Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig


This is the front cover to the book Alex Haley's Roots - An Author's Odyssey by Adam Henig

This is the front cover to the book Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

Every once in a while you stumble on a book that challenges everything you thought you knew about someone. Alex Haley’s Roots is one such book. I admit I was more familiar with his most famous works such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots than I was with the author of these phenomenal titles.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X propelled Alex Haley into the spotlight.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X propelled Alex Haley into the spotlight.

The little I thought I knew about him was what I gleaned from the latter book and the subsequent miniseries. Adam Henig, the author, presents a succinct and orderly narrative capturing the author’s odyssey conveniently beginning at the threshold of Haley’s fame and success.

That is shortly after the publication of Roots and serialisation of the book into a miniseries. It carries us through his meteoric rise into stardom hobnobbing with his friend Warren Beatty.

Henig recounts Haley’s impressive list of accomplishments and the accolades he garnered on his journey to fame. It is littered with anecdotes and snapshots of impressive scenes Haley encountered in the public eye.

Henig breaks down the records Roots, the book and the miniseries, set and the pandemonium that followed the success of Haley’s work.

Henig states, “Four months after its debut, Roots sold more than eight hundred thousand copies, unheard of for such a short period of time.”

That is still impressive by todays standard. “Roots was a cultural (and financial) phenomenon. It was the first time that many white Americans had read a book from a black perspective.” That was not all.

“Roots most poignant contribution may have been to the study of genealogy.” Haley contributed immensely to American culture. His influence extended beyond the fields of publishing.

Roots was translated into many foreign languages and Haley flew the American flag internationally. His achievements were immense as Henig illustrated:

“Alex Haley had achieved fame and wealth. Hollywood celebrities, foreign dignitaries and the nation’s most powerful leaders lined up to meet him.” He rubbed shoulders with Queen Farah of Iran, President Carter, Marlon Brando, Liz Taylor, etc. He was the “most wanted man in the nation.”

At the peak of his fame, Haley seemed to have it all and nothing could go wrong.

But it did as Henig chronicles. It happened sensationally. Haley sued his publisher and it all went downhill from there on. A reporter for the London Sunday Times embarked on a travel assignment in the Gambia, the country where Haley’s ancestor, Kunta Kinte, was allegedly captured.

The travel assignment evolved into an exposé highlighting flaws in Haley’s research.

Henig documents in detail the subsequent lawsuits that dogged Haley for plagiarism leading to his fall from grace. He captures Haley’s eccentricities and shortfalls in his personal, public and private life. Apart from the lawsuits, Henig covers Haley’s womanising, strained relationships with his family, his extravagance with his money and all those who manipulated his generosity.

This is the kind of stuff that could well work as a screenplay of Haley’s life.

An Author’s Odyssey is like a missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle. It completes the missing pieces to Alex Haley’s autobiography, i.e., the chapters that were not covered in the main Roots book and miniseries.

Adam Henig, the author of Alex Haley's Roots - An Author's Odyssey

Adam Henig, the author of Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey

Henig’s well researched and referenced narrative raises questions about the authenticity of Haley’s narrative, problems that dogged his ascension to stardom. It is also a lesson for aspiring nonfiction writers to be thorough with their research.

An Author’s Odyssey is an intriguing narrative that is too short. It could bs longer because it is so fascinating. When I first read the ebook, I had to go back and read Roots again. Ironically, Roots the miniseries and the sequel were showing at the same time and I watched them too to find out what I had missed.

I remembered why I enjoyed both the book and the miniseries the first time I ever set eyes on them. Alex Haley was a gifted storyteller. He made both the characters and story believable.

He told stories with such compassion, dignity and humanity. Everyone loves a good story and Haley told us exactly what we wanted to hear.

Watching the miniseries and reading the book again transported me back to the magic that enchanted me when I first watched Roots back in Africa as a young boy. For all his failings, Haley was a force of nature and we would all have been poorer if he had not written Roots.

Henig’s narrative acknowledges the way Roots captured the world’s imagination and Haley’s lasting legacy. It is befitting this short piece of writing fills in the blanks left out of the main narrative captured in Roots and the sequel. In a strange way, Heniq completes Haley’s narrative.

I was left with the feeling that I know Haley better than I did before I read Henig’s – An Author’s Odyssey. It is one of this rare works that surprised me and told me things I didn’t know about Alex Hailey.

Alex HaleyAlex Haley’s Roots left me with an appreciation of Haley’s ability to put a human face to one of the greatest tragedies mankind has ever experienced. Those are the rare gems Henig, consciously or unconsciously uncovers. Through his work, I rediscovered Roots.

Armed with this new knowledge, I guess my review of Roots will be quite interesting to say the least. Read Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig to gain a deeper understanding of the legacy of Alex Haley.

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Me Lady, Judge Thokozile Masipa, Needs Thicker Lens…


Me Lady, Judge Thokozile Masipa, Needs Thicker Lens….

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Me Lady, Judge Thokozile Masipa, Needs Thicker Lens…


image

I have been trying to digest the verdict in the Oscar Pistorius trial. I must say the main protagonist, Oscar, deserves an Oscar for shamming remorse. His performance was the equivalent of downing a sick bucket. Excuse my pun.

