Defend Truth


Black man, you are on your own: Squandering the legacy of Bantu Stephen Biko


Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a social and political commentator.

Steve Biko would be turning in his grave today; his struggle seems to have been in vain. It is disturbing to see the heightened levels of violence taking place in our black communities. The murder rate in our country shockingly surpasses those of countries at war.

The late, great Lucky Dube, wrote in his song Victims: “Bob Marley wrote ‘how long shall they kill our prophets/while we stand aside and look’/But little did he know that/Eventually the enemy/Will stand aside and look/While we slash and kill our own brothers/Knowing that already/They are the victims of the situation.”

Bantu Stephen Biko was brutally killed by the racist apartheid regime in 1977 for his fight against white supremacy. Biko is considered to be the father of Black Consciousness which was in part inspired by the American Black Power movement aimed at fighting racism or white supremacy and led by popular figures such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King and many others.

The date 12 September 2019 marked the 42nd year since the brutal assassination of Bantu Biko by the notorious apartheid security police. Biko and all the Black Consciousness adherents positively influenced the political discourse when all the liberation organisations (PAC, ANC and SACP) were banned by the apartheid government.

Biko would be turning in his grave today; his struggle seems to have been in vain. It is disturbing to see the heightened levels of violence taking place in our black communities. The murder rate in our country shockingly surpasses those of countries at war.

South Africa has always been a “headline-oriented” nation; it is the media which decides the national discourse or debate. We are now focusing on gender-based-violence, which is a worry to any sober person. We had been made to focus on the so-called political killings in the past to a point where the Moerane Commission was established by former president Jacob Zuma. The concept was thrown about dubbed “farm murders” which denoted that white farmers were under attack, especially during the popular debate of returning the land without compensation, a call led by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

We should not single out these brutal killings – the fact is that people are dying and the principal victims are black people. Of course women and children are the main victims, but the focus should generally be to combat all killings of any persons. We have to ensure that murderers pay for their offences, they should not literally “get away with murder”.

I was stunned to hear government say that 10 of the 12 people who died in the recent violence, known as Afrophobia, were South African citizens. Criminals had infiltrated an innocent and legitimate movement by the citizens who were complaining about unregulated, uncontrolled and unmanageable immigration into their country. The movement started after a South African taxi driver tried to stop a foreign drug dealer selling drugs to people. Jabu Hlongwane is a hero for dying for a good cause.

Violence is never the answer, no matter how valid concerns are; dialogue should always be the only option to arrive at a consensus. South Africans have previously raised concerns about the reluctance of government to control the borders.

Donald Trump won the US election because of his anti-immigration stance; he is now keeping his promise of building a wall which divides his country with Mexico. He accuses Mexicans of smuggling drugs into his country. Italy is no longer allowing immigrants into its country, especially those who are coming from Africa. German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was known for promoting immigration but Germany is very strict in terms of managing its borders.

Botswana is very strict when it comes to protecting its borders, in fact you can’t even enter its borders with livestock. You cannot even bribe a Batswana authority at the border, which is how patriotic they are. South Africa has a better infrastructure which can be used to control who or what enters our borders.

I recently had chat with a Mozambican hairdresser who told me that he has been in South Africa since 2001, but didn’t have documents. He told me that there is a policeman who usually pops into his salon every weekend to take a bribe; this has been going on for some years now. Our police force is compromised; many of them are responsible for the violence that we are seeing today.

Black-on-black violence is prevalent in black communities; the chief attribute is our inferiority complex. We are now seeing the effects of colonialism, which of course could not be abolished overnight.

Our primary and tertiary education curricula should encompass Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism as a way of eradicating and dismantling white supremacy. Our education is still inferior; it produces non-thinkers who are unable to live with other people. Our education system produces people who are unable to read or write.

The principal objective of education should first be to teach people to live together in society, and then the second goal should be to teach them how to survive within the ambit of established laws and norms, that is an economical aspect. The current education system fails to honour these two goals, we are seeing graduates who find it difficult to live harmoniously with others while other graduates are said to be unemployable.

The intention of Black Consciousness was to restore dignity to the black person, it was to make us complete human beings who are not wishing to be like any other group which arrogantly believes itself to be superior to others. We still have black people who are doing everything possible not to be black and this is self-hate. DM

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a political commentator