Monthly Archives: December 2013
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.
This 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 the 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.
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 alive, 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 and 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 Nkrumah, 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 the 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 leaders 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 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 national 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 returning 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 was 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 what 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.
I first became acquainted with Malcolm X’s life through the movie by the same name starring Denzel Washington. I found it intriguing but it didn’t really fire me up then. I later bought an autobiography of Malcolm X written by one of his followers named Benjamin Karim. It changed my life. I was inspired by the way Malcolm X transformed his life from being a criminal to become one of the most intelligent black men in America and leading lights of the Civil Rights Movement. I was intrigued by the way Malcolm X transformed his life, studying in prison and reading the dictionary from A – Z. From that point on, I decided that I too would transform my life through study.
If you haven’t read The Autobiography Of Malcolm X by Alex Haley, I strongly recommend you do. It offers an intriguing insight into one of the most intelligent, powerful and outspoken black men of the Twentieth Century. It is written in the first person narrative and provides an intimate glimpse into the life of Malcolm X, charting his early life shortly before he is orphaned after his father is murdered by the Ku Klux Klan for spreading the teachings of the United Negro Improvement Association which was formed by Marcus Mosiah Garvey. The young Malcolm is later placed with foster parents after his mother suffers a mental breakdown due to the death of her husband and the consequent problems she faces trying to raise a large family.
The book then follows Malcolm X early life living in the care of the state and the various challenges he faces with racism which culminates in him dropping from school in the eight grade after a white teacher tells him that his dream of being a lawyer is not a realistic goal for a nigger. His teacher’s advice drives the young Malcolm to join his half sister Ella in Harlem where he learns about life in the city. He works a few jobs before he eventually drifts into a life of criminality and adopts the moniker Red which later changes to Detroit Red.
He provides a very colourful narrative of the times and some of the colourful characters he meets along the way such as the great comedian Red Foxx. It is here that he picks up a number of bad habits as he admits:
“The first liquor I drank, my first cigarettes, even my first reefers, I can’t specifically remember. But I know they were all mixed together with my first shooting craps, playing cards, and betting my dollar a day on the numbers, as I started hanging out at night with Shorty and his friends.”
It is also around this time that he gets his first conk and zoot suit, spelling his spiral down into a fast life of crime. Malcolm X eventually ends up selling drugs, carrying guns and housebreaking. After a few brushes with death, he ends up in jail. It is in jail when he comes across a criminal named Bimbi who intrigues him. He makes such an impression on Malcolm that he begins to review his life. Malcolm describes the effect Bimbi has on him:
“He would have a cluster of people riveted, often on odd subjects you never would think of. He would prove to us, dipping into the science of human behavior, that the only difference between us and outside people was that we had been caught. He liked to talk about historical events and figures. When he talked about the history of Concord, where I was to be transferred later, you would have thought he was hired by the Chamber of Commerce, and I wasn’t the first inmate who had never heard of Thoreau until Bimbi expounded upon him. Bimbi was known as the library’s best customer. What fascinated me with him most of all was that he was the first man I had ever seen command total respect… with his words.”
It is after advice from Bimbi and Malcolm’s sister that he finally enrols for a correspondence course in English. He finds it difficult because the streets had erased all the stuff Malcolm learnt in the eighth grade so he has to start from the beginning. He also enrols on a course in Latin and under Bimbi’s guidance he eventually begins to build up his knowledge.
Malcolm is later transferred to another prison in 1948. It is at this time that his older brother Philbert writes to him informing him of the Nation of Islam. His other brother Reginald also writes to him instructing him to stop smoking cigarettes and eating pork because he is also a member of the NOI. His decision to quit pork causes a stir in the prison and the rebirth of Malcolm X begins. He strikes up correspondence with the Honourable Elijah Muhammad where he learns more about Islam and the horrors the Black Man has suffered in America,including his brainwashing. This strengthens his belief. He devotes himself to studying Islam and begins the long road to transformation as Malcolm puts it in his own words:
“I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors-usually Ella and Reginald-and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.”
After release, Malcolm doesn’t look back and becomes an active member of the Nation of Islam. It is still a relatively small movement and Malcolm is dissatisfied with its membership. He requests permission from the Honourable Elijah Muhammad to go “fishing” for new recruits on the streets. Because of his experience as a hustler on the streets, Malcolm X is successful in winning new recruits and eventually helps to grow the membership of NOI.
