Tag Archives: Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral (37) Quotes from Revolution in Guinea


Amilcar Cabral‘s 37 quotes appear at the end of this article. Therefore, if you are familiar with his work and accomplishments, please feel free to skip this introduction to the legend. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the life and work of Amilcar Cabral, I have put this intro together to contextualise his words and thoughts.

His full name was Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral. His nom de guerre was Abel Djassi. Some of the names sound Portuguese. That was the case. Cabral rose to prominence in the liberation struggle against Portugal’s colonisation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

Picture of Amilcar Cabral with the quote,

The people of Portuguese colonised Guinea took up arms to free their country from colonial domination in 1963 under the leadership of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde [PAIGC].

At the time Cabral was both the founder and the Secretary-General of the PAIGC, including the small group that formed the original core of the Party.

Cabral became aware and conscious of the wretched conditions his people were living in while working as an agricultural engineer for the government of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands.

His job involved travelling around the country and meeting people. From 1952 – 54, Amilcar Cabral had visited every corner of his country, preparing an agricultural census for the colonial administration.

This gave him unprecedented contact with the people and provided him with the opportunity to understand the problems the people faced and an intimate knowledge of the local terrain.

The detailed knowledge he acquired of his people and their situation provided the basis for the PAIGC’s revolutionary strategy.

Guinea did not have the necessary elements on which revolutionary movements in Europe and Asia had based their respective revolutions.

They didn’t have a large proletariat. There was no developed working class. There was no large peasant class deprived of land ownership: colonial exploitation in Guinea was executed via price mechanism rather than by land ownership.

Therefore, a successful revolutionary struggle could not be based on any wholesale adoption of other revolutionary experiences or strategies.

Picture of AmilcarCabral in contemplation. The superimposed quote reads, “Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.”

They needed a strategy based on African conditions; more specifically, on conditions within Guinea and Cape Verde.

Cabral was central to the creation of these revolutionary elements, creating the theory and articulating it to Party members, locals and others outside the borders of Guinea and Cape Verde.

Cabral weighed up the revolutionary potential of each group within his society. Thus the PAIGC began its long, patient process of clandestine political preparation in 1959.

The gravity of Cabral’s political theory grew way out of proportion to the size of Guinea when compared to Africa and its influence on the liberation movements on the continent.

Cabral’s political and revolutionary analyses extended way beyond the borders of Guinea and Cape Verde.

The clear, down to earth terms in which the terms were articulated and were put to use influenced many revolutionary movements all over the world. This includes revolutionary movements in Europe and Asia.

His theory and political analysis illustrate the importance of the need to study one’s own concrete conditions and to make the revolution according to those particular conditions, rather than relying on the experience of others, as valuable as it may be.

In addition, his revolutionary strategy was centred around the mobilisation of the people around practical material issues rather than indulging in vainglorious theoretical and ideological ideals.

It is absurd therefore to find African revolutionary movements or revolutionaries who swear blindly that they are Marxists, Maoists, Leninist‘s, Sankarists, etc. or a blend of all the aforementioned schools of thought.Picture of Amilcar Cabral with his comrades in military fatigues and carrying rifles. The quote by Amilcar cabral superimposed on the picture reads, “We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our Party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies wherever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”

Cabral was deeply influenced by Marxism but he was not a Marxist. However, he became an inspiration to national liberation movements and revolutionary socialists worldwide.

This was partly due to his brilliant scholastic ability to reinvent a new ideological school of thought, that took the works of Lenin and Marx and made them relevant to the realities Africa was facing at that time.

Probably, his latter day equivalent was the late Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara.

He was also influenced by Marxism and was a committed revolutionary, Pan Africanist theorist, feminist, revolutionary icon, anti-imperialist activist and the former leader of Burkina Faso.

Cabral’s legacy today is undisputed. He is revered as one of the greatest anti-colonial and anti-imperialist leaders of the twentieth century. He is remembered as a brilliant, devoted and fearless revolutionary.

He is acknowledged as the architect and mastermind behind the drive to liberate Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde from the inequity of Portuguese colonialism.

It is fitting though that today we keep the flame burning for one of Africa’s greatest revolutionary theorist,  guerrilla fighters, an inspiring agitator, and an uncompromising internationalist.

We have a lot to learn from his methods and theory because the ideas set out in Revolution in Guinea transcend time and geographical boundaries or locations.

His ideas are probably more relevant to us Africans than Marxism is today because his ideas grew out of an analysis of the African situation and conditions in comparison to Marx whose analysis was based exclusively on Europe.

Amilcar Cabral’s legacy continues to inform the global struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism while advocating for socialism.

His words, thoughts and ideas remain relevant in the struggle to eliminate oppression and exploitation and restoring humanity to all dehumanised people worldwide.

I have no intention of providing an in-depth analysis of this great visionary here today. That is the stuff for another day and article. In the meantime, enjoy his words, thoughts and ideas.

Closeup picture of Amilcar Cabral in a suit, seated and reading with his glasses on his forehead. He is in a hall. The superimposed text fron his quote reads ‘An African saying very popular in our country says: “When your house is burning, it’s no use beating the tom-toms.” On a Tricontinental level, this means that we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it. For us, the best or worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight. This is what we are doing, and this is what we will go on doing until all foreign domination of our African homelands has been totally eliminated.’ Taken from the book Revolution in Guinea by Amilcar Cabral.

