of apartheid in SA were also some of the aims of the BCM. Biko said that

“The black man has become a shell, a shadow of man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox-bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity… the first step is therefore to make black man come to himself, to pump black life into his empty shell, to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth”.

Pityana said that in 1971, black people should learn to stand on their own two feet, build themselves up to be independent off white people and also learn to realise the potential as self-respecting human beings and a people which realised their self-worth. He further went to say that black people had to start doing things themselves and not wait for the white man to give authority.

The BCM united blacks when the ANC and PAC were in exile. This organisation became the hope for black people, who after the banning of the ANC and PAC had lost morale and motivation of ever being free in South Africa. Biko instilled back within black people pride, importance and purpose as he said that: “being black is not a mistake”. The BCM then used rallies, public lectures, theatres and discussion groups to reach out to black people. Black Consciousness also emphasised unity and devoted effort to the proliferation of adult, youth, cultural and religious organisations.

Questions that were raised by the BCM were whether the idea could be transformed into a popular philosophy and how to go about making it practical. Escaping from the white dominated society proved to be difficult as black people attended schools which were white staffed, they went to work in the mines where authorities were white; so it was difficult to take away the lifestyle that black people had grown accustomed to and then start to tell them about how important being black is.

Under the BCM umbrella falls the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), Azanian Liberation Army (AZANLA) and others. The founding fathers of the BCM are Steve Biko, Mapetla Mohapi, Ongkopotse Tiro – who through the midst of psychological defeat within the black people, the banning of the liberation movements and when black people seemed cowed; these people were able to re-build the spirit of the black people through apartheid resistance. The philosophy of Black Consciousness was used by the youth as a weapon to destroy the inferiority complex created by the white minority government through the years of degradation, contempt, ill-treatment and dehumanization.

Attempts by the BCM to ensure that this installation of pride became a success was through the founding of Zimisele Trust Fund which raised funds to help ex-political prisoners who were often banned and restricted to areas far away from their homes and denied opportunities to earn a living as well as assist families of the jailed political activists.

Black People’s Convention (BPC)

Manasseh Tebatso Moerane – a former editor of The World, school principal and member of the ANC before it was banned – chaired a conference in Soweto in December 1971 when it was decided to form a political body for black people of all groups. An emergency meeting was arranged for three days in Pietermaritzburg the following year where more than 100 people attended. This was arranged by an ad hoc committee who also drafted a convention which was accepted at this delegation.

This convention stated that there was an urgent need for “blacks tore-assert their pride, dignity, identity and achieve solidarity through a political movement which would express their needs, make religion relevant to their aims and encourage black communalism – the philosophy of equal sharing.” Membership would be open to blacks only, the term used to refer to Indians, coloured people and Africans.

In 1972, SASO then formed the Black People’s Convention (BPC) which drew its members from adult black religious, social, educational, and cultural organisations. BPC however never materialised into a strong organisation yet its influence, and that of SASO was much more significant than critics were prepared to admit. Front founders of BPC were Sath Cooper, Drake Koka, Mthuli Shezi and Reverend Mayathula.

Since black people were carrying out charity work, Biko said this would instil a sense of dignity and pride within the black man because blacks were used to seeing white people carry out such projects. The fact that black people were doing it would have an adverse effect in the sense that blacks were helping themselves. He further went to say that the role of BCM was to assist in the upliftment of the black community and to help black people admit their problems and then come up with constructive resolutions for them.

Foreign investments were condemned because they were seen as supporting white economy and exploitation of black workers. Firms were consulted, asking them to withdraw their investments and not take part in the development of Bantu homelands. In 1972, the World Council of Churches (WCC) had taken a decision to withdraw its funds from companies which invested and traded in South Africa, this was in support of the notion accepted at the convention under discussion. The WCC also urged its 250 member churches to follow suit and the Zimisele scheme was then organised to support freedom fighters on education, welfare and medical needs. BCP leadership was tried and jailed in 1974 under the Terrorism Act following their act of organising students’ unrest on black campuses at the FRELIMO victory in Mozambique. Despite its 41 branches, BCP did not develop into a mass organisation. It did not exceed the membership of SASO which had 4 000 subscribers to its newsletter.