Judge Masipa and the defense team deserve one too for their supporting roles in this badly orchestrated charade that was meant to be a gripping drama.

The conclusion is so tasteless it leaves a sickening feeling in the stomach as if one has been forced to drink Oscar’s sick bucket. It leaves one concluding that despite the much televised trial with its trappings of western culture, there is no justice in South Africa.

I reiterate, there is no justice in South Africa. The outcome has left many in shock and a bitter social media war in its wake with many in disbelief at the judge’s verdict.

image Some of us cannot fathom how a person shooting four shots into a locked cubicle couldn’t have comprehended that their actions would result in serious injury or death to the person behind the door.

We cannot understand why a person would go towards the danger and claim they shot in self defence yet there was no hint of an attack or firing of a warning shot. Simply, by going towards the alleged danger, that would have transformed that person into an aggressor and self defense would not be applicable.

The facts from my point of view, you may have your own opinion, is that South Africa imageis a world where police officers armed to the bone can shoot unarmed black men in the back, drag black men behind police cars and those black lives get no justice. Unarmed white women can be shot or abused by white men and be denied justice.

South Africa reinforces that it’s a man’s world, but not just any man’s world, but a white man’s world.

It doesn’t matter which part of the world you are in, as long as you are black, whether in Fergusson, London, Marikana (South Africa) or Missouri, there are different rules for black and white men to abide by. The white woman also seems to be denied the same rights the white man is entitled to.

imageIt doesn’t matter whether you are Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Mark Duggan, Oscar Grant, a Marikana miner in South Africa, Steve Biko, Fred Hampton, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jnr., or Reeva Steenkamp, the outcome is the same: JUSTICE DENIED!

In digesting the outcome of this bizarre case, I have come to the conclusion that justice means different things for certain groups of people. For some people, it means INJUSTICE. It means that nothing has changed and white men will continue to get away with murder whether their victim is a black man or a white woman (or black).

imageWhite men can act with impunity knowing the system grants them immunity.

As Tupac once said, lady liberty needs glasses and so does mrs justice by herself both the broads are blind as bats… I guess in this case we can say, me lady, Judge Thokozile Masipa, needs thicker lens and so does mrs justice by her side both the broads are blind as bats. From SA to the USA, the cries of justice are resonating: we want justice!

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Writing Outlet for African Writers: Urgent Opportunity


Are you a writer but disappointed with the lack of outlets to publish your work? Do you have a penchant for fashion and style? Don’t worry there are outlets for you to build your name and develop your competency.

As a fellow wordsmith, I empathise with your dilemma. And I am going to share opportunities I come across to help you to achieve your goal. I have been there too. I have that writing habit and live solely to write and share my experiences with kindred spirits.

As with any habit, it needs maintenance. I am lucky I have numerous outlets for my work. But when I am not writing, I have serious side effects. Guilt is one of them. I feel guilty because I feel like I am letting myself down through procrastination. I feel unfulfilled. I am irritable. I tremble and sweat like a junkie waiting for his next fix.

I sometimes feel like I am that servant who was handed a talent and instead of doing something with it, I dug into the ground until the return of the master.

One thing I love about writing is research. Research plays an important role in the writing life cycle. It is a treasure trove for the creative process. It informs your fiction and non fiction narratives and makes it richer. It adds texture to your work and sometimes throws up esoteric details that you might not have foreseen.

But above all, research allows you to become the instant expert in disciplines you might be ignorant of or not so well versed.

In addition, research reveals numerous outlets for your work. Never underestimate the research process.

For example, Renaissance Men SA is in need of all kinds of artists such as writers, photographers, etc. from all over Africa. If this is your niche, please check it out at the following link.

http://renaissancemensa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/calltoaction-contributors-wanted-for.html.

Renaissance Men SA looks like it is a great outlet to cut your teeth if you live, eat and breath style. They claim: Renascence

Renaissance Men SA is a men’s fashion, grooming and lifestyle online magazine. This space provides content for (South) African men sourced from (South) African brands and labels.

Aspiring to be the ultimate voice of reason for gents around the world looking for interesting and niche content, we strive to continuously provide the consumer with edgy and refreshingly local content.

Our aim is not to dictate. It’s to share, inspire and hopefully create an environment where style is understood as the definitive trademark each individual has amongst the see of fashion mongers.

Check them out because their deadline for writers, graphic artists, photographers, etc. is today. I’ll be updating you about more outlets I come across soon. If you have any questions, send me a message and I’ll respond.

Most writers are avid readers. And I am reading an insightful odyssey about a great black writer by the name of Alex Haley. His best known works are Roots (the book and the TV mini series) plus The Autobiography Of Malcolm X. Watch out for my review coming soon.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the love of your life, writing that is.

Don’t forget to check out the  Renaissance Men SA at this link.

http://renaissancemensa.blogspot.co.uk.