  1. Let us be precise: for us, African revolution means the transformation of our present life in the direction of progress. The prerequisite for this is the elimination of foreign economic domination, on which every other type of domination is dependent.
  2. We are for African unity, on a regional or continental scale, inasfar as it is necessary for the progress of the African peoples, and in order to guarantee their security and the continuity of this progress.
  3. In relation to Africa, we are for fraternal collaboration between the African peoples, against narrow nationalisms which do not serve the true interests of the people.
  4. We are sure of the solidarity of all the African peoples in our struggle. We conscious of the fact that our struggle for national liberation does not only serve our own peoples: it also serves the fundamental interests of all peoples of Africa and of the world.
  5. Our struggle has lost its national character and has moved onto an international level. The struggle taking place in our country today is the struggle of progress against misery and suffering, of freedom against oppression.
  6. It is on basis of this universal principle that we would like to express our firm conviction that our struggle is for peaceful coexistence and peace.
  7. To coexist one must first of all exist, so the imperialists and the colonialists must be forced to retreat so that we can make a contribution to human civilization, based on the work, the dynamic personality and culture of our peoples.
  8. To make this contribution in independence, fraternity and equality with all peoples, it does not seem to us to be necessary to get involved in the ideological disputes and conflicts which are splitting the world. Picture of Amilcar cabral staring into space. Amilcar Cabral's quote in the picture reads, “Educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered. Convince little by little, in particular the militants of the Party, that we shall end by conquering fear of nature, and that man is the strongest force in nature.”
  9. We do not need to follow any line: our position must be and remain based on the fundamental aspirations of our people.
  10. We consider that when imperialism arrived in Guinea it made us leave history – our history.
  11. For a revolution to take place depends on the nature of the party (and its size), the character of the struggle which led up to liberation, whether there was an armed struggle, what the nature of this armed struggle was and how it developed and, of course, on the nature of the state.
  12. As you can see, it is the struggle in the underdeveloped countries which endows the petty bourgeoisie with a function; in the capitalist countries the petty bourgeoisie is only a stratum which serves, it does not determine the historical orientation of the country; it merely allies itself with one group or another.
  13. So that to hope that the petty bourgeoisie will just carry out a revolution when it comes to power in an underdeveloped country is to hope for a miracle, although it is true that it could do this.
  14. I think one thing that can be said is this: the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie is honest; ie in spite of all the hostile conditions, it remains identified with the fundamental interests of the popular masses. To do this it may have to commit suicide, but it will not lose; by sacrificing itself it can reincarnate itself, but in the conditions of workers or peasants. In speaking of honesty I am not trying to establish moral criteria for judging the role of the petty bourgeoisie when it is in power; what I mean by honesty, is total commitment and total identification with the toiling masses.
  15. Neocolonialism is at work on two fronts – in Europe as well as in the underdeveloped countries. Its current framework in the underdeveloped countries is the policy of aid, and one of the essential aims of this policy is to create a false bourgeoisie to put brakes on the revolution and to enlarge the possibilities of the petty bourgeoisie as a neutraliser of the revolution.
  16. You must analyse and study these movements and combat in Europe, by all possible means, everything which can be used to further the repression against our peoples. I refer especially to the sale of arms. Picture of Amilcar cabral smiling and wearing glasses and a hat. The quote in the picture reads, “For us, there is always armed struggle. There are two kinds of armed struggle: the armed struggle in which the people fight empty handed, unarmed, while the imperialists or colonialists are armed and kill our people; and the armed struggle in which we prove we are not crazy by taking up arms to fight back against the criminal arms of the imperialists.”
  17. Moreover, you must unmask courageously all the national liberation movements which are under the thumb of imperialism.
  18. If we are fighting together, then I think the main aspect of our solidarity is extremely simple: it is to fight – I don’t think there is any need to discuss this very much.
  19. In any struggle it is of fundamental importance to define clearly who we are, and who is the enemy.
  20. We are from the part of Africa which the imperialists call Black Africa. Yes, we are Black. But we are men like all other men. Our countries are economically backward. Our people are at a specific historical stage characterised by this backward condition of our economy. We must be conscious of this. We are African peoples, we have not invented many things, we do not possess today the special weapons which others possess, we have no big factories, we don’t even have for our children the toys which other children have, but we do have our own hearts, our own heads, our own history. It is this history the colonialists have taken from us. The colonialists usually say that it was they who brought us into history: today we show that this is not so. They made us leave our history, our history, to follow them, right at the back, to follow the progress of their history. Today, in taking up arms to liberate ourselves, in following the examples of other peoples to liberate themselves, we want to return to our history, on our own feet, by our own means and through our own sacrifices.
  21. Our national liberation struggle has a great significance both for Africa and for the world. We are in the process of proving that peoples such as ours – economically backward, living sometimes almost near naked in the bush, not knowing how to read or write, not having even the most elementary knowledge of modern technology – are capable, by means of their sacrifices and efforts, of beating an enemy who is not only more advanced from a technological point of view but also supported by the powerful forces of world imperialism.
  22. We should consider ourselves as soldiers, often anonymous, but soldiers of humanity in the vast front of struggle in Africa today.
  23. We are fighting for the complete liberation of our peoples, but we are not fighting to simply hoist a flag in our countries and to have a national anthem.
  24. We do not confuse exploitation or exploiters with the colour of men’s skins; we do not want any exploitation in our countries, not even by black people… Picture of Amilcar Cabra in a suit and glasses. There are several quotes on the page. The main one reads,
  25. In Africa we are all for the complete liberation of the African continent from the colonial yoke, for we know that colonialism is an instrument of imperialism. So we want to see all manifestations of imperialism totally wiped out on the soil of Africa…
  26. In Africa, we are all for African unity, but we are for African unity in favour of African peoples. We consider unity to be a means, not an end. Unity can reinforce and accelerate the reaching of ends, but we must not betray the end. This is why we are not in a hurry to achieve African unity. We know that it will come, step by step, as a result of the fruitful efforts of the African peoples. It will come at the service of Africa and of humanity.
  27. In the CONCP we are firmly convinced that making full use of the riches of our continent, of its human, moral and cultural capacities, will contribute to creating a rich human species, which on turn will make a considerable contribution to humanity. But we do not want the dream of this end to betray in its achievement the interests of each African people.
  28. We are willing to join any African people, with one condition: that the gains made by our people in the liberation struggle, the economic and social gains and the justice which we seek and are achieving little by little, should not be compromised by unity with other peoples. That is our only condition for unity.
  29. In Africa, we are for an African policy which seeks to defend first and foremost the interests of African peoples, of each African country, but also for a policy which does not, at any time, forget the interests of the world, of all humanity. We are for a policy of peace in Africa and of fraternal collaboration with all peoples of the world.
  30. We reserve the right to make our own decisions, and if by chance our choices and decisions coincide with others, that is not our fault.
  31. You understand that we are struggling first and foremost for our own peoples. That is our task in this front of struggle.
  32. We are with the Blacks of North America, we are with them in the streets of Los Angeles, and when they are deprived of all possibility of life, we suffer with them. An illustration of Amilcar cabral with the quote “But let us prepare ourselves too, each day, and be vigilant, so as not to allow a new form of colonialism to be established in our countries, so as not to allow in our countries any form of imperialism, so as not to allow neo-colonialism, already a cancerous growth in certain parts of Africa and of the world, to reach our own countries.”
  33. We strongly support all just causes in the world, but we are reinforced by the support of others.
  34. We know that all the African peoples are our brothers. Our struggle is their struggle. Every drop of blood that falls in our countries falls also from the body and heart of our brothers, these African peoples.
  35. It is our peoples who guarantee the future and certainty of our victory.
  36. It is the struggle which makes comrades which makes companions, for the present and for the future.
  37. The enemies of the African peoples are powerful and cunning and can always count on a few faithful lackeys in our country, since quislings are not a European privilege.