He relates how one particular incident brought him to the attention of the authorities and the press. A Muslim brother has been beaten by racist white policemen and detained. Malcolm X and a number of Muslims in crisp suits march in a disciplined military style down the street, stopping traffic until they reach the police station where the brother iss detained. The gathered crowd is in the mood for a riot. However, Malcolm X demands to talk to the chief of police and negotiates with the police. After they reach an agreement to take the brother to hospital, he disperses the crowd with a single wave of his hand. The police are astonished by his power. The Muslim brother later goes on to win a record compensation from the police force with Malcolm X assisting him and so begins his meteoric rise to fame.
The Autobiography Of Malcolm X continues to chart his rise and courting of the media while he represents the Honourable Elijah Muhammad. It takes us through his gruelling media appearances, talks and speeches at colleges and universities, taking us to the moment of his suspension and expulsion from the Nation of Islam. Malcolm goes on to narrate about his association with Cassius Clay and his preparation for his big fight with Sonny Liston. Clay later goes on to become the new world heavyweight champion of the world and changes his name to Muhammad Ali. He declares to the world that he is a Muslim.
The later stages of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X breaks down Malcolm’s pilgrimage to Mecca and Africa and his transformation that would change his views and the trajectory of his life including his embrace of orthodox Islam and his views of white people. It was on his pilgrimage that he had the new vision of the movement [Organisation of African Unity] he was going to set up and focus more on the civil rights movement and fight for Black Liberation. He also narrates his encounters with some of the most powerful men in Saudi Arabia and Africa such as Kwame Nkrumah [former President of Ghana]. The book ends with an afterword by Alex Haley breaking down his relationship with Malcolm X and their collaboration on the autobiography.
The Autobiography Of Malcolm X provides an insight into one of the most engaging leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and puts the times and fight into perspective, giving us glimpses of various players such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. and others who were also involved in the struggle. It makes great reading as a story or the personal testimony of a man who was in search of the truth and freedom. The book helps us to understand Malcolm X’s motivations and what led him to become the man he was at various stages of his life. The autobiography gets us into the mindset of what it meant to be a Black Muslim and provides a perspective of how it grew to become such a powerful movement.
Most importantly, The Autobiography Of Malcolm X dispels the media image of the demagogue, racist, violent man with clenched teeth calling for violence against white people. Rather, it provides an articulate message illustrating the injustice black people suffered for over 300 years in America and Malcolm X’s story illustrates that injustice through his narrative. The autobiography puts Malcolm X’s militant speeches into perspective and puts many of his quotes such as “by any means necessary” into context. After reading this narrative, you cannot fail to understand how the media distorted both the message and image of Malcolm X to achieve their own means.
The Autobiography Of Malcolm X is an important historical text which provides an insight into the life of an icon of the Civil Rights struggle plus a conclusive historical account of America from a different perspective. It annihilates the single story. It is a fun way of learning and understanding that history. The autobiography is very inspirational and it is one of those accounts you will definitely want to come back to again and again. It illustrates how you can change your life if you put your mind to it and Malcolm X is living testament to it. I give it six stars out of five. Read it and you will understand why. The Autobiography Of Malcolm X is a book every young black man should read and it will make a wonderful present for someone this festive season. Get it!
They say history is written by the victors. The funeral of Mandela seemed to reinforce this aspect of history being rewritten from the perspective of the victor to suit the white supremacist agenda. Obama claimed, “Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the Twentieth Century.” I disagree. History is not always written by the victor. There are competing narratives written by others and the subterranean. We are privileged to have an overwhelming number of heroes within our midst and the victor/oppressor doesn’t decide our heros for us.
It is impossible to talk about Nelson Mandela’s without acknowledging the monumental contribution of Winnie Madikezela-Mandela. She is one of the most understood woman in the liberation struggle. She has played many roles such as social worker, political leader, mother, care giver, public speaker, revolutionary freedom fighter and to many in South Africa, she is the Mother of the Nation. Her role in South African history cannot be undermined by strangers who have never come clean about the role of the CIA and America in the surveillance that led to the arrest and consequent incarceration of Nelson Mandela. Winnie is a woman whose liberation struggle credentials speak for themselves.
By the time Barrack Obama was born on August 4, 1961, Winnie was already fighting against Apartheid. She was born and raised in the Transkei. She distinguished herself as a leader and became the first black qualified social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto in 1955.
