We have failed to make Steve Biko's dream a reality

16 September 2018 - 00:00 By ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE

This week marked 41 years since Stephen Bantu Biko was wantonly murdered by the apartheid state. The big question we have to answer all these years later is how his ideas are finding resonance in the new SA and how best we can make them come to life. In my coming book dedicated to Biko, Quite Frankly, I argue that the thing that should make Biko turn in his grave is the death of black humanity.
The concept of ubuntu has all but disappeared. Such a death is largely fuelled by the disappearance of norms and values in our dysfunctional families, unstable communities and a society whose sense of outrage has been numbed by scandal. In living our lives, values have become an optional extra and the ubuntu-botho that used to be a source of pride is no longer being passed on to future generations.
At the most basic level, culture and traditions have become a source of shame instead of pride. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a death of black humanity. Africa itself is losing its identity with a huge assault on its culture by cultural imports that are seen as superior. Biko must be turning in his tomb. The black self-love that he propagated until his death has few proponents and even fewer practitioners.
This past week, Mosiuoa Lekota epitomised what one can call the end of black unity. It is believed that one of Biko's last wishes was to unite black people in the struggle for self-determination. This has spectacularly been torn asunder. Black people failed to unite when it mattered most - at the negotiating table for the future of SA.
At Codesa, huge compromises were made. No one naively believed that at such a table we could have walked away with everything. But some of the crucial components of self-determination were thrown overboard. The land question was left half-baked, hence it has come back to bite us. But the key issue is that black organisations were so divided that some did not even participate in the elections. The Azanian People's Organisation, as the key custodian of black consciousness, remains one of the most ineffective proponents of black economic emancipation and presided over the fracturing of black organisations.
The ANC is the worst. Under its watch, black people have fractured badly, resulting in splinter organisations such as the UDM, COPE and the EFF. Biko must be turning in his grave as he sees black-on-black violence, with the unity agenda on the periphery of our politics. The situation has so deteriorated that the ANC could not bring itself to unite with the EFF, which ended up consorting with the DA to oust the ANC in three metros. In all the noise, no-one seems to have a plan for realising Biko's dreams of black unity.
Forty-one years on there is scant black courage. Amid the loss of a moral compass in our society one is saddened by the absence of black courage in our body politic. One would have expected that the men and women who fought alongside Biko would have stood up by now to put an end to the madness that has gripped our politics over the past 24 years. Instead, we have revisionist nonsense with leaders who used to stand for principle now saying it's OK to coalesce around wrongdoing.
And those who point out wrongdoing are told to shut up because they also have "skeletons" in their cupboards.
All this culminates in the failure of the black nation to achieve self-reliance. The deprivation of our economic freedom demonstrates this tragic existence. Statistics released last year show that over 55% of our people live in abject poverty, 17-million of them reliant on the state for survival. The exponential growth of grant recipients is a sign the economy has failed to create conditions for self-reliance. Current policies are a failure and have resulted in no economic growth, widening inequality and an economic crisis.
Get rid of leadership that does not grasp the basics of black consciousness. This has to be the start. Once the correct black conscious leadership is in place, people will need little or no convincing about how to follow the father of black consciousness, and maybe he will finally rest in peace.
• Tabane is a radio and TV talkshow host

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