I hope you enjoyed Amilcar Cabral’s quotes above and learned something that will enrich you in many ways. You can check out quotes here by Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara.

In conclusion, keep an eye open for the review of Revolution in Guinea by Amilcar Cabral coming soon.

Aluta Continua! Revolutionary Love!

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Filed under Amilcar Cabral, Famous Qoutes, Great African Leaders

30 Kwame Nkrumah’s Quotes from Class Struggle In Africa: Saluting An African Revolutionary


Kwame Nkrumah was a Ghanaian nationalist leader who led Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, to independence from Britain. This post explores Kwame Nkrumah quotes I pulled from one of sixteen books, Class Struggle in Africa, he wrote.

You can skip the pursuing paragraphs which place Nkrumah in context to access the quotes below.

Nkrumah first became Prime Minister of the Gold Coast in 1951; he  led it to independence in 1957 when he also became the first Prime Minister of an independent Ghana. In 1960, the country became a republic and he became the president.

On a state visit to Hanoi in February 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown by a coup led by the reactionary forces within Ghana. They were assisted by their imperialist and neo-colonialist masters pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Nkrumah was later to write in Class Struggle in Africa, “Imperialist aggression has expressed itself not only in coups d’état, but in the assassination of revolutionary leaders, and the setting up of new intelligence organisations”.

Front cover of the book Class Struggle in Africa written by Kwame Nkrumah

His experience taught him a lot of things that ordinary people were unaware of. His experience permeates the texts he writes and this is what makes his testimonies so powerful.

His words would became true in the assassination and murder of revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara from Burkina Faso in 1987 and Samora Machel, leader of Mozambique in 1986 to mention a few.

Patrice Lumumba from the Democratic Republic of Congo was long gone by then, killed like the latter two for his anti-imperialist views, and will to uphold the will of his countrymen while refusing to be a puppet of the agents of imperialism.

Fleet Street and the western media and other media outlets demonised Nkrumah, creating fictions that he was a dictator and his rule was becoming authoritarian to justify the coup in support of his political enemies, the reactionaries, who were nothing more than mere puppets in the whole charade.

Nkrumah was a threat to their interests and cut a lonely figure, a voice crying in the wilderness, denouncing neocolonialism and imperialism and calling for the expulsion of the European powers from Africa, and the Unification of Africa into a single state under a socialist government as he spells out in the video clip below.

He was a threat to the neo-colonialist and imperialist ambitions and interests of the west; especially, as he was turning more and more towards the east, China, Russia and other socialist countries.

The western powers couldn’t afford to lose their lucrative share of Ghana’s diamonds, gold and cocoa. They couldn’t let Nkrumah influence other African countries to follow his lead.