In the mid 1950s, she became actively involved in the ANC; she later met Mandela in 1958 while he was on trial for treason. They married soon after and she gave birth to two daughters, Zenani and Zinzi.
Their family life was destroyed when Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. Winnie never got to live a normal family life as many people have. She was left ill-equipped by an unjust system to raise two young girls as a single parent. Anyone who is a single mother, or a mother knows how taxing it is to raise children without the support of a partner or husband. She was left to protect and educate her daughters alone. At the same time, the Apartheid regime kept her apart from her children to punish her and torture her soul and spirit. Nevertheless, Winnie remained politically active and refused to remain silent keeping the Mandela name and the struggle against Apartheid in the national and international conscience.
Winnie was harassed repeatedly on a daily basis by the Apartheid regime and she was eventually sentenced to house arrest in Brandfort as a means to silence her for speaking out injustice. She never knew if she was going to sleep at home or in a police cell because of her political activities. She was banned for up to 15 years serving five years at a time. She wasn’t allowed to even go into the street in Brandfort. It was supposed to keep her out of sight and out of mind. It also stripped her of company and any intellectual stimulation with a community of like minded individuals.
She didn’t know the language of the sleepy and rundown town she was sent to but she soon learnt and radically transformed that area politically. This is what made Winnie Mandela a dangerous element in society, hence, the need to gag her by any means necessary. But she remained a defiant and outspoken firebrand fighting for the people of South Africa and to keep the Mandela name in the public.
When she was questioned if she believed if she would see a free South Africa in her time, she was absolutely convinced. She went on to explain, “That is why exile is so worthwhile because I am absolutely certain that we shall attain our liberation. And even being in exile is a constant reminder of the sickness of our society. We are virtually in prison even in our country, those who are outside prison homes are simply in a bigger prison because the black man is virtually a prisoner. And all those fellow whites and other groups that are as oppressed as we are, we are all in a bigger Apartheid prison.”
In Brantford, she had to go to the local post office to receive calls from her daughters because she was under house arrest and they could only call at certain times. She was kept isolated from them to torture and break her down. The system did everything within its power to humiliate Winnie and break her spirit. No matter what they did to her, it strengthened Winnie Mandela’s resolve.
Winnie resumed her struggle after spending 9 years in Brantford and again took the spotlight in the struggle to against Apartheid. Although her fight for liberation has been dubbed controversial, she was a woman without a choice. She didn’t have the tools, resources, media, state institutions and various arsenal the Apartheid Regime had at its disposal.
Therefore, in extreme circumstances, extreme measures are justified. She fought the only way she could against a regime that used brutal violence to stifle legitimate protest. She was at war against a regime and she fought a war that most of the leaders never got to experience. While the liberation leaders were locked up on Robben Island, Winnie Mandela was in the frontline fighting the ignoble regime by any means necessary. She was organising on the streets, actively involved in the underground movement and creating publicity while facing harassment and humiliation by the regime.
Unless one has walked in Winnie Mandela’s footsteps, it is very difficult to criticise her because you would need to face the same moral and personal dilemmas she faced in the struggle against Apartheid. It is a miracle she escaped with her life because hundreds of others who dared to challenge the Apartheid Regime didn’t live to see Independence. Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe are some of those. The list is too long to mention.
Many assume Mandela was attracted by Winnie’s striking beauty. But many underestimate how her strength played a part. Her strength is reinforced by her belief that her people should be equal. She believed there should be justice for black people. She played many parts and is a leading figure in the fight for women’s’ rights. She served the poor, conducting fundraising events and assisting those in the ghetto who were less privileged than she was. This is illustrated by her huge grassroots following; her love for the people is equally reciprocated.
Winnie has continually shown that she is very resilient. Her strength and ability to adapt is evident in her ability to multitask while raising two girls under Apartheid, having to avoid imprisonment, evading police, keeping Mandela’s memory alive while she was also playing a leading role in the underground movement.
The release of Nelson Mandela was the highlight of Winnie Mandela’s struggle for liberation. She never looked back and was appointed as the President of the ANC Women’s League in 1993. She still continues to serve on the party’s national executive committee.
