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7 Most Powerful Quotes Of Steve Biko - How Africa News

7 Most Powerful Quotes Of Steve Biko - How Africa News

“The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed – Steve Biko” September 12th, 1977, a man died in South Africa, he was tortured to death by the political police in his cell in Port Elisabeth, he was then transported, in a half conscious state, in the back of a Land-Rover for more than 1200Km, to a prison in Pretoria, where he was declared dead in his cell.Bantu Steven Biko, Known as Steve Biko, was born on December 18th 1946 in Ginsberg, South Africa. He was first involved as a member of the National Union of South African Students which was dominated by white students and failed to fight for black students’ rights and needs, he resigned and founded the South African Students’ Organization in 1969 and its main goal was to provide medical assistance and logistic help to black students. In 1972 he was one of the founders of the Black Peoples’ Convention that gathered more than 70 black consciousness groups and associations, he was elected as the first president of the BPC which led to his exclusion from the medical school, in 1973 he was banned by the apartheid government and he was restricted to his home town.He could not continue supporting the BPC but continued working for it, he helped found the Zimele Trust Fund which aimed to assist political prisoners and their families.In January 1977, he was elected the honorary president of the BPC.He was detained and interrogated several times between 1975 and 1977 under the anti-terrorism legislation set up by the apartheid government. On august 21st 1977, Biko was detained at the Port Elisabeth prison and taken for interrogation at the central police headquarters. On September 7th, he was severely injured in his head and the doctor who examined him omitted to mention a neurological injury, Biko became uncooperative and acted strangely. By September 11th, Biko slept into a semi-conscious state which led police physician to order his transfer to a Pretoria’s hospital, he made the 1200Km journey lying naked on the back of a pick-up, few hours later he was declared dead lying in a Pretoria’s prison’s cell.It’s only twenty years later that the police admitted that they had killed Biko, it was made to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. Biko’s death and especially it’s brutal and obscure circumstances led to an international outcry and condemnation, and Biko became the symbol of black resistance and fight against the oppressive Apartheid regime. Universal Declaration of Human Rights“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” Adieu Moloïse, Adieu Steve, à demain Nelson, Dieu m’a promis qu’un nouveau jour, demain, se lèvera Et que le soleil luira, fort, il luira Et que seulement avec vous, mes frères et avec Nos Différences On Vivra. Extrait de « Vivons Ensemble avec Nos Différences » : http://tunisdivagation.blogspot.com/2007/03/vivons-ensemble-avec-nos-diffrences.htmlLui au moins, il n’est pas mort pour rien.Son combat a donner un fruit que ses compatriotes savourent aujourd’hui.alors quoi de neuf?Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *Commentaire Nom * Adresse de messagerie * Site web