The European powers were at war trying to maintain their stranglehold on Africa’s resources. America was using the United Nations to force the European powers to release their stranglehold on Africa so it could get a slice of the cake.

Therefore, he was a threat to their colonial, neocolonial and imperialist ambitions and interests. Nkrumah was a dangerous man. His ideas were dangerous.

The Americans were not happy with him for trying to create a government that was against their interests. They were even more afraid of other African governments which might have been encouraged to follow Nkrumah’s lead.

In addition, Nkrumah’s material and financial support for liberation movements fighting the white minority and colonial regimes in Africa made him a figure who had to go.

Therefore, they used the reactionary forces to get him out of power and continue their monopoly of Ghana’s valuable resources.

Nkrumah spent the last six years of his life as co-president of Guinea where his friend Sekou Toure invited him to partner him.

He also spent time writing books such as Class Struggle in Africa published in 1970 and others.

During that time, he also founded PANAF BOOKS. It came about after the two publishers who had previously published his work refused to publish his books after his fall from grace.

The political motivation was evident: Nkrumah understood better that this was an attempt to silence him and his ideology. He was also able to buy the previous books before they were turned into pulp and all his ideas killed.

Fortunately for us, these books and Panaf Books are still around continuing where he left off.

Nkrumah published about 16 books during his life. Only two of these: Revolutionary Path and Rhodesia File were published posthumously in 1972 by the company he set up. All sixteen books are available through Panaf Books.

I am sure there are numerous other books out there, volumes about Nkrumah’s speeches, and many others inspired by the great man.

Nkrumah died in exile and he never set foot in his Ghana again. There are many around, those close to him, who maintain that Nkrumah was murdered: his death was unnatural as the speech below, Cancer of Betrayal, by Amilcar Cabral spells out.

However, time has been kind to him. Time has absolved him of all the accusations made by his detractors.

Time has restored him as the great man he was. He is remembered as the firebrand of African liberation.  Today, those people who overthrew him hail him as the greatest man in Ghana.

They in turn have since sunk into oblivion. Across Africa he is revered as an international symbol for freedom. His ideology for a United Africa lives in the hearts and minds of true African Revolutionaries.

Nkrumah was central to the founding of the Organisation of African Unity and his support for the liberation movements striving to free themselves from the colonial powers during the decolonisation of the continent made him a hero right across Africa and the Black Diaspora.

Those who have tried to push his visions for a United Africa like Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or Robert Mugabe are either murdered by the imperialist powers or demonised.

Nkrumah’s ideology continues to live in young and old across Africa and the Black Diaspora.

His words remain relevant to an awakening generation of revolutionaries. This is why I have taken the time to share 30 of his quotes below from Class Struggle in Africa. Enjoy.

  1. Workers are workers, and nationality, race, tribe and religion are irrelevancies in the struggle to achieve socialism.
  2. In Africa there should be no African “alien”. All are Africans. The enemy-wall to be brought down and crushed is not the African “alien” worker but Balkanisation and the artificial territorial boundaries created by imperialism.
  3. It is the task of the African urban proletariat to win the peasantry to revolution by taking the revolution to the countryside.
  4. It is the indigenous bourgeoisie who provide the main means by which international monopoly finance continues to plunder and to frustrate the purposes of the African Revolution.
  5. The exposure and the defeat of the African bourgeoisie, therefore, provides the key to the successful accomplishment of the worker-peasant struggle to achieve total liberation and socialism, and to advance the cause of the entire world socialist revolution.
  6. Colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism are expressions of capitalism and of bourgeois economic and political aspirations.
  7. There is not one country in Africa today where the political consciousness of the worker-peasant class has resulted in the establishment of of a socialist state.
  8. The worker-peasant class even though it has assisted in the winning of independence, has not yet assumed leadership in Africa as a conscious class. Closeup picture of Kwame Nkrumah and his book entitled I Speak Of Freedom. The quote superimposed over his face reads,
  9. Imperialist aggression has expressed itself not only in coups d’état, but in the assassination of revolutionary leaders, and the setting up of new intelligence organisations.
  10. As long as African States continue to be dependent in any degree for training, and for arms and supplies on capitalist sources, the African Revolution is in jeopardy.
  11. Historically, professional armies of the capitalist world have a tradition of suppression of socialist and revolutionary movements. They are the instruments of the ruling class or classes for maintaining bourgeois power.
  12. There is little justification for the enormous sums of money spent on the armies of Africa. Africa is not threatened territorially by any outside power. The border disputes which exist between certain African States, most of them legacies from the colonial period, are all capable of peaceful resolution.
  13. Inequality can only be ended by the abolition of classes.
  14. Ideologies reflect class interests and class consciousness. Liberalism, individualism, elitism, and bourgeois “democracy” – which is an illusion – are examples of bourgeois ideology. Fascism, imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism are also expressions of bourgeois thinking and of bourgeois political and economic aspirations.
  15. Those who for political reasons pay lip service to socialism, while aiding and abetting imperialism and neocolonialism, serve bourgeois interests. Workers and peasants may be misled for a time, but as class consciousness develops the bogus socialists are exposed, and genuine socialist revolution is made possible.
  16. The principles of scientific socialism are universal and abiding, and involve the genuine socialisation of productive and distributive processes. Picture of Kwame Nkrumah waving at the masses at a stadium. The quote superimposed on the picture reads “And my last warning to you is that you are to  stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody!”
  17. For race is inextricably linked with class exploitation, in a racist-capitalist power structure, capitalist exploitation and race oppression are complementary; the removal of one ensures the removal of the other.
  18. A non-racial society can only be achieved by socialist revolutionary action of the masses. It will never come as a gift of the minority ruling class.
  19. Elitism is an ideology tailor-made to fit capitalism and bourgeois de facto domination in the capitalist society. Furthermore, it intensifies racism, since it can be used to subscribe to the myth of racial superiority and inferiority.
  20. In general, intellectuals with working class origins tend to be more radical than those from the privileged sectors of society.
  21. Intelligentsia and intellectuals, if they are to play a part in the African Revolution, must become conscious of the class struggle in Africa, and align themselves with the oppressed masses. This involves the difficult, but not impossible, task of cutting themselves free from bourgeois attitudes and ideologies imbibed as a result of colonialist education and propaganda.
  22. Socialist revolutionary struggle, whether in the form of political, economic or military action, can be ultimately effective if it is organised, and it has its roots in the class struggle of workers and peasants.
  23. The total liberation and the unification of Africa under an All-African socialist government must be the objective of all Black revolutionaries throughout the world.
  24. The core of the Black Revolution is in Africa, and until Africa is united under a socialist government, the Black man throughout the world lacks a national home. Picture of a portrait of Kwame Nkrumah on the front cover of Time Magazine. A quote beside the picture reads,
  25. It is around the African peoples’ struggles for liberation and unification that African or Black culture will take shape and substance.
  26. The African Revolution is not an isolated one. It not only forms part of the world socialist revolution, but must be seen in the context of the Black Revolution as a whole.
  27. Socialism can only be achieved through class struggle.
  28. In Africa, the internal enemy – the reactionary bourgeoisie – must be exposed as exploiters and parasites, and as collaborators with imperialists and neo-colonialists on whom they largely depend for the maintenance of their positions of power and privilege.
  29. The rural proletariat are workers in the Marxist sense of the word. They are part of the working class and the most revolutionary of the African rural strata.
  30. The basis of a revolution is created when the organic structure and conditions within a given society have aroused mass consent and mass desire for positive action to change or transform that society.