For over three decades, Winnie Mandela stood by Nelson Mandela’s side. Even after her divorce from Mandela, she continued to be his companion and was often seen by his side to the very end. There is little a man can ever ask for with such a strong, beautiful, black woman by his side, making his struggle her own struggle and the struggle for the rest of the oppressed masses in South Africa. Whatever wrong Winnie Mandela may have committed, her struggle for the liberation of a free South Africa marks her as one of the greatest liberators of the Twentieth Century. Without Winnie there might not be a Nelson Mandela.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s only fault is that she is too outspoken and remains a firebrand who has refused to cool down with age unlike Mandela who emerged from prison a shadow of his former revolutionary self. Winnie continued to fight while Nelson took a backseat content with the historic compromise. Winnie refused to see racism as the root cause of Apartheid oppression but also identified that Apartheid thrived because of the economic system.To date, Winnie remains outspoken and critical about the historic compromise, the TRC and Mandela walking hand in hand with his jailor to receive the Nobel Peace prize. She also remains critical at the state of the lack of transformation in South Africa and continues to champion the poor.
Unlike many of her revolutionary comrades who have morphed effortlessly into the black bourgeois and forgotten the struggle, using their credential struggles to accumulate wealth, Winnie has remained an isolated figure clamouring for the rights of women and black people. She frequently engages in events highlighting the lack of transformation in South Africa and simultaneously waging the fight for women’s rights and redefining the frontiers of this unending battle.
Her biggest enemy is the white patriarchal economic system which has repeatedly attacked her, demonised her and snubbed her portraying her as a loose canon. Winnie has repeatedly waged a dignified war against oppression and Apartheid. If the white patriarchal system endorses Patrick Henry’s role in sparking the American Revolution and fight against domination by another nation, then, why is Winnie demonised for making an equally bold stance? Is it because she called for violence against whites, who happened to be the oppressors who created and ran this Apartheid System?
Winnie Mandela is no different from Joan of Arc in answering a higher call at an early age to lead her people to victory over those who wished to politically, socially and economically subjugate her people. Winnie remains outspoken on issues regarding racism which Mandela resolved by sticking band aid over deep seated wounds. At an address for women’s rights in Chicago, Winnie declared:
“Discrimination against black women is multi-pronged, multi-sectoral and transgenerational. Black women are discriminated by white supremacy; they have to contend with male prejudice fed by patriarchal notions, they suffer abuse from white women who are also beneficiaries of white supremacy. At the same time, they are expected to form alliances with these women to defeat male privilege. They are expected to be in solidarity with their male folks to fight racial oppression. In this regard they have little choice. They cannot sit on the sideline and watch the black male being reduced to an endangered species. After all, these men are the fathers of their children, the lovers, and their sons. In short, there is no other species that understand oppression as black women do.”
The contents of her speech don’t reflects the mind of a loose canon but an individual with a strong moral conscience and a deep thinker. Black women suffer three times as much discrimination as other groups because of her class, race, and gender. Winnie’s moral and intellectual qualities are often underplayed or totally ignored in the mainstream media. It is sometimes forgotten that she became the first qualified black social worker at the age of 19 during Apartheid. Such jobs and avenues of studies used to be reserved solely for whites. So one can only imagine how hard and smart Winnie had to be to excel in this profession. It also seems to be her grounding in social work that allows her to be so insightful in matters that concern society. She doesn’t wince in the face of power and continues to speak to power as illustrated in her Chicago speech:
“We survived apartheid and are now faced with a challenge of defeating global apartheid and global gender discrimination… Our successes should not lull us to complacency. The forces of evil continue to refine their strategies to fight back. We need to constantly remind ourselves that our oppression has economic and material interests. Our oppressors spend sleepless nights trying to reclaim the lost territories. We cannot defeat the specter of racial discrimination without a clear-eyed analysis of what constitute racism. We need to debunk those analyses that are unhelpful to our cause. Our understanding of the drivers of racial oppression should empower us to address other forms of discriminations – gender, class, religion and sexual orientation.”
No one can doubt Winnie’s sincerity in the fight against Economic Apartheid. Her rallying cries upset the idyllic picture painted of South Africa as a Rainbow Nation. Ironically, there is no colour black in the rainbow. Her fight is clearly to overturn the white supremacist structure in the fight for justice. This partly explains why Winnie remains marginalised by that same structure that controls the media and constitutes “popular” or “international” opinion. There is nothing popular or international about that opinion: it is the opinion of a tiny minority that constitutes the white middle class. They control and run the western media.