In the early hours of the 18th of August 1977, about an hour away from King William’s Town, on the Grahamstown – King William’s Town Road, Peter Jones and Steve Biko ran into a roadblock. They were both driven to the police station. They would both face torture, brutal interrogation and serve time. Biko never walked out alive again.The arrest of Steve Bantu Biko was a turning point in his life: it marked the beginning of the end of his life and the martyrdom of his political legacy.In a cruel twist of fate, his arrest fulfilled the prophecy and words he said in an interview conducted by an American businessman months before his death.The extract, On Death, is ironically the last chapter in his collection of articles – I Write What I Like, was published in The New Republic on the 07th of January 1978.Biko said then: “You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicizing thing…“So if you can overcome the personal fear for death, which is a highly irrational thing, you know, then you’re on your way,” he continued.His words underpin the courage required to carry out the revolutionary work he was carrying out at the time. The reason he was driving around at that time of the day equally required a similar amount of courage and lack of fear.Biko prophetically highlighted the interconnectedness between tragedy and its possibilities within the South African political context.His words not only referred to his own death, but to the death of many young students during the protests against apartheid education in June 1976, and the death of numerous colleagues of his in the Black Consciousness Movement such as his close friend and confidante Mapetla Mohapi.This lack of fear of death would ultimately lead to his own murder by the security police, unleashing the political and social capital tragedy bestows on political and social movements.At the time, Biko was serving a ban in King William’s Town and he had restrictions to adhere to.The conditions of the ban meant he could not speak to more than one person at a time. He could not be quoted.He was banned from publishing any writing material. He was closely monitored by the Security Police. He could also not leave King William’s Town without special permission.When he was arrested, he was in breach of the latter. However, they had to be breached because if he didn’t, the system would have won, and that was the very reason the ban was placed on Biko to frustrate him and his work. Therefore, Biko was taking a huge gamble.It is worth reminding ourselves why he took such a huge gamble. The arrest of Steve Biko is often overlooked.Hence its significance is hugely glossed over and is often treated as mere footnotes to a much larger narrative.There are different accounts that explain how Biko got arrested. Some claim, there were spies within the movement that sold him out.Others claim the roadblock was routine, and others that the policemen were on the lookout for external agitators stoking the ire of the continuing student and youth boycotts in Port Elizabeth.Those closest to him claimed there were rumours going around that the Boers were planning to assassinate Biko.His older brother and others urged him to leave and go into exile but Biko refused to leave his movement behind.His older brother Kaya Biko who got Steve involved with politics admits, “Rumours were doing the rounds in town that the Boers were intent on assassinating Steve”.“I approached Steve together with my brother-in-law to ask him to leave the country. The man said to us, ‘What kind of a captain will I be if I leave the ship I’m steering, while I see there are faults and it’s going to sink? I’m not leaving the country’.“There was nothing we could do. That was Steve.”Whatever the truth is, we will never really know. Speculation is not the objective of this article. There is little doubt that there were some in the Afrikaner Broderbond that wanted Biko dead. He was growing too powerful and the ban on him was not working.The events of June 1976 and the trial of the Black Consciousness Movement also known as the SASO/ BPC Trial [May 1976] had only added to Biko’s stature: they had unwittingly offered him the stage to project his ideas across the country and internationally, cementing his place as the head of the liberation movement in the absence of the leaders on Robben Island and others under house arrest.Biko took the trial and transformed it into the Black Consciousness Movement’s version of the Treason Trial and made it what it was for the Congress Alliance in the 1950s.It is important to understand what happened before Biko and Jones were arrested to clarify why they were on the road at such an early hour and contextualise the arrest and significance of their journey.Biko traveled the country extensively from time to time, despite his ban, travelling far afield as Cape Town and Durban, and more than once to Johannesburg.He was forced to travel to Cape Town this time to meet guys from the Western Cape chapter of the Black Consciousness Movement.There was a rebellion brewing with hardliners criticising his decision to meet American Senator Dick Clark in December 1976.Clark was in the region, Lesotho to be specific, to attend a meeting of the African Institute. He thought it was important to consult with Biko as an “elder statesmen” of the movement though he was still in his twenties.The event itself was not unusual. Biko was consulted on a regular basis by representatives of countries far and wide because he was recognised as the leader of the liberation movement in the absence of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe and other senior members of the ANC or PAC who were serving time on Robben Island and were disconnected from politics and current affairs.However, the militants were not satisfied. They argued that they had on matters of principle refused to meet members of the American government which they viewed as part of the oppressor camp.They had even gone as far as rejecting a request from US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young.When the request was initiated, Biko had just been released from prison and had served a 101 day stretch. He consulted with his comrades who were still in prison.The memorandum was smuggled in and out of prison by a warder who lived in Ginsberg. This memorandum was presented to Clark and was published in I Write What I Like. It appears under the heading American Policy towards Azania.Biko was scathing in his criticism of the role of the United States in supporting the apartheid regime. He accused it of collusion in the oppression and exploitation of black people, and even went as far as encouraging it to boycott trading links with South Africa and reexamine its foreign policy.There was also an additional problem. The hardliners in the Western Cape were not happy with the position papers the BCM had developed as proposals for the African National Congress [ANC] and Pan African Congress [PAC]. They did not think the proposals were radical enough.They strongly opposed the concept of black communalism as the basis for future economic policy. They were pushing for a socialist/ communist vision for the country.It is appropriate to clarify at this point that Biko was involved in clandestine negotiations with both the ANC and PAC to bring them together with the BCM and other black political movements to form a united front against apartheid.The only parties who were not invited were the Bantustan leaders who were seen as sellouts and were complicit in the oppression and exploitation of black people because they had embraced the concept of separate development; therefore, facilitating a fragmentation of the resistance.You can read more about why he regarded the Bantustan leaders as sellouts in his essay Let’s talk about Bantustans in I Write What I Like.In this same book, Biko clarified his hopes about the unity of the liberation movement:“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 affect the greatest results.”This is why these papers were so important and needed