Black Community Programme

Towards the end of 1971, SASO and the BCP began a series of programmes which came to be known as the Black Community Programmes. These programmes involved literacy, adult education, employment, preventive medicine, and self-help. The BCP activities were launched in conjunction with the BCP and such activities entailed secretarial skills training, administration competency development as well as community work.

The BCP started up a few community projects such as clinics and community centres, for example, outside King William’s Town; Biko together with Ramphele built Zanempilo clinic. This programme was committed to self-help scheme. These centres raised their own money and trained their own staff. The aim was to train the people and once they have been trained then they go out and earn a living within their respective communities.

These kinds of projects and programmes prove that BCM was not just an idea, but also had activities which implemented the ideas behind the philosophy. The BCM then became a sense of hope for the black people who could see where the fight against apartheid was taking them, not only were they fighting the apartheid regime, but they were also doing something that would work at their best interest in the future. These programmes made black people feel important and that they were as much capable as the white people.

BCM and other organisations
The Pan-Africanist Congress

Unlike Robert Sobukwe Biko saw a completely for a non-racial society with no majority people, but a people living as equal. Biko accepted coloured and Indian people from the beginning, calling them black. He further went on to state that those people should have the same status in the face of the law as well as the same political rights. Biko however claimed that – just like Sobukwe – South Africa is for Africans only, “once it was independent, whites could be accepted as equals, then whites would be invited to sit at the African’s table: we are aware that white man is sitting at our table. We know he has no right to be there, we want to remove him… strip the table of all trappings put on by him and decorate it in true African style, settle down and then ask him to join us on our own terms if he wishes.

Biko said that Black Consciousness should not be compared to black power, which the latter was an ideal to seek participation by a minority group in an already established society through pressure-tactics groups, whereas the former aimed at completely transforming the system to be in favour of the majority.

In 1976, the BCP accepted black communalism as its economic policy where it was decided that an economic system which is based on the principle of sharing, lays emphasis on community ownership of land and its wealth and riches, and which strike a healthy balance between what may legitimately be owned by individuals and what ought to be owned by the community as a whole.

On the part of black solidarity, Biko believed that sitting around a table to beg for deliverance of black people was a beggar tactic. He believed that this would all defeat the purpose as it has come to a point where the white man was not only kicking the black man, but was also instructing him on how to react to the kick. Biko also said that the white men who claim they are liberals and have black souls trapped in white skin, still benefit from the apartheid regime and the fact that white liberals pinpointed the enemy – NP – was a strategic move to replacing the NP with another white political party, a slightly less reactionary one and relaxing oppressive laws.

The African National Congress

In the late 1970s, the BC programme within the country and abroad as the movement started to engage the banned ANC and PAC in secret talks which were aimed at forging unity amongst each other. At the time of his death, Biko was planning to continue these talks with OR Tambo – President of the ANC – who was at the time living in exile.

The links between the ANC and BCM were strengthened more after the Soweto uprisings. The ANC through the BCM grew stronger inside and outside SA, as thousands of young people fled the country to join the ANC in exile. In 1976, the ANC decided that meetings should be arranged between the leadership of the BCM and the ANC. Arrangements were made in 1976 and 1977, but this did not materialise until only in 1979.

The ANC and BCM finally met in Lusaka on 8 December 1979 when Barney Pityana represented the BCM. At that time, Pityana was exiled in the United Kingdom. Most BCM activists who attended the meeting were living in exile, for example, Ben Khoapa – the founding director of the BCP – lived in the USA and Jeff Baqwa, lived in Germany. The BCM was eager to collaborate with the ANC but was uneasy with the number of white communists within the ANC as well as the close ties the ANC had with Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Kwa-Zulu homeland – at the time. The ANC explained this by saying that it was “a broad church that embraced different individuals, institutions and organisations, including the Communist Party. Its strategy was to establish diplomatic channels with different organisations with the aim of reaching the masses on the ground, hence their exploratory relations with the IFP. The ANC further went to explain that their close ties with the IFP were a strategic one, since they, the former, like the BCM opposed Bantustans. The ANC and the BCM then worked together simply because the ANC needed the BCM who were inside the country to help with infiltration and to keep the struggle alive.

The collaboration or unity of these two ideas helped the struggle majorly in the sense that black people understood why they needed to be liberated and they also understood how that would take place. The more militant approach of resistance is felt during these years.