Claiming the late Nelson Mandela was the last great liberator of the Twentieth Century is wrong. That is a discredit to the likes of Winnie Mandela and others. She is a true heroine who can only be compared to legendary female icons like Nandi [mother of Tshaka], Assata Shakur, Queen Nzinga of Angola and Ambuya Nehanda from Zimbabwe. We cannot compare Winnie to the likes of Rosa Parks who refused to get up on a bus during the Civil Rights Movement in America. She spent a great proportion of her life in isolation when she was exiled by the Apartheid Regime. But that wasn’t enough to break the will of Mother of the Nation. She was not physically imprisoned but her banning orders meant she was in prison at her own expense. The extreme isolation imposed on her wasn’t enough to silence her indomitable spirit. Winnie Mandela is a struggle icon equal to if not greater than the late Nelson Mandela.
By the time Obama read about Mandela in the eighties, Winnie Mandela was at the forefront of the liberation struggle against the ignoble Apartheid regime for over two decades. We can forgive Obama for overlooking our warrior queen but we should never forget our heroines and heros. She has continued fighting taking off where her former husband left off when he retired from frontline politics. There is an African proverb that states, “Until the lion learns to speak, the tale of the hunter will glorify the hunter.” It is our duty to document our history and challenge the dominant or victor’s narrative so that the people never forget our heroes. True heroes and heroines are also flawed and that is why Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is a great liberator of the Twentieth Century without a doubt. I salute this intellectual revolutionary and Mother of the Nation. Aluta Continua: the struggle continues!
It never rains but pours for the ANC. The rain was not very forgiving during Mandela’s funeral and dampened the spirits of many. Maybe those residing in the heavens were displeased with the proceedings and let the crowd know their disapproval. Maybe there are some who are better at reading the skies and interpreting the signs than I can. I won’t pretend I know how to and act as a fraud like the ANC.
The ANC is totally clueless and is unable to run the country. They can’t even run a simple funeral. Seriously, how hard is it for a party full of educated and rich people to secure a competent sign language interpreter? Ramaphosa has enough money to hire several busloads of interpreters and it wouldn’t make a dent to his acquisitions from his BEE enterprises. Instead, they secured a cheap fraud and clueless con artist to move his arms about on stage while saying nothing.
I was rebuked for calling the funeral a circus before it even happened. However, I was right. The laughing points make it difficult to argue that it wasn’t a comedy of errors. Mr. Bean or Del Boy would have struggled to come up with a more entertaining plot which provided quite a lot laughs. As I said before, the only thing missing were some clowns to complete the circus.
The audacious nature of the ANC is beyond belief. How did they expect to pull this fraud off live on an event beamed internationally? They made a complete mockery of Mandela’s funeral. It is a question of gross incompetence. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to secure the services of sign language interpreter. All it takes is an idiot with half a brain, Yellow Pages or Google and a telephone. Money is not an issue. Many would have provided their services for free to interpret at Mandela’s funeral. It would be an honour. It is evident the ANC hasn’t even got enough idiots with half a brain. Zuma even struggled to read his speech making Malema look like an accomplished spokesperson.
The ANC were too busy canvassing votes, using Mandela’s death to squeeze out as much political and social capital as his frozen body and memories could yield. It was in bad taste using the funeral of an international icon to campaign and turn the funeral into a party event. However, it was an own goal in the FNB Stadium which had locals booing Zuma reminding him that he can fool others but not the masses in that stadium. The masses were right to boo him registering their displeasure and what they knew, that Zuma and the ANC were frauds trying to hoodwink the masses and pull wool over their eyes. But Zuma can’t fool people all the time.
Zuma proved wherever he goes or whatever he does, fraud charges follow in his wake. It is inconceivable how so much can go wrong in a few hours. It illustrated Zuma and the ANC’s incompetence. They can’t organise a hero’s funeral yet Mandela’s funeral had been on the horizon for months. Some claims suggest he died in July since no one saw his body between July and December and his funeral was delayed to avoid overshadowing Obama’s visit to South Africa around the same time. The question is: if they can’t organise a funeral, how can they run a country effectively?
Confidence from Zuma’s string pullers will be low. He might not be directly involved for hiring this fraudster but leadership is about delegation and if he can’t delegate to responsible people then, the person who will be left with egg on the face is Zuma. Cara Loening, Director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, blasted the sign language interpreter, “He is a complete and utter fraud.” This is one fraud too far the ANC tried to pull off hoodwinking the people.