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BIKO: A LIFE BY XOLELA MANGCU – BIOGRAPHY REVIEW


He was young, gifted and black. He was born to lead. Like most gifted people with a mission to accomplish, he died young. In his short life, Stephen Bantu Biko achieved what many people never achieve in a lifetime. Biko: A Life, recounts this iconic anti-apartheid activist and intellectual revolutionary’s life. This biography comes 36 years after his premature death in 1977; it’s the first in-depth examination of his life.

BikoXolela Mangcu the author was eleven at the time. Like most people who were around in the 1970s, he remembers where he was when the news of Biko’s death broke. He recalls the events of that fateful day; the backlash and ripples that spread internationally, exposing the brutality of apartheid .

Mangcu grew up in the same neighbourhood as Biko in Ginsberg [King William’s Town] and often accompanied him to the Black Community Projects [BCP] such as Zanemplio Health Clinic, Biko ran with Dr. Mamphele Ramphele, Barney Pityana and others.

Biko: A Life, is a timely account that examines the life of Steve in a way no other work has done before. It invokes the philosophies and theories of leading intellectuals and scholars. It interweaves personal testimony with academic and historical texts, letters, newspaper reports, interviews and journal excerpts. Steve’s associates, colleagues, family, friends, community members, political leaders and anti-apartheid activists who were privileged to meet and work with Steve share their memories and insights.

This multifaceted approach provides insight into Steve Biko’s character and life from different perspectives. These fragmented perspectives offer a fuller and rounded picture of a committed, gifted, humble, intelligent and unique individual.

Mangcu’s narrative provides a brief history of South Africa starting with the early San and Khoi Khoi wars of resistance in the 18th and 19th century. He traces the invisible lineages of Xhosa chiefs like Ndlambe and Ngqika, and prophet intellectuals like Nxele and Ntsikana [who followed after the defeat of the Khoi Khoi  and San ] played in the development of Biko’s consciousness.

Mangcu examines Biko’s emergence after the banning of the PAC and ANC, and imprisonment of their leaders such as Robert Sobukwe [founder of the PAC] and Nelson Mandela and others on Robben Island. The framing of the Biko VIInarrative in this manner illustrates the events and individuals that moulded Biko’s growth and political awareness; it also places the struggle against white domination into context.

Although Mangcu was very close to Steve Biko and had a great impact on his life, he steers clear of hero worship. Steve’s flaws and warts are exposed. Mangcu examines his escapades with the cops during his banishment, partying, messy love life, divorce, womanising, heavy drinking caused by the banishment, imprisonment and murder of the friends Biko brought into the various organisations he formed.

However, this doesn’t taint his character. It humanises him and contrasts his flaws with his strengths. A young man with a unique gift of leadership emerges as Father Aelred Stubbs recalled:

 Whereas other leaders tend almost insensibly to become Leaders with a  

  capital L, I never saw any sign at all of this happening with Steve. He 

remained to the end on all fours with us, an example of what we could all 

be, above and beyond us only in his vision, and in the depths of his 

commitment as his death in detention showed.

His wife Ntiski added:

 Steve was, I think, just a gifted person. I always say even the name he 

was given by his parents, Bantu – meaning people – was apt… He was

able to mingle with different ages… So that was his gift, I think, he got it 

from God, so he would be able to work with all sorts of people. 

This gift of his was undeniable then. It is undeniable today. It is everlasting and continues to radiate from beyond the grave as Mangcu illustrates through his thorough analysis of the aftermaths of his legacy in post-apartheid South Biko VAfrica in the final chapters of Biko: A Life.

Mangcu illustrates Biko’s leadership skills didn’t develop in isolation. He examines in depth the esoteric details that inspired Biko to grow in response to his oppressive environment. For example, in April 1963, Lovedale was hit by a student boycott of classes. Khaya Biko, Steve’s older brother, was identified as a ringleader.

The police also uncovered his PAC political activities in Ginsberg and he was consequently charged for being a member of an unlawful organisation POQO [the armed wing of the PAC]. Steve was caught up in the crossfire and expelled for no reason. He later ran away from home to hide at his friend’s house to escape the police. His brother had tried unsuccessfully to get Steve involved in politics. However, the expulsion was the motivation Steve required as Khaya spelt out, “This time the great giant was awakened.”

The biography provides more esoteric details about Steve Biko’s life that were previously unknown. The examination of his early life at school illustrates he was a child prodigy and a prankster. It also shows that Biko came from a relatively poor family and he could hardly afford things like uniforms.

However, that didn’t seem to affect him; he often helped older students than himself who weren’t academically gifted. He was only able to attend school because the people of Ginsberg sent him there; later on in life, he set up the Ginsberg Education Fund in 1975 when he was banned to help students who couldn’t afford to attend university.

The biography provides an insight into the characters that were around Biko while he was growing up. His alumni include Thabo Mbeki, Chris Hani, and Zola Skwekiya who attended Lovedale High School around the same time. By the time Biko left St. Francis College, Mariannhill in Natal, he had developed debating skills and emerged as one of the top political thinkers.

Mangcu chronologically follows this line of enquiry examining Biko’s rise to prominence during his time at the Durban Medical School at the University of Natal Non European Section in 1966. He carries out a detailed analysis of Biko’s involvement in the NUSAS [National Union of South African Students] and the incidents and ideologies that forced Biko to ask questions about non racialism within that structure.