I hope you enjoyed those quotes and found them not only interesting but enlightening and they inspire you to know more about Kwame Nkrumah. Keep your eyes open for my book review of Class Struggle in Africa by Kwame Nkrumah coming soon.

If you want your copy of the books or others by him, you can order from Panaf Books. Follow the link.

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June 26, 2015 · 4:25 pm

Thoughts about my motherland


Sometimes I wonder when I see the fat cats looting the coffers of our nations to line up their greasy pockets, using their struggle credentials to monopolise and misappropriate national resources for their bloodlines, what is the future  for my motherland.

Sometimes I wonder when I see the future of Africa drowning in the ocean off the coasts of Europe, fleeing the motherland to lands unknown, in search of a better life far from the dehumanising poverty many have been reduced to, what is the future  for my motherland.

It strikes me then that some animals, not in the Animal Farm sense, but literally that some animals in Africa enjoy better living standards than human beings. They have better access to health. They have better access to housing. They have better access to water and sanitation.

They have better access to security and protection. They have passports and don’t have to walk thousands of miles across arid deserts, risking their lives crossing treacherous oceans in search of greener pastures.

How is it that an animal can have more rights and protection than man? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe animals shouldn’t be protected or have some rights, but I don’t believe they should enjoy better privileges than human beings.

Sometimes I wonder when I see the violence and terrorism unleashed on my people by those with their twisted holy wars, crusades and xenophobic impulses snuff out fruitful lives casually like a man putting out a candle flame between his fingers, what is the future for my motherland.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote which reads “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

Sometimes I wonder, I dream, about what heights Africa would have risen to if Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Herbert Chitepo, Dr. Samuel Parirenyatwa, and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere were steering this mighty vessel, The Motherland, towards The Promised Land – the United States of Africa.

It’s at times like this I realise that there is a dearth of leadership. Everytime we talk about African leaders, we don’t talk about the living because we cannot find one leader living today worth talking about or looking up to.

We keep turning back to the past and talking about leaders who are no longer present, and died decades ago, but whose influence is sorely missed today.

In the absence of great leaders, I conclude, it is up to us, the small people, to unite and fight for what is rightfully ours. That is our future, an equal slice of the economic cake, prosperity and a better life.

This cannot become a reality while the hawks of imperialism and neocolonialism are circling the continent in search for rich and easy pickings, robbing us from the food right from our mouths.

Image of Steve Biko taken from his book I Write What I Like. The accompanying quote reads, African unity is not a concept that should remain a dream but it should become a reality because that is where our salvation lies. We cannot do it alone as individuals but as a collective.

Therefore, we, Africans, have nothing to lose but our colonial and neocolonial shackles. We have a motherland overflowing with diamonds, cobalt, gold, uranium, milk, honey and every thing else a people could ever need. Africans of all nations, all ethnic groups unite and reclaim what is rightfully yours.

Homeland or death, we will win comrades! Aluta Continua!