Yesterdays circus will probably be remembered for the wrong reasons and the talking points have desecrated the old man’s funeral and memory. It resembled a creche playground with leaders of international immorality misbehaving and acting inappropriately.
Obama couldn’t resist flirting with the Danish PM and Mrs. Obama didn’t look too pleased with her husband’s indiscretions. Her clenched jaws registered her displeasure. She eventually changed the seating arrangement to nip the blossoming relationship in the bud.
Others took the opportunity to promote themselves taking selfies and what not. Some went viral and provided the talking points overshadowing Mandela’s funeral. It shows they were not there for Mandela but using the old man the same way they played him when he was alive wheeling him out at corporate events or using him as a spokesman for their own agendas and interest.
By the way, did Obama snub Winnie Mandela? Barrack is a white man’s poodle; he is not fit enough to kiss the heels of Winnie’s feet. She is a liberation struggle icon and has more balls than him. She stood face to face with proper racist white men and kicked their arses not like Obama who got to where he is kissing the arse of men Winnie swatted like flies. The legacy Obama talks about was built by Winnie Mandela taking on the might of Apartheid while her husband was in jail and keeping the name, Obama reveres today, in the mind of the public.
Mandela’s funeral turned out to be a glamorous circus missing clowns to complete the act. Even George Bush the cartoonists’ favourite fool behaved better than Zuma and Obama. He walked off looking like a wise man considering how dumb Dubya is. He is as thick as a sack of hammers, he can’t find the door leading off the stage; I am sure Zuma would have done with a door to duck away soon after the boos to save face. The ANC turned Mandela’s funeral into a comedy of errors. The crowd and other world leaders didn’t help but ultimately, the host is responsible for any event that goes wrong.
Zuma’s political capital is low and he has a tough job to lift himself up. Malema’s latest revelations that Zuma built a swimming pool for R2.5 million yet none of his family can swim will ensure that this circus is far from over. This is no laughing matter. This is no singing and dancing matter either. I am sure his machine gun would have worked a few years ago but his problems now can’t be silenced using the barrel of a gun to mute dissenters as the ANC did at Marikana. What can he do when he is the architect of his own nightmares? Something will give sooner or later. The people won’t forgive Zuma for turning the funeral of an icon into a comedy of errors. The people never forget. There’s always a price to pay when the people are fed up or gatvol as they say in South Africa.
I find digesting Obama speech that it was more an indictment of himself. As with all Obama speeches, you can’t fault their delivery. He could read a grocery list and you would sit there hypnotised with the reading but content wise, there is not much to it but a list of items. Although parallels have been drawn by the media between Mandela and Obama, his speech today was most telling. Apart from being the first two black presidents of their respective countries, there is little else to compare. If you want to compare popularity, let me remind you, Barabas was more popular than Jesus and the people buried the Messiah because he was a revolutionary; Barabas was a thief and blood sucker of the poor and a menace to society.
Obama started off building the portrait of Mandela and the difficulty such a task as he stated, “How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.” Obama despite his popularity and his initial promises to close down Guantanamo Bay and cut down on military activity has betrayed every promise he made and he has not moved America towards justice. Need I mention the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison? He has proved to be more trigger happy than the cowboy George Bush. Obama’s drone strikes have also shown how he violates the human rights of women and children and has no respect for their right to life as they have often being the target of his strikes. But for Americans, these vulnerable people are just collateral damage. They are not human beings with rights.
America continues to be a war monger and aggressor bullying weaker states and violating the human rights of the citizens of those countries. Mandela himself remarked, “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace.” I am not sure whose decision it was to headline Obama but it seems to go against the ideals of the old man. Not one African nation that supported Apartheid was given a chance to speak. But those who strongly opposed Apartheid or paid lip service were given room to wax lyrical and lie about how Mandela inspired them. Yawn! Mandela’s funeral lost all its dignity as it became obvious that this was a corporate affair with freemasons, illuminati and Bildersberg representatives in tow.
Celebrities and others who were like ticks preying on the political and social capital of Mandela made an appearance to milk what they could out of his funeral. Even the ANC used the opportunity to gain political capital before the elections in a few months time but the crowd jeered poor Zuma reminding him that he and his ANC are not as popular as they thought. The crestfallen look on his face registered the crowds’ disapproval of his policies.