Consequently, Biko and his colleagues eventually created the blacks only SASO [South African Students Organisation]. The biography highlights it was not out of choice but necessity they formed a non white organisation although coloureds and Indians were included in SASO.

Mangcu provides more esoteric details such as the involvement of the church in the creation of SASO; the irony of Biko’s non racial politics but non racial attitude when it came to hitting on white women.

Later on in the narrative, Mangcu conducts a detailed analysis of the events leading to the development of the Black Biko XIIPeople’s Convention [BPC] which was formed to bridge the gap between the black intelligentsia and the rest of the black society: the isolation was a disadvantage to black people as a whole.

Mangcu shows Steve’s role and ability to delegate leadership responsibilities of the various organisations he formed such as the BPC while he worked as the head of publications for SASO. In that role, he penned a regular and influential column under the pseudonym Frank Talk. These essays were later collected under the title I Write What I Like: it remains the most authoritative collection on Black Consciousness.

The biography offers a unique insight into Steve’s life providing an in-depth understanding. For example, Biko was expelled from the University of Natal in 1972 on academic grounds: six years into his studies, he was repeating his third year. This seems to contradict Biko’s academic brilliance as a child prodigy.

However, the biography illustrates Biko’s political activities left him with very little time to concentrate on his studies. His studies in Law during his banishment also suffered the same fate. It reflects his selfless nature: he put others in front of his needs as his wife Ntsiki recalls:

 I married a guy not knowing he was a leader, he was just like any man to

me. But I could see that there was something driving him to want to work

with and for the people. So much that, most of the time, you would find 

that even the family was not coming first… when he got banned in 1973

people would come with problems. There’s money problems or family 

problems. Somebody would come and say “I don’t have money to send 

my child to school”, or “I don’t have food at home”. You know what he 

used to do? He would take our bags and actually empty our bags so

that he gets whatever he wants to help that person. So he was always

wanting to do something for people.

Biko’s commitment to helping people is a recurring refrain in this biography. The biography also unearths some lesser known details about the circumstances that led to Biko’s death. Mangcu examines the events that led to his death such as his ill fated trip and provides several theories about what actually happened.

He also investigates Biko’s elusive quest to unite the ANC, PAC and the BPC into one liberation movement to take on the apartheid  regime. Robert Sobukwe, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela provide interesting insights into Steve’s elusive quest. In Tribute To Stephen Bantu Biko, Mandela alludes to this episode: “He was quietly preparing for a clandestine meeting he was due to hold with Oliver Tambo, the president of the ANC. Mandela continued:

 It now appears certain that the apartheid regime got wind of this. Whether

his death came from an accidental blow or not, they had to kill him to 

prolong the life of apartheid. The very thought of a link up between the 

ANC and the Black Consciousness Movement was unthinkable to the 

apartheid government.

Mangcu quoted Steve’s thoughts taken from I Write What I Like, “I would like to see groups such as the ANC, PAC and Black Consciousness deciding to form one liberation group… I think, when black people are so dedicated and so united in their cause that we can affect the greatest results”.

No one else since Biko ever tried such an audacious undertaking, not even Mandela himself. It was this elusive quest for the unity of the liberation movements that led to Biko’s murder. The security police killed a revolutionary but while his flesh died, his ideas multiplied.

The biography features ten succulent chapters which are supplemented by A Tribute To Stephen Bantu Biko written Biko IVby Nelson Mandela, a preface and an epilogue. It not only provides you with amazing insights into Biko’s life and the circumstances that shaped him, but Mangcu also provides a reflection of post apartheid South Africa and how Biko’s leadership helped shaped current South Africa and the continuing impact of his legacy.

Biko’s wife, Ntsiki, provides an insight into that legacy, “He produced mayors and some of them are working in government”. Mangcu admits, “Outside my family, no single individual shaped my life in the way that Steve Biko did”.

Others like Thoko Mbaniswa went on to become the commissioner at the Independent Electoral Commission; Mtobhi who received help from the Ginsberg Education Fund set up by Biko became the first director general of sport in Mandela’s government  and a senior executive at Vodacom. Another recipient of that fund was Sipheto Mlonyeni who studied at Fort Hare and is now a practising attorney.

The list is endless. Today, many youths within South Africa, Africa and across the world claim validity for their ideas by proclaiming a lineage to Biko or cite him as their inspiration. This partly explains why his image today is as iconic as that of late revolutionaries like Malcolm X; Captain Thomas Sankara’, Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral and Patrice Lumumba.

His image is awash on social media such as Facebook and Twitter proving his legacy is accruing currency to a new generation who were not yet born when he died but find his Black Consciousness philosophy still relevant today.

Mangcu elaborates this point which kind of explains why the youth today look to their past and Biko and his Black Consciousness philosophy in the same manner Steve Biko looked to the past for his inspiration to fight the struggle against racism and apartheid:

 Steve believed that it was primarily because of the institutionalisation

of these privileges that white people were unlikely to listen to moral 

suasion. I have elsewhere argued that although Nelson Mandela 

played a pivotal role in ensuring our transition to democracy, he

nonetheless left us with the unfinished business of racism. Biko’s 

challenge of the psychological freedom from racism was therefore

left unaddressed by even the greatest political icon of the 20th 

century.