Thomas Sankara 8

3 Comments

May 2, 2015 · 1:40 pm

Remembering Samora Moisés Machel: Death of a Revolutionary


Samora Machel and his son

On the 19th of October 1986, at twenty-one minutes past nine, 28 years ago, a Russian built Tupolev 134, flying to Maputo from a summit of African leaders in Zambia crashed into Lebombo mountains near Mbuzini in South Africa’s Transvaal province, now known as Mpumalanga, killing the first Mozambican President Samora Moisés Machel.

His plane crashed in mysterious circumstances killing President Samora Machel and thirty-three members of his FRELIMO party and the Russian crew.

Only nine of the people onboard that plane survived.

The site where the plane crashed was at the confluence of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland’s borders.

Samora Machel‘s death was felt far beyond the borders of Mozambique.

It was about a month before my tenth birthday when I saw the news. It was a horrible moment watching the mangled wreckage and hearing my sister’s cries echoing through the house.

Samora Machel

Samora Machel flanked by Sam Nujoma (President of Namibia) on his right, and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia to his immediate left and Prime Minister Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Machel would never make it back from this ill-fated meeting alive. It was one of the last times he was seen alive in public.

I walked out onto the streets of Harare, I was in Zimbabwe at the time, to get away from the horror of it but everywhere I turned, people were weeping and lamenting and throwing themselves onto the ground as if they had lost their favourite uncle or kinsmen.

That’s how I felt about him. I had grown up seeing his huge smile lighting up our television screens. He always appeared to be overwhelmed by the love and attention lavished upon him.

He always appeared to be uncomfortable in the glare of the spotlights and television cameras. As I was walking on the streets, I knew then as as I know now that we had lost something special, like a limb lost, that you’d always feel it’s presence yet it wasn’t actually there. And it was irreplaceable.

That is Samora Machel. He was and is irreplaceable. His death robbed us of a true revolutionary and leader. A leader who led from the frontline. A leader who led by example. A leader who remained humble until the end despite his heroic deeds, revolutionary credentials and his unquestionable integrity.

Samora Machel

Samora Machel flashing his familiar smile while meeting and greeting the people.

The respect and adoration he elicited from Zimbabweans and others made you forget that he was actually the leader of another country, the first president of Mozambique, and the revolutionary leader of FRELIMO.

It was impossible to believe that the man who brandished that disarming smile was a ferocious soldier on the battlefield respected and feared by foes. And the totalitarian and illegitimate Apartheid and Rhodesian regimes.

His humility lent him the appearance of a gentle and a meek man. He had the instant likeability quality that made you warm up to him even if you had never met him personally. There was an inexplicable aura about Machel. He had that rare human trait.

That made his death that much harder to digest. It was difficult to imagine that anyone would want to kill him.

The cause of the crash still remains a mystery. Questions were raised about the involvement of the Apartheid regime because the plane crashed over South African territory.

These suspicions have never died and have only been reinforced by statements made by some members of the military though they have been strongly refuted.

Samora Machel

” Only by freeing ourselves from this will we be able to understand the world and understand colonialism. Only, only, only understanding this, are we in a position to make the revolution triumph in Mozambique. First, let‟s be proud to be Mozambicans — to be what we are. Yes or no? (Yes). There is no inferior race in the world. There is no superior race in the world. All races are equal. All peoples are equal. There is an imbalance in development that is a reality. But if that‟s how we must classify the superiority of races, then the Portuguese race is the lowest of all the peoples, because it‟s the most backward, yes or no? (Yes). Do you hear, comrades? (We hear). With this, we want to say that we don‟t want — we don‟t want — racism here in Mozambique. White racism. Black racism. We don‟t want it here in Mozambique. We want harmony between peoples. Harmony between races. Because we are all equal. Do you hear, comrades? (We hear).” Samora Machel in action exuding vigour and charisma while addressing a rally of supporters.

The Apartheid regime’s fear of Samora Machel provided a motive to kill him.

It is no secret they formed, armed, trained, financed and provided material support to RENAMO, led by Alphonso Dhlakama, a rebel group without a policy, to undermine Machel’s government.

It is no secret they were also involved in various acts of sabotage in Zimbabwe and arming dissidents there to undermine the newly formed Zimbabwe.

Their objective was to make majority African rule so unattractive it would dissuade the liberation movements fighting Apartheid and their supporters to accept white colonial rule as the best form of government.

It was a vain gesture because the writing was on the wall: South Africa was the last remaining isolated bastion of white supremacy in Africa surrounded by hostile African countries constantly snapping at its heels.

Time, history, the world and inevitability were also against them. Consequently, they were temporarily prolonging the shelf life of a doomed regime.

Fidel Castro and Samora Machel

The meeting of two great revolutionaries and anti-imperialist fighters. Fidel Castro and Samora Machel.

The question many may be asking is why Samora Machel and not Robert Mugabe.

Maybe it was fate. Machel died and Mugabe survived numerous attempts on his life.

Alternatively, there were unsubstantiated rumours, you know how stubborn these things are, real or imagined, that Samora Machel had made a pact with Josiah Magama Tongogara, another much loved and revered revolutionary who died in a car crash during the liberation war, to turn their attention to South Africa once Zimbabwe got her independence and drive the Boers back into the ocean and back where they came from.

Don’t take my word for it. The two people who can verify that story are no longer here to give their account of that particular narrative.