Reverend Beyers Naude – founder of the Christian Institute of South Africa (CISA) – came to understand and accept the BC ideology when most white liberals felt it was an idea which they were trying to avoid and fight; the idea of racial classification and segregation. Naude worked closely with ministers from black independent churches and he once said about Biko:

I learnt so much from him… the point we wanted to make to white community was to say “the time has arrived where the future initiatives of the country can no longer remain in white hands. It has to be an initiative emanating from the black community, and we as whites… must find… a supportive, complementary role, of white liberalism, to say to the black community over to you.

Francis Wilson, an academic at University of Cape Town together with Theo Kotze set up CISA offices in Cape Town which were opened in 1970 at Mowbary, in a building opposite a train and bus terminus. The building became a centre for anti-apartheid activities. This building was often raided by police. Peter Jones, a member of the BCM once remarked that “assistance from the CISA was unconditional and nothing was expected in return”.

The CISA under Reverend Naude condemned apartheid through its journal Pro Veritate. This movement also helped coordinate activities of already politically affiliated independent churches. The CISA was declared an affected organisation in 1975 by Parliament and was therefore barred from receiving financial support from abroad. Foreign support continued to sponsor CISA leaders financially in order to assist with bringing BCM leaders inside the country into contact with members of the ANC and PAC in exile. Cedric Mayson – member of the CISA and editor of Pro Veritate – flew a number of activists out of the country in his own plane for military training in the MK headquarters.

Mayson and Naude were two front leaders of the CISA who had close connections with Biko as they used to have regular meetings with him to discuss strategies and tactics over the movement and how they would deal with the struggle against apartheid. CISA leaders and members engaged with BCM leaders and the former grew to understand the ideology. The CISA rented offices to BCP and this also helped improve interaction and engaging processes. Such leaders whom Naude and Mayson had personal encounters with were Abraham Tiro, Harry Nengwekhulu, Thenjiwe Mtintso and many others. The Diakonia house both in Johannesburg and Cape Town became headquarters where black and white engaged with each other and they would inform each other of the realities and importance of strategies towards the liberation struggle. Naude said:

In the beginning, much about Black Consciousness was strange it was totally new and I had to re-evaluate… to what degree this could be seen to be in conflict with the basic truth and assumption of the Christian faith, and to what degree this was due to the fact that we as Western Christians had certain traditional concepts, both theological and political, which we took for granted as being the only valid ones. Here were people coming from a different background and perspective telling us that from their experience, as black Christians, they saw South Africa’s future to be totally different. This required an extensive re-evaluation of my understanding both of the reality of what was happening in the country and of the role which the church had to play.

The CISA issued statements urging the international Christian community to support all peaceful efforts to bring about change in South Africa. The church leaders asked for international support of stay-aways and economic sanctions. Canadian churches were responsive to this appeal and many leaders resolved to exert pressure on their governments and business communities to break all commercial ties with the apartheid regime. Mayson and Naude were banned in 1977 following the death of Biko, together with Pro Veritate and the black newspaper, The World. Mayson and Naude continued to work underground with the help of foreign donors who sponsored them personally.

Black Theology  

The term “black theology” traces its first appearance to an address by Basil Moore in 1970 at the University Christian Movement’s (UCM) formation school in Thaba ‘Nchu. Sabelo Ntwasa was appointed as the first organiser of the Black Theology project of the UCM at the time. The idea of black theology is one that is associated with BCM as an academic discipline in S.A. in 1971. It was introduced by the UCM which organised several lecturers on Black Theology.

The project had seminars, for example, the first one was held from the 8th to the 12th of March 1971 at St. Ansgar, near Roodepoort. Many other seminars on black theology followed after that, for example, at Edenvale Ecumenial Centre in Pietermaritzburg the Federal Theological Seminary and St. Peter’s Seminary in Hammanskraal, Pretoria. Ntwasa also published papers in a book form called Essays in Black Consciousness which were read out at the Seminars and Conferences in 1972 and beyond.

The SASO got its inspiration from Black Theology which taught religion from an oppressed person’s point of view. Its aim was to inspire black people to realise equality with white people and that their blackness and inferiority was not a punishment or a condition created by God. The Black Theology philosophy saw these teachings as important to the black man because they removed the inferiority mindset and this was important for their liberation. However, Biko and his associates saw the UCM as reinforcing the inferior status of black people by having a large number of white people in its leadership structures even though its members were mostly black people.