Mandela noted Biko’s message of psychological emancipation in his tribute:

 Living, he was a spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa. His

message to the youth and students was simple and clear: Black is

Beautiful! Be proud of your blackness! And with that he inspired our

youth to shed themselves of the sense of inferiority they were born

into as a result of more than three centuries of white rule. Assert

yourselves and be self reliant! With that he ignited a passion in the 

youth and they walked tall.

No other leader in Africa has inspired the youth with a philosophy of psychological emancipation. The relevance of Biko’s teaching partly explains why his collection of essays – I Write What I Like – remains a best seller today, 36 years after his demise.

Biko: A Life, is an inspired biography because it comes at a pivotal moment when Africans are looking for inspirational leadership within Africa. It also provides a detailed and intimate examination into Stephen Bantu Biko’s life, providing a greater understanding of this intellectual revolutionary and pivotal figure.

Not only is it an important historical document, but it is the perfect study aid for emerging leaders, politicians, revolutionaries and thinkers of the future.

The resurgence of Biko’s Black Consciousness philosophy among the youth reinforces Thomas Sankara’s words, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”

The nation lost a great leader who would have been a formidable force in post apartheid South Africa which is inflicted with the Big Chief and Technocratic Syndrome today and facing a crisis in leadership. Steve Biko’s leadership is missed today. That is the greatest tragedy and this biography does an excellent job illustrating that point.

Biko XNelson Mandela’s Tribute to Stephen Bantu Biko which opens the biography reinforces Biko’s relevance and greatness, “Steve lives on in the galaxy of brave and courageous leaders who helped shape democratic South Africa. May we never cease celebrating Steve Biko.”

Biko: A Life, restores Steve in the publics’ consciousness. It is a celebration of this brave and courageous leader. It is so good it leaves you wanting to know more about this legendary and charming figure. This is a collector’s item for Black Consciousness scholars, emerging leaders and those who want to know more about Steve Biko. It will transform your understanding and perspective of this monumental figure.

Biko: A Life by Xolela Mangcu is a brilliant biography. Order your copy now from www.ibtauris.com or Amazon.

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Stephen Bantu Biko: Remembering An Intellectual Revolutionary


Stephen Bantu Biko: Remembering An Intellectual Revolutionary.

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Stephen Bantu Biko: Remembering An Intellectual Revolutionary


It is 36 years since Steve Biko left us. The 18th of December would have been his 67th birthday. The secret police who murdered him martyred him. When his body was laid in the soil of King William’s Town, his body contained a seed that would spring from a bond with the soil, giving birth to a movement that would develop many branches. The branches would produce fruits in abundance and they would develop more seeds and more Biko’s would spring forth from those seeds. His memory is now as synonymous to Africa as a baobab tree.

Biko was an exceptional and inspirational leader and an important figure in South African history; he is one of the few leaders who came up with a genuine liberation ideology, Black Consciousness, that was aimed at liberating the minds of black people. It is unfortunate that his incisive mind is no longer with us to help us make sense of the events of the last few weeks. Would he condemn the booing of Jacob Zuma? What would he say of the fake sign language interpreter at Mandela’s funeral? We can only speculate about how he would have reacted.

ImageThis pivotal moment in history provides us with an opportunity to celebrate a colossus whose Black Consciousness ideology continues to resonate today as illustrated by the resurgence of the struggle for black liberation. Biko seems to have had a premonition about what was to come with the independence and the historic compromise made by the late Nelson Mandela and ANC with the Afrikaner Broderbond. 36  years ago Biko proclaimed:

“If we have a mere change of face of those in governing positions what is likely to happen is that black people will continue to be poor, and you will see a few blacks filtering through into the so-called bourgeoisie. Our society will be run as of yesterday. So for meaningful change to appear there needs to be an attempt at reorganising the whole economic pattern and policies within this particular country”.

23 years after Mandela walked out of prison that is exactly what happened. Reconciliation succeeded in changing the colour of those in governing positions while retaining numerous white faces from Biko Ithe Apartheid regime. The majority of blacks are still poor and trapped in Economic Apartheid. We have seen a few blacks filtering through the “so-called bourgeoisie”. The majority of these happen to be members of the ANC or those who are somehow connected to the ruling party. They have used their struggle credentials as a passport to wealth accumulation.

A minute political elite have benefitted from the Black Economic Empowerment programmes designed to provide previously disadvantaged groups with economic privileges that they were denied under Apartheid. Patrice Motsepe is one of those who benefitted from this programme: at 51 years of age, he is the third richest person in South Africa whose worth was pegged at about $2.7 billion as of 2013. He is one of the privileged few who have benefitted from playing the black ham in the white sandwich or fronting as the black face for white owned companies. Another benefactor in this regard, is none other than Cyril Ramaphosa who was the MC at Mandela’s funeral: his net worth as of 2013 was $700 million; that was a leap of almost $450 million from 2012.