The only truth is that Samora Machel left us too soon. The truth is that, whether the rumours were true or false, Mozambique’s independence was not enough for him.

He couldn’t see his country having the racist and totalitarian regimes of Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa for neighbours. He helped Zimbabwe gain her independence and then continued pressing South Africa to grant independence to the indigenous peoples of the country.

Samora Machel

“SALARIES AND WAGES MUST REFLECT THE REALITY OF THE ENTERPRISE’S ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE; DEVIATIONS FROM THE PLANNED PERFORMANCE SHOULD BE REFLECTED IN PAY.” A quote by Samora Machel above in the picture holding a baby while surveying the devastation caused by RENAMO, the South African sponsored bandits.

Samora Machel dedicated his life to fighting for the independence of Africa as a whole, not only Mozambique, and he remained true to his spirit until the very end.

His leading role in the total decolonisation of the continent was seized upon by the imperialist forces who sought to stop him because he was a threat to their interests in Southern Africa.

They in turn did what they do best. They used their powerful network of news media to churn out propaganda and generate the single story demonising Samora Machel as a dangerous communist who had to be stopped.

So it is no surprise Rhodesia and South Africa and their backers (bankrollers) responded by sponsoring a civil war in Mozambique to discredit its independence.

Dr Kenneth Kaunda,  Julius Nyerere

The trinity of Zimbabwean Independence: Samora Machel on the right, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in the centre and Dr Kenneth Kaunda on the left.

Like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, who trained and supported African liberation movements, Samora Machel on seizing independence after defeating the Portuguese colonialists, he set his sights on Rhodesia to continue the struggle of decolonizing Africa and defeating the imperialist forces.

He turned his superior fighting party FRELIMO to fight the Rhodesian army. FRELIMO fought alongside ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU while ZIPRA (the military wing of ZAPU) attacked from Zambia.

This marked the turning point of the Chimurenga, opening a new chapter, the Zimbabwean Liberation Struggle.

There are those today who try to underplay the role of FRELIMO in the independence of Zimbabwe in a vain attempt to upgrade their own liberation and revolutionary credentials. Their contribution is relegated to the footnotes or totally omitted.

However, those in the know, know the truth that Samora Machel was instrumental in bringing Smith’s regime of diehard racists to its knees. Mozambique and FRELIMO opened up a new chapter in the liberation struggle.

Not even the Rhodesians aerial bombing and usage of chemical weapons like napalm against unarmed refugees (women and children) and a few guerrillas (liberation fighters) at camps like Nyadzonya and Chimoio could stop the inevitable train of black anger from crushing the old jalopy of white supremacy.

Samora Machel and Dr Kenneth Kaunda

Samora Machel and Dr Kenneth Kaunda.

Unlike some revolutionaries who come to power and overstay their welcomes and lose their people’s respect, Samora Machel remains greatly loved and revered.

He joined the ranks of legends like Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Josiah Magama TongogaraHerbert Chitepo, Dr. Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa.

Despite leading Mozambique for 11 years, from 1975 to 1986, people still cry or get emotional when they recall the memory of one of Africa’s most respected and revered revolutionaries.

Samora Machel is not judged by the same standard as some leaders or revolutionaries who went on to lead or failed to lead the countries whose freedom they fought for.

Samora Machel never got to tarnish his legacy, not that I assume he would have, or revolutionary credentials. His untimely death secured his lasting and unblemished legacy. At the time of his death, it seemed he couldn’t do anything wrong.

Death made him an African martyr and guaranteed him a prominent seat at the table of rendezvous where Africa’s most revolutionary and truest sons gather at the dusk of their illustrious careers fighting the beasts of white supremacy and Devils of neocolonialism.

Samora Machel the leader of FRELIMO and first president of Mozambique

“We are here because we are the people with responsibilities. We are here because we merit the political confidence of the party. We have the task in our sectors of smashing the structures, working methods and mentality of colonial-capitalism. We have the task of building a new state apparatus that in character, content and working methods serves our interests.” Samora Machel captured during a speech in 1980. Above is an artist’s impression of the revolutionary leader of FRELIMO.

A commission consisting of representatives of Mozambique, South Africa and the Soviet Union was brought together to establish the cause of that fateful crash.

A multiplicity of reasons were put forward. Bad weather was cited. A mechanical cause was cited too. Pilot error.

The investigations failed to establish the exact nature of the crash.

Counteraccusations flew between Maputo and Pretoria for over a decade without shedding light on the exact cause of the crash. However, the residue of a conspiracy of the Apartheid regime’s involvement has never been put to rest and will probably never die.

The release of Nelson Mandela and independence of South Africa brought renewed hope to establishing the cause of the crash. However, like the Apartheid regime before it, Mandela’s government fared no better.

For a boy who came from a village in Mozambique, he travelled a long journey to become a maverick guerrilla strategist who pledged his life to defeating colonialism in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole.

His charisma, integrity and vigour transformed him into a psychologically resourceful leader who led from the frontline and never asked his followers to do what he couldn’t do himself.

Nonetheless, no one can accuse Samora Machel of being a revolutionary who can’t handle a gun or who never fought, as some other revolutionaries who claim liberation credentials are constantly accused of falsifying their liberation credentials. He was there in the battlefield.

He came, he saw and he conquered.