Black Theology posed questions such as:

·         Why is Jesus not black?
·         The way that white people have interpreted the bible to claim that the Western way of interpreting it is the only correct way of dealing with the bible.
·         Where does God stand in the oppression?
·         Whose (oppressors or oppressed) value system does the exponent wish to convey?

Mokgethi Motlabi state in the foreword of the first book published in South Africa on Black Theology that:

Black Theology is not in South Africa. It has been with us almost since the churches from the white west arrived on our soil. We have had our Dwanes, Molcones, and Mzimbas. We have known also the Ethiopian and more recently the ever escalating number of African independent churches. Within these churches is a rich mine of Black Theology.

Black Theology understood and addressed conditions of the oppressed black people. As had already been loosely mentioned, this theology also posed questions such as; whether colonialism had an impact on the growth of the black community as well as the impact of the apartheid on the black people. Black Theology challenged churches to indicate what the bible would say about how the church should address the issues of inequality and oppression in S.A.

In 1975, Father Simangaliso Mkhatshwa organised the second conference on Black Theology. Theologians from as far as Lesotho and Malawi attended this conference. After this conference, government repression became rifer and there was too much pressure on the movement in such a way that their third conference was only held in 1983. Black Theology also argued that Jesus was black since he was born amongst the colonised, oppressed, the poor and sacrificed himself for the emancipation from conditions of oppression. They believed that the statement that “Jesus was black” was to express their point that God in actual fact identified with the oppressed. Jesus Christ was a liberator from physical and non-physical forms of slavery; therefore Black Theology took this notion. So the liberation of blacks began with Black Consciousness – an awareness of self-worth and affirmation of being black.

Trade Unions

The Black Allied Workers’ Union (BAWU) was formed at the Third Annual Conference of the SASO in July 1972. The BAWU was however not successful in its role as a trade union movement because the movement was more confrontational in its approach than cooperative to other groups that sought to start their own trade unions in the 1970s – organisations such as Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) in particular because of their decision to expel black workers from its ranks in 1969. The BAWU was also hostile towards the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) because the latter adhered to non-racialism. A number of BAWU members broke away soon after its formation and they formed community-based trade unions in various areas of South Africa.

Among the community-based unions was the South African Allied Workers’ Union (SAAWU) which became most dominant in Durban under the leadership of Sam Kikine. This movement later expanded to East London and Johannesburg. In 1980, the BAWU branches in Empangeni and Ladysmith split, led by Matthew Oliphant and Maphalala Magwaza respectively. They then formed the National, Iron, Steel, Metal and Allied Workers Union (NISMAWU) which joined forces with Sam Kikine’s SAAWU. The Transvaal region of BAWU also followed suite and broke away towards the end of 1980. This breakaway caused the formation of the General Allied Workers’ Union (GAWU) which Rita Ndzanga and Mary Ntsike became the first leaders. Another split led to the formation of the National Federation of Workers (NFW) at the Transvaal region in 1980.

Soweto Uprisings

Under the Bantu Education Act passed in 1953, the law stipulated that black education will move from missionary control to government control. According to the apartheid government, missionary schools were dangerous as they believed they fed liberal ideas to “untrained minds”. Verwoerd said that this act would “train and teach people in accordance to their opportunities in life”. Black schools no longer studied the same syllabuses as non-black schools, but followed new Bantu Education syllabuses which were conducted in indigenous languages. English was then phased out in primary schools and only limited in secondary schools. When the Bantu Education Act came into effect on 25 April 1955, about 7 000 pupils and teachers were dismissed due to boycotts. Similar laws were passed for Indians and coloured people’s education.

In 1975, the Minister of Bantu Education issued an instruction that mathematics and social studies in all black secondary schools will be taught in Afrikaans. Students then started riots against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. At these riots, many students were arrested and faced with charges of disruption and promoting the aims of Black Consciousness. In May 1976, Biko was called in as a witness of nine students who were SASO members and had been involved in the riots. These students were faced with terrorism charges but the State did not have much evidence against them. During the nine students’ defence, Biko said that:

Basically, Black Consciousness directs itself to the black people and their situation, and the black people are subjected to two forces in this country. They are first of all oppressed by an external world through institutional machinery and through laws that restrict them from doing certain things, through heavy work conditions, through poor pay, through difficult living conditions, through poor education, these are external to them.

