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Memory entails the struggle against forgetting

Published Oct 18, 2021


Oupa Ngwenya

It may be imprudent to pigeonhole people in accordance with manufactured consent. Faking, hiding and sanitising this day should not be made easier either. What is there to forgive and forget about October 19, 1977?

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Oppressed or liberated, would you be smiling at the memory of daring messengers of the public’s right to know that were carted off to prison. As prison gates shut behind those telling truth to power, the media outlets they were attached to were not left alone.

All because those outlets did not consent to feed the totalitarian lie that blacks were happy except for a undesirables with rude habits against good neighbourliness that the then government of PW Botha would have it believed was what apartheid was all about - neighbourliness?

Would you slam the door on memory to how the organisational liberating prowess of black solidarity was laid to waste by the swinging sledgehammer of white power gone mad? The insanity of that residual power today subsists on the rabid fear of equality hanging onto the big lie and belief of the possibility of stable and peaceful society populated by unequal people.

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That PW Botha state of mind is still present. It is prevalent in a post-1994 South Africa, beating its breast to lay claim to its democratic pound of flesh and walking side by side, content with inequality elections after elections.

The banning of 18 black consciousness (BC) organizations by PW Botha’s justice minister, Jimmy Kruger, was logical after the initial cruelty with which Steve Bantu Biko’s life was snuffed out on September 12, 1977.

Two newspapers and a publication,The World and Weekend World, and the Christian Institute’s Pro Veritate were banned along with the BC organisations. The newspapers and the publication were the mirrors that reflected the torment of black life that its financiers and sponsors would have preferred hidden to protect South Africa’s image abroad.

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October 19, 1977, represents the high-handed disorganising pain for the crucifixion of the liberating power of non-ethnic black solidarity that Biko fostered, lived and died for.

It was not enough that Biko was dead. The movement he was instrumental in founding had to go. So too were organisations that were a part of this reawakening conscientising thinker and doer. These organisations were proof of the organised force of the awakening of black power that loomed large from the crime scene of Biko’s murder. His end was his beginning.

Two years before his assassination, Biko’s movement had seen the collapse of Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique as a cause for celebration on September 25,1974. Apartheid would brook no nonsense of communist Samora Machel setting foot on the land of the chosen few.

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Although banned, the Viva Frelimo rallies went ahead spearheaded by South African Student Organisation (SASO) and Black People’s Convention (BPC).

What PW Botha could not do, was ban the fact that Mozambique was liberated. The irrefutability of that fact powered the BC movement to celebrate the synergy of ideas between a liberated Mozambique and that of the yet to be liberated Azania. For the celebration of liberation ideas, treason charges against SASO and BPC were formulated. As Machel emerged as president in Mozambique, the SASO/BPC treason trial became the opportunity for preparation of a trial to be heard at the synagogue Palace of Justice in SA’s capital, Pretoria.

Would you forget the loss of a liberation when Machel’s plane was plucked from the sky, like a bird, to plunge to his demise while flying on our soil in Mbuzini on October 19, 1986?

The memory of October 19, 1977 surges back to mind inflicted wounds that had looked forward to finding a soothing healing in true liberation; full blooded humanity; responsive democracy to the plight of the struggling majority; independence of thought and action by free people that had reclaimed their dignity; a society populated by equals and complemented by an uncaptured, unbiased media and unconflicted journalism free of commercial, marketing, financial, lobbying and self-serving political interests.

BC, Biko, viva Frelimo rallies, SASO/BPC treason trial, Mozambique and Machel, are all flashes of valour in the service of the best that free people and countries could be.

In the meantime, brute force was setting in within SA borders. Neighbouring countries supportive of the armed struggle, were put under by SA to desist offering bases from which operations were launched.

With specific reference to Mozambique, SA non-aggression-pact proposal was the Nkomati Accord signed on March 16, 1984.

The Nkomati Accord found illustration in a cartoon in AZAPO’s Frank Talk magazine depicting PW Botha giving Samora Machel an apple with a caption: “An apple a day keeps a Marxist away.”

These gestures on the part of PW Botha were dismissed as gunboat diplomacy.

The year 1985 was the most brutal. The hidden guiding hand sponsoring inter-organisational violence amongst black groups were peppered by death squads at their most vile form to escalate hostilities. The liberal world’s explanation for the violence was that ‘it was ideological’. The conservative white voice, central to perpetuation of this violence, dubbed it ‘black-on-black violence’.

If two newspapers, and a publication is all that you see on October 19, it would most likely be a media hat that is on your head.

But if above all, the day represents the crucifixion of the liberating power of BC, then the hat you wearing would have you see Biko denied following the footsteps of Sobukwe to walk the talk of a free Azania that is yet to be.

Ngwenya is a Corporate Strategist, Writer and freelance journalist.

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