Obama continued threading Americans into his narrative, pushing the United Snakes of America’s agenda. First was Dr King. Funny though King preached integration and love but the Americans killed him because it wasn’t on their own terms. Barrack said, ‘Like King, he [Mandela] would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.” What racial justice did King achieve? King was talking about sharing hamburger stands and toilets’ he wasn’t addressing economical oppression or talking about reparations for what Black Americans contributed to building the American economy for 400 years. What racial justice did Mandela achieve? Blacks in America and South Africa are still suffering from both racism and institutionalised racism.
Obama continued harping on about American racists and insisted “like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.” It is a lie and there is no evidence South Africa was going to break up. Anyway, what did Lincoln do for the blacks? Abraham Lincoln didn’t believe in racial equality. Those who are well acquainted with history will be well aware that Lincoln was engineering a plan to ship African Americans to Africa at the same time he was penning the Emancipation Proclamation. Even after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the blacks didn’t get a single cent for all the centuries that they had laboured for four hundred years in slavery and all that they suffered. Like Mandela, blacks remained stuck in their miserable condition without any compensation or justice after they were “free”.
Obama went on to state: “Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.” What freedom do the African Americans oppressed by institutional racism have? Mandela himself said it better than anyone else: “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.” The constitution is meaningless. It can be ratified at will and rights taken away when they please. Bush put that constitution in perspective, “I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.” The Patriot Act enacted by Bush violates the rights of every American constitution. So, the American constitution is just as good as toilet paper. It belongs in the toilet.
Obama went on to overplay the reconciliation card and said, “There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.” That sounds like he is talking about himself and America and a lot of his allies. The simple fact is that racial reconciliation has been adapted by numerous African leaders like Nyerere, Banda, Kaunda, Mugabe, Kenyatta and the list is endless. Mandela is not the first black president to talk about reconciliation. He follows in the footsteps of others before him. However, the truth is that despite reconciliation, no African has ever gained economically or got justice from reconciliation. It is meaningless to talk about reconciliation where there is no socio-economic justice or reparations. A tiny settler minority, a tiny political elite, the United Snakes of America and the UK have been the biggest benefactors of the policies of reconciliation. This partly accounts for the West’s reverence of Mandela. He was the Joker in their pack and they milked that card to get away with murder.
Not even one of the members of the judiciary or the numerous companies like Nedbank, BMW, Siemens, Mercedes Benz and other state institutions ever faced a Nuremburg or the Truth and Reconciliation Charade. Mandela stated hours after release that it was inconceivable that he would betray the Freedom Charter of the ANC but at the crucial moment, he betrayed the peoples’ revolution as did many other presidents before him. In hindsight, Mandela was no better than all other African and leaders like Obama who come into power and do little or nothing to change the miserable conditions of their own people. They are all black tokens and puppets representing white interests and not the genuine socio-economic and political aspirations of their own people. The Mandela and Obama fans won’t like hearing the truth but someone has to say it. As Public Enemy once said, “Don’t Believe the Hype”.
About the only true thing Obama spoke today was when he said, “And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.” However, we don’t expect Obama to follow his words “We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace.” That is simply empty rhetoric and play lip service to a gallery of ignorant Africans who will clap for anything even if they don’t understand what the subtext means or what Obama stands for. He is about promoting himself and doesn’t understand propriety.
He told us “South Africa shows us we can change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.” There isn’t really any change in South Africa. What hope is there for those living in the shanty towns? They didn’t choose to live there or their miserable condition. Choice is a privilege that not everyone has access to. What opportunities do the 60% unemployed in the ghettoes of South Africa have? What justice do the poor have? Where is the justice for those miners shot by police acting as the security arm of imperial property?
Mandela himself said, “While poverty persists, there is no freedom”. Nothing has really changed and Obama’s speech was hollow and as bleak as the weather. What really has changed in South Africa? The old Afrikaner National Party has simply morphed into the African National Congress. Even De Klerk is a member of the ANC and he made his appearance today. The old Afrikaners are still in power and wearing a black face. The whites in South Africa can now travel the world without the stigma of Apartheid South Africa and a few elites connected to the ANC got a few more crumbs from the Afrikaner Broderbonds table. Did you see how fat Cyril Ramphosa is from devouring those crumbs by fronting as the black face for white businesses?
From Obama’s speech, one thing remains obvious. Social and economic justice is not on the platter for Africans. Steve Biko summed it best “Black Man you are on your own”. How potent those words are today.