Machel was a leader who couldn’t be corrupted and till the end he died a man of high principles. Africa and the world lost a champion of freedom. We all lost to the detriment of the human race and world peace.

Samoral Machel

“So we must build a strong Mozambique, and prosperous. Do you hear? We must build a free society, a society of good relations amongst us all — we must create a spirit of cameraderie. Brothers aren‟t enough, no. It‟s not enough to be brothers. A spirit of cameraderie! Above all, because we have a big task, which is the task of the liberation of Mozambican women. The task of creating a new mentality among the youth, so that they can serve the whole people, so that they can serve the whole world. Do you hear, comrades? (We hear).” Samora Machel

Samora Machel’s obituaries and tributes painted a picture of a truly remarkable leader. The snapshot below illustrates this point.

Death dealers cannot kill Machel spirit. Herald [Harare] (29 October 1986).

Guardian viewpoint: a stunning loss. Guardian [New York] (29 October 1986).

Driving spirit of a nation’s struggle. New Nation [Johannesburg] (21 October 1986).

Enormous implications for Southern Africa: tributes pour in for Maputo leader. Citizen [Johannesburg] (21 October 1986).

His dream: man, a world renewed. New Nation [Johannesburg] (21 October 1986).

Machel: fiery and charismatic leader. Citizen [Johannesburg] (21 October 1986).

President Samora Machel. Times [London] (21 October 1986).

Quest for freedom was life’s goal. Herald [Harare] (21 October 1986).

Albin Krebs. Samora M. Machel, man of charisma: he held impoverished nation together by personality. New York Times [New York] (21 October 1986).

The arch-enemy of racism. Star [Johannesburg] (24 October 1986).

Iain Christie. The Machel I knew: what Frelimo’s leader taught me about racism. Weekly Mail [Johannesburg] (24 October 1986-30 October 1986). Iain Christie was the author of a biography of Machel published in both English and in Portuguese.

A great man. Sunday Mail [Harare] (26 October 1986).

Machel as South Africans saw him; Machel as the world saw him. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986).

People’s president. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

Mono Badela. Machel the healer. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

John D’Oliveira. Africa has lost a shining son. Sunday Star [Review] [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986).

People’s president. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

Mono Badela. Machel the healer. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986).

John D’Oliveira. Africa has lost a shining son. Sunday Star [Review] [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986).

Gerald L’Ange. Machel leaves painful legacy. Sunday Star [Review] [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

Davison Maruziva. Mozambican president died at crucial time. Sunday Mail [Harare] (26 October 1986). 

Percy Qoboza. The noblest of them all: Percy Qoboza pays tribute to President Samora Machel. City Press [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

Messages of condolence on death of Samora Machel. Summary of World Broadcasts [London] no.FE/8400/A5 (27 October 1986), p.1-2. Messages of condolence from China, North Korea, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia.

We’ve lost the champion of freedom: Muzenda. Herald [Harare] (October 1927). 

Comment: death of a hero. Herald [Harare] (28 October 1986). 

Andrew Mutandwa. Guerilla [sic] leader who radiated dignity. Herald [Harare] 

Death dealers cannot kill Machel spirit. Herald [Harare] (29 October 1986). Report of a speech by Canaan Banana, then president of Zimbabwe.

Guardian viewpoint: a stunning loss. Guardian [New York] (29 October 1986). 

Paul Fauvet. Mozambique mourns. Guardian [New York] (29 October 1986). 

He challenged colonialists from start. Herald [Harare] (30 October 1986). 

Machel’s big role in freeing Zimbabwe. Herald [Harare] (30 October 1986). 

Andy Higginbottom. Samora Machel: son of the Mozambican revolution. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! [London] (15 November 1986), p.7. A tribute in the newspaper of the British Revolutionary Communist Group

Gerald L’Ange. Machel leaves painful legacy. Sunday Star [Review] [Johannesburg] (26 October 1986). 

Davison Maruziva. Mozambican president died at crucial time. Sunday Mail [Harare] (26 October 1986). 

Percy Qoboza. The noblest of them all: Percy Qoboza pays tribute to President . 

Messages of condolence on death of Samora Machel. Summary of World Broadcasts [London] no.FE/8400/A5 (27 October 1986), p.1-2. Messages of condolence from China, North Korea, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia.

We’ve lost the champion of freedom: Muzenda. Herald [Harare] (October 1927). 

Comment: death of a hero. Herald [Harare] (28 October 1986). 

My tribute to a great revolutionary and remarkable man would be incomplete without the videos of Journeyman Pictures, Wellington Ziwenga, Afravision and the numerous photographers and organisations whose photos appear in this article.

Thank you for taking the time to peruse this blog and I hope you have been equally rewarded reading this article and watching the documentaries as I found compiling it.

Tell your friends and share this article and let us tell our own stories. As Chinua Achebe wrote in Things Fall Apart, “until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

It is our duty to remembering these stories and our heroes so that we don’t forget where we are coming from and no one can turn back and erase our past as what happened during colonialism.

This is why I wrote this article to remember a type of time, a place and a man that might otherwise be forgotten with the passage of time.

He gave us our freedom. He sacrificed his life in the way Jesus Christ is alleged to have done. Therefore, the likes of Samora Moisés Machel live on in everyone of us through our collective remembrance of this gallant shining son of Africa.

Viva Revolution! ALUTA Continua!

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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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