Biko with his son Samora

Ramaphosa was a close ally of Mandela during the Apartheid struggle but he has since had his fingers in a lot of pies and worn a number of contradictory titles such as union buster, union leader, a beneficiary of black economic empowerment , part owner of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s South African enterprises to name a few. He is being primed as presidential material and expected to be a prominent player in the 2017 race. He is set to cement Mandela’s promises to the international business community that nothing will change in South Africa and that the economy is safe from radicals like Julius Malema and Andile Mngxitama from the EFF who want to nationalise the mines, expropriate businesses and land Zimbabwean style.

If Biko was alive today, I can’t imagine him joining the technocrats and bourgeoisie in the shameful accumulation of wealth while the proletarians feed on the scabs of their wounds. I want to believe that if Biko was Biko IIIalive, he would remain at the forefront of the people’s struggle calling for meaningful change. I remember the Biko who was clamouring for a reorganisation of the “whole economic pattern and policies” within South Africa. I would like to believe that Biko would have been enraged that the South African Reserve Bank is at the mercy of shareholders and the financial structure and banking institutions are not fully harnessed to the national development today. Was it possible that Biko saw this coming?

Considering his comments above, he had a premonition of what was to pass. Biko was aware that Apartheid like Jim Crow and other systems of oppression were not merely based on racial discrimination but they were economical systems. Black South Africans were oppressed because they were sitting on one of the greatest repositories of wealth, probably only second to that of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These minerals included diamonds, platinum, gold and other valuable minerals that are important to the capitalist system. Hence, human exploitation of both humans beings and the minerals went hand in hand. This system of exploitation was justified by the creation of an Apartheid State in 1948 by the Afrikaner National Party to undergo the systematic and systemic exploitation of South Africans. This Afrikaner National Party transformed into the African National Congress in Black Face at independence. Even the likes of De Klerk are now honorary ANC members.

This strategy was carefully crafted by Mandela when he created a Government of National Unity in 1994 which included the Inkatha Freedom Party and National Party to boost the ANC’s votes to secure two-thirds of the vote to bolster investor confidence. Buthelezi was consequently rewarded with a home affairs ministry for his complicity Biko IXand De Klerk was made deputy president. The National Party quietly disappeared from the government in 1996 and by 2006 all traces of it were gone, merged into the ANC by Marthinus van Schalkwyk who was De Klerk’s successor. The majority of the ANC failed to see the transformation of the Black Skins White Masks as they were blinded by the Madiba Magic, a phrase like the Rainbow Nation that sound like token phrases coined by South Africa’s white advertising agencies. All these empty phrases didn’t transform into concrete or tangible transformations for the majority black population. Only the nasty face of institutional racism such as arbitrary arrests, police brutality and white only and black only signs disappeared.

This systematic and systemic economic exploitation of South Africans was supported by the British, Americans, Germans and other nations in the West. The World Bank and IMF also played their traditional role of cementing the historical compromise by offering neoliberal policies in an effort to sugarcoat Economic Apartheid. This same neoliberal sugarcoating resulted in the ostracization, silent genocide of the indigenous inhabitants of Australia and the pillaging of their land and national resources by settlers who reduced them to refugees in their own country. The majority of the aforementioned nations had representatives at Mandela’s funeral to pay respects to the man who had helped to give their unholy alliance a respectable face.

Of course, Mandela the hero helped to do away with the more sordid and blatant facets of Apartheid such as segregation laws, police brutality, blatant discrimination and the likes which were haemorrhaging business and unsettling investors; however, the economic structures that oppressed the people still remain in power supported by that same unholy alliance. However; there is little difference in the use of police brutality at Sharpeville and 1976 with the murder of striking miners at Marikana. Today, police brutality is endemic and insidious in suppressing legitimate protests in South Africa today whether they are residents, teachers, miners, etc. as illustrated in the following link:

Mandela’s historic compromise provided white South Africans with the ability to travel the world without the stench of the Apartheid stigma following them around and they were also allowed to keep the land and wealth while the black people were left empty handed and feeling like they were robbed.

I would like to think Biko would have stuck to his principles and would have been disgusted at the talks of reconciliation and the flag flying independence without transformation and having nothing tangible to show for the struggle. I would like to believe Biko would still be in the frontline today if he was alive defying the odds and reminding the “black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude.This was what Black Consciousness represented.

I don’t believe Biko would have changed his principles to settle for a compromise without addressing the economical question. Biko was a different man. He was his own man. He was a thinking man. It is often often overlooked that Biko was only 23 years old when he sharpened his own thinking and created his own ideas about Black Consciousness. He was fired up by the Pan Africanist zeal of Kwame ImageNkrumah, African Nationalist teachings of the legendary Jomo Kenyatta, critical writings of Frantz Fanon and Walter Rodney and black nationalistis struggles in America. He was also acquainted with West African schools of thought such as Leopold Sadar Senghor, Aime Ceasaire and the philosophical works of Jean Paul Satre and Marxism.