Biko further went to mention that there was no point in going to school if black schools were not the same as white schools. He also spoke about sports, the conditions in townships, the streets, the lighting being different and that the feelings of being incomplete as a black person were inevitable in the minds of the young people.

Despite Biko’s testimony, the court still found these nine students guilty, and this worsened the anger within the black community. On 13 June 1976, the South African Students’ Movement (SASM) held a meeting at Naledi High School in Soweto where a Soweto Students’ Representative Council (SSRC) was formed, which was composed of SASM delegates, two from each secondary school in Soweto.

In May 1976, Desmond Tutu, member of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, when sensing the bitter mood of Black Consciousness wrote to the Prime Minister John Vorster saying: “I am writing to you because I have a growing nightmarish fear that unless something drastic is done very soon then bloodshed and violence are going to happen in South Africa… People can only take so much and more… A people made desperate by despair and injustice will use desperate means”. Vorster however ignored this warning.

The SSRC under the leadership of Tebello Moyopane organised the protests against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction for the 16th June 1976. About 20 000 school children participated in this protest march moving from Phefeni to Orlando Stadium. The security force opened fire on the crowd and many students were killed and injured.

In the months that followed, more people got killed and thousands injured as these riots soon spread out to the rest of South Africa. Students then reacted to this by organising boycotts of schools, beer halls, and also forced the Bantu School Boards and the Soweto Urban Council to resign.

In July 1977, Biko was arrested for his involvement in a case that involved the revolt of school children that began in Soweto June 16, 1976. The government accused Biko of persuading seven children to say they were forced to make false statements to the police. He was however found not guilty on this account.

The Soweto uprisings created a new political atmosphere in South Africa and a new pattern in resistance as many young people became more involved in politics. Through the BCM, they got to learn more about the banned ANC and they also got the chance to go for military training abroad through the help of the BCM. Scores of young people fled the country into exile to either join the MK, Poqo and/or further their studies abroad.

Government’s response

During the apartheid era, the NP government preached separate development and there came an organisation which spoke its language. At first, the government accepted the organisation as it saw in BCM a manifestation of Tribal Bantustans and Bantu Education. It was unaware that the aim of the BCM was to counter white supremacy with black solidarity.

In 1973, the government appointed ten members of Parliament, six from the NP and four from the United Party (UP) to form the Schlebusch Commission under the chairmanship of A.L. Schlebusch. The aim of this commission was to investigate the CISA, the UCM, NUSAS, and Welgespruit Fellowship Centre. The UCM had however decided to dissolve itself at its conference held from 10 to 16 March 1972, due to reasons unknown to the researcher. This then put an end to the Black Theology Project (BTP), which was still a baby organisation at the time. More attempts to get the BTP running were in vain due to a lack of funds. The Schlebusch report was published in 1975 and the CISA as well as Black Theology were put in a negative light.

To the disinvestment campaign, the government reacted by banning orders on 26 February 1973 signed by the Minister of Justice. These were served on office-bearers and some other members of the BCP. These orders prohibited members from attending gatherings, meetings, and associating with more than one person at a time, visiting factories, printing and publishing works, entering black residential areas other than where the banned person lived, and taking part in SASO and BCP activities. Amongst the banned people were:

·         Chris Madiebeng – BCP’s Vice President
·         Sathavisan (Sath) Cooper – Public Relations Officer
·         Sipho Buthelezi – Secretary General
·         Mrs. S. Moodley
·         Matthew Diseko
·         Drake Koka – a trade union organiser and
·         Mosebudi Mangera – the BCP union organiser who was jailed for five years under the Terrorism Act.
Challenges faced by the BCM
The Death of Steve Biko

In 1974, Biko was banned to his home in King William’s Town and was forbidden from taking part in any political activities. He remained silent until 1975 when nine BC supporters were put on trial of terrorism under the Terrorism Act of 1967. Since they had not performed any military acts, the state kept them on the issue of whether the BCM philosophy itself constituted terrorism. The evidence included only speeches and pamphlets. At the trial, the judge said that freedom of speech and assembly were regarded as fundamental in our society that did not mean that everyone with opinions or beliefs may address a group at any public place at any time. He then accepted that the BCM was not guilty of managing revolutionary groups but that their concepts “encouraged feelings of hostility between blacks and whites” and their depiction of the system of white power as one of murder, oppression, exploitation, fascism, robbery and plunder amounted to an act of terrorism.

The court ruling stipulated that “for a member of the BC movement to be found guilty of terrorism no act of terror or violence of any plans for terror or violence had to be proved”. The police officials deemed Biko as very dangerous and then detained him under the Terrorism Act on 18 August 1977.

Biko was chained with thick leg irons on his legs and not allowed to wear any clothes. He was also not allowed to leave his cell for air and exercise. He ate soup, sour maize drink, bread, jam and coffee. He however refused most of the food and mostly ate bread. On 1 September 1977, a magistrate visited his cell and Biko complained about the conditions. The magistrate however did not help Biko with any of his grievances.

On 6 September that year he [Biko] was then transferred to Walmer police station where he was interrogated by Colonel Pieter Goosen, who was known for his brutality when questioning political prisoners. After many days of medical examination after he had been tortured, Dr. Tucker who had been examining Biko said that he was fit enough to travel the 1 628km journey by road to Pretoria. He was still naked and handcuffed on his way to Pretoria, where he arrived 11 hours after leaving Port Elizabeth.

Biko died on 12 September 1977, in police custody as a result of brain injury sustained from torture, at the age of 30 years. When the Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger was asked to give a statement on the death of Biko, he said that: “I am not glad and I am not sorry about Mr. Biko. It leaves me cold. I can say nothing to you. Any person who dies… I shall also be sorry if I die.”

Biko was known and respected amongst white liberals and had also gotten the privilege to meet United States senators and embassy officials. Biko’s death caused international outrage and people wanted answers as his death and the alibi given for it did not add up. Journalists and lawyers from all over the world flew to SA to investigate this sudden death. A reporter from the New York Times questioned Minister Kruger about Biko’s death and he said:

I personally do not believe this. I don’t believe that my police have done anything wrong… if there is anything wrong in the Biko case, I will be surprised… There will be no cover up in the Biko case”.

Police claimed that Biko died of hunger strike, however, evidence given by doctors, warders and police from the day after his arrest, 18 August 1977, showed that Biko had been kept naked and tortured for 21 days.


Banning of BC organisation

Between April and November 1977, 18 other people died while in detention for political offences. On 19 October 1977, 17 BC organisations were banned. Naude and D. Woods – editor of the East London Daily Dispatch – were both served with banning orders. They had been supporters of Biko and the BCM. The CISA journal, Pro Veritate and its editor Mayson were also banned. Also detained was, Percy Qoboza – editor of The World together with the newspaper.

The formation of AZAPO

After the banning of BC organisations in 1977, BC activists regrouped soon after. They organised meetings in Chiawelo – Soweto – on the 24th October 1977. The meeting was attended by about 40 BC activists; among those were S. Mazibuko, D. Mayet, T. Mazwai, J. Selebi and Z. Sisulu. In this meeting, the Soweto Action Committee was founded. Their first task was to mobilise black communities countrywide.

Another meeting took place in 1978 in Rooderpoort where delegates from as far as Natal, Eastern Cape, Free State and Soweto attended. This delegation decided to form a new umbrella organisation, the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) which would carry through the ideas of Black Consciousness and replace the BCP. Conflicts of whether AZAPO should carry through the traditions and ideals of a banned organisation arose. It was then decided that BC was an ideology and it should be carried through. AZAPO was finally launched in May 1979 during a meeting attended by 200 delegates. AZAPO however failed to make much of a mark in the 1980s.


At the onset of BCM, the government was excited at this idea because at last, somebody was speaking their language of segregation. It seemed like Biko was in fact saying that black people should live separately, in their own homelands and fend for themselves, which was exactly what the apartheid government was trying to achieve. Biko in some twisted way gave the impression that he agreed with the apartheid government, until they [government] realised it was a restoration of black’s humanity he was advocating for. The government soon discovered that in actual fact, the BCM was a movement which attempted to do damage control from the apartheid policies. The BCM was trying to reverse the Bantu Education laws which taught black children that all they were good for was to serve the white man; the laws which gave the black people the impression that they were inferior to the white man and they should at all times rely on them with their intelligence.