Biko was acquainted with the racial dichotomy that drove South Africa. He knew it was a tale of two worlds that hinged on white domination and black subjugation which inevitably made South Africa a white supremacist society. He understood better than a lot of white liberals how white privilege operated and knew that as beneficiaries to an unjust system, they were too blind to see it let alone understand it; hence, his call for white liberals to step aside and let the black man or woman to take the centre stage in his or her  struggles as encapsulated in the Black Consciousness philosophy. His recognition of the status quo was famously captured in his remark, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. Therefore, he wanted to free the minds of the people because he knew that the freedom of the body would follow if the mind was mentally decolonized.

The oppressed in the world today are forced to reconcile to the blatant vagaries of capitalism and imperialism. They have resigned themselves to accept that there is no alternative to globalisation and there is nothing they can do to change the international Western super structure. Black South Africans on the surface seem to have settled for the subservient role; however, underneath the skin, there seems to be a seething anger and Biko captured that kind of man in his famous remarks in his collection of writings I Write What I Like:

“But the type of black man we have today has lost his manhood. Reduced to an obliging shell, he looks with awe at the white power structure and accepts what he regards as the inevitable position. Deep inside his anger mounts at Biko Vthe accumulating insult, but he vents it in the wrong direction – on his fellow man in the township, on the property of black people. No longer does he trust leadership… All in all 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.”

It seems that Biko had his stethoscope of the patient’s chest and correctly diagnosed the ailment. The distrust of that leadership was confirmed in the booing of Zuma by members of his own party the ANC who are unhappy with the corruption, E-Toll, his leadership style. It is no wonder that a petition for Zuma to resign is circulating social networking sites. The anger referred to by Biko above appears to be the main driver of the high levels of violence in the townships and areas of deprivation where high concentrations of black people are found.

Question Time hosted by David Dimbleby and filmed in Cape Town two weeks ago captured the anger of the people in the studio. Lindiwe Zulu who was representing the ANC and Zuma repeatedly illustrated that she was out of touch with the masses. Her language was deceptive, arrogant, and she couldn’t connect with the audience. This is significant as most leaders, not only in South Africa, have become so wealthy, they have lost touch with the reality of the common people they claim to represent. One of the most poignant moments of that Question Time programme was a young man openly declaring to Peter Hain [former Labour MP], the young people would quadruple Mugabe’s programme of land redistribution. You can watch the programme on the link below.

Biko once remarked that, “To expect justice from them at any stage is naive”. It is chilling how Biko’s perceptions more than 36 years ago still resonate not only with the younger generation but elders in the community who accuse the ANC of constantly talking about writing policies but they are just eating the cake alone and the people are not even receiving the crumbs that fall from the table. This is evident in the increasing militancy of the younger black Biko VIIleaders who know that the people are behind them and more importantly, the whole of Africa is behind them and so are other blacks in the Diaspora. Donald Woods a white friend of Steve Biko and former editor of the Daily Dispatch noted in his acclaimed work Biko that, “They [Blacks] also want a significant redistribution of the land and a fair sharing of the wealth of the land”. Those remarks written back in 1978 are still as valid today as they were when he wrote them.

Andile Mngxitama is one of the young, black radical leaders of the EFF who still endorse the teachings of Black Consciousness; his party is demanding genuine transformation and the Economic Freedom Fighters are gaining momentum at rate that is alarming the white community in South Africa and far beyond its borders. The PAC is also clamouring for more change. This partly explains why the Apartheid Regime was so afraid of Steve Biko that they had to eliminate him.

Biko XBiko was aware that for any form of meaningful change to happen, a political amalgamation of blacks had to work on enlightening the masses to rid them of their inferiority complexes and gain the confidence of the youth to challenge Apartheid in ways that the older generation failed. He made the corridors of power shiver with fear through remarks such as:

“Blacks are going to move out of the townships into white suburbs, destroying and burning there. It’s going to happen, it’s inevitable… a faceless army which destroys overnight will introduce far greater feelings of insecurity (among whites) than an organised military force on the border”. [I Write What I Like]

Not surprisingly, a lot of questions the international press focussed on what would happen after the death of Mandela. This uneasy peace reinforces the fear Biko instilled in the white community and establishment. Most people remain unaware of the political acumen and power that he possessed at such a tender age.

He was attempting to do something that the older generation had never done before. Little is known about his efforts shortly before his murder to unite the ANC and the PAC behind the scenes. The leader of the PAC Robert Sobukwe confirmed to Donald Woods and his wife in 1977 that Biko was a potentially strong unifying factor in the Biko XIInational scene. “Steve could bring us all together where we belong,” Sobukwe said. Oliver Tambo the ANC President-General also confirmed that Biko had been in touch with the ANC leadership in Lusaka, Zambia planning a secret visit to their headquarters for extended talks. Steve Biko wrote in I Write What I Like confirming his intentions:

“I would like to see groups such as the ANC, PAC and Black Consciousness deciding to form one liberation group. It is only, I think, when black people are so dedicated and so united in their cause that we can effect the greatest results.”

His vision and manoeuvres were the last thing the Apartheid Regime wanted to see happening. Biko hoped to use his charisma and influence to bring these giants of the struggle against Apartheid together to fight the common enemy. He was conducting talks with the ANC through Griffiths Mxenge. Harry Nengwekhulu who had skipped the country after he was banned in 1973 was tasked with the missoin to secure a meeting between Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo and the ANC. At the same time, he was also having talks with Sobukwe; they met in King Williams Town on Biko’s way to his mothers funeral in the Transkei. Further talks were facilitated through Malusi Mpumlwana and Mapetla Mohapi. However, fate struck and Mapetla was murdered by the Security Police before the dream became a reality.

During his interrogation in detention, Biko confirmed to Donald Woods that the Apartheid Government and the security forces feared his unifying influence among the senior liberation movements; his interrogators kept Biko VIreturning to this line of questioning about uniting the ANC and PAC. Biko was no mere talker. He was an intellectual revolutionary who also acted on his words. An intellectual revolutionary is a person who comes from the people and has the capability of intellectualising and at the same time doing things to uplift his community or his people. Biko and members of the Black Conscious Movement not only spoke about doing things for themselves in their community but they did it.

One of these projects was the Zanempilo Clinic which he founded with Dr. Mamphela Ramphele who is now the leader of AGANG. She is the one standing with him in the picture to the right. That community health centre was a dream they shared while they were both medical students. However, Steve was never able to finish his studies because he was banned by the Apartheid Regime and placed under house arrest.

There were other projects they established such as a creche which they founded under the auspices of the Black Community Program. Biko had also worked with other students to create other Black Conscious groups such as the South African Students Organisation and various all-black sports bodies and established trust funds for the maintenance of families of political prisoners. He also worked hard at establishing various other community projects. This captured the essence of what Black Consciousness represented. His wife Ntsiki described the impact of his activities in Ginsberg in a biography of Biko:

“His main concern was that in Ginsberg at that time there was only one graduate; that was a certain Mr Mangcu, who happens to be the brother to Dr Mangcu [the author of this book]. So he was the only graduate here, and that Biko VIIIwas worrying Steve a lot, so he raised money and established the Ginsberg Educational Trust fund. From that Trust, I am glad to say, most of the people who got bursaries are well-off now in that they are well educated. He produced mayors and some of them are working in government now.” [Biko A Life]

She also described how Biko used to help people out in Ginsberg when they brought their family or money problems to him during his ban. He would provide them with money to send their children to school or if they didn’t have any food, he would empty their [Biko's] bags to help the people who needed food. He was a young selfless person who put others in front of himself as true leaders would do. He ultimately paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom with his life.

Steve Biko had an ambitious dream to free the minds of black people and get them to do things for themselves. He wanted us to unite and work as a group to rid ourselves of economical subjugation and reliance on others. It was also his wish that we would get to enjoy our slice of the economical cake. He understood that division would weaken our struggle; therefore, his noble attempt to unite the ANC and PAC. His noble actions remind us that we need each other more than ever and we need to rediscover Black Consciousness and take up where Biko left off and see to it that genuine transformation happens in our lifetime.

It is our time to regroup and organise and protect our own interests as a group as Steve Biko encouraged; that is Biko XIwhat Steve would have wanted us to do as he said in his own words, “Organisational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be”. All other groups are protecting their interests except the blacks. It is high time we rally together around the cause of our oppression – our black skin, not our religion, tribe, political affiliation but our black skin. This intellectual revolutionary left us a template of liberation. Let’s follow the plan. He may be gone but not forgotten.

Although many in the white media and community misunderstood Biko and misconstrued him as a racist because he called for blacks to rally together and solve their own problems without help of white liberals. Like Mandela, he envisioned a non racial society after independence as he said in his own words, “Blacks have had enough experiences as objects of racism not to wish to turn the tables”. He went on to say, “And in the same way that they’ve always lived in a racially divided society, they’ve got to live in a non-racial society”.

In conclusion, Mandela best summed up Steve Biko’s relevance to South Africa in a tribute in which he wrote:

“Whether his death came from an accidental blow or not, they had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid. The very thought of a link up between the ANC and the Black Conscious Movement was unthinkable to the Apartheid Government. Today there are those who claim validity for their ideas by claiming a lineage to Steve Biko. To live with Steve’s ideas they need to seek out this singular ability of Steve, to adapt and grow and display the courage that belongs to leadership. Steve lives on in the galaxy of brave and courageous leaders who helped shape democratic South Africa. May we never cease celebrating Steve Biko.”

I belong to a generation that never got to meet Steve Bantu Biko but he left an indelible footprint in our hearts and minds. He is like a lost uncle I never got to meet. He ignited a flame in us that allowed us to walk tall and proud. And in my own little way, I remember an intellectual revolutionary who continues to inspire many like me with his slogan “Black is Beautiful. Be proud of your Blackness”. I salute him!

There is a new biography called Biko A Life written by Dr Xolela Mangcu which is hot off the press and comes at a very crucial moment in our history. It provides an in-depth analysis of the life of this Intellectual Revolutionary. Go to this website to grab a copy www.ibtauris.com. Look out for my review of this book in the New Year. Have a Blessed festive season and an equally splendid New Year.

Biko IV

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