The BCM became a new strategy of fighting the apartheid government, because Biko had said that the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the oppressed mind. Through the BCM, the idea was to challenge the black people to start helping themselves. The basic idea was to do away with the reliance on white people, which is why trust funds were established to assist with all these projects.

The BCM was more than just a motivational organisation, philosophically; it was aimed at uplifting the black man’s spirit, motivating him, removing white dependency and instilling back the sense of pride.

Heritage… Has it lost its meaning

So often when one thinks of our heritage, it is often music, dance, and beautiful garments. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as it celebrates our heritage; however, there is everything wrong with that if we are going to let our heritage be defined only by clothes and dancing. There is so much more to us than that. A lot of aspects define us as a people. The month of September has been put aside to serve the purpose of bringing about consciousness within ourselves, that which makes us who we are.

It is true that we may not know where we are going if we do not know where we come from. We therefore need to ensure that the road we are paving for the younger generation, is one that will strengthen our cultural values to speak to our true heritage.

Remember how back in the day, a person would look at a tree and not only see this object that will provide shade during a hot summer day. The beauty of that tree, how it provided life, how it would bear fruits… a poet would give praises to that tree. You get a number of values from that.

Our heritage is through dance and every dance has a meaning. You would not get a small child performing ditolobonya; simply because there was a time, place and age restriction for such dances. The values instilled in that as well as the message, need to be carried through.

I am a Zulu maiden and although I have in some way accustomed to the modern day South Africa, there is no way I will regard my cultural practices as barbaric. Who am I to say such things? Don’t I know that my forefathers had much more wisdom than I do right now? Don’t I understand that these practises were done for a certain reason? Without understanding, it is very easy for a person to ridicule someone else’s customs. However, we need to ensure that the legacy we were supposed to pick up a long time ago, does not die with this generation.

Heritage is the legacy of the past. You then need to ask yourself whether the heritage you are celebrating today has not lost its meaning through translation and adaptation. There are many values from the past that can still apply today in order to destroy the social ills that we are faced with at the moment.

I always say that culture is a form of survival; therefore the people in a certain era in the 1800s will definitely not have the same cultures as those living in 2015. But, if we are going to apply the same principles when it comes to traditions and customs, then we are doomed.

In light of correcting the imbalances of the past, we need to celebrate our heritage. This can be done through recognising and declaring heritage sites. These are – houses of stalwarts, graves of those who played an important role during the struggle against discrimination. The declaration of sites such as open space where meetings were held, schools, halls and other areas that were used to hold political meetings, harbour refugees and be used as feeding schemes where necessary. Graves of those fallen heroes may also be declared. Perhaps conscietizing the young people should not be the work of the government, but the community at large. We can only do things right if we are told by the people exactly what they would like to see happening. It is all up to us to ensure. Therefore, let us honour and celebrate our living heritage. Whether it is tangible or intangible, it all remains necessary and important.

In South Africa, September is celebrated as the heritage month; one which I hold very close to my heart. This is the lead up to the public holiday – heritage day on the 24th of September. Before 1995, this holiday was observed in KwaZulu as Shaka Zulu’s day. I get charged up when September begins, not only because I am a historian and a heritage practitioner, but simply because it has become a time when South Africans give themselves a chance to become well versed with other cultures. A time when the country is so colourful with these bright colours that have been adopted by different cultures to symbolise their beauty and identity. Although some may argue that we run the risk of making this day or perhaps month about fashion parades; as we often only recognise fashion, song and dance as facets of culture. However, understanding the messages that come with different garments, poetry, song and dances, one would become cognisance to the values and lessons attached to it. To bring about heritage and cultural consciousness, we have to start somewhere.

To me, heritage month means I get the opportunity to express myself through my culture. Although this should be something one gets to do all year round, but since certain things are frowned upon; this is my opportunity to educate people. When one understands the reason behind cultural practices, then they are in a better position to respect them. It is also best to hear it from the horse’s mouth because we run the risk of misinterpreting certain practices. This is also a chance to ensure that the younger generation do not misconstrue our legacy as only wearing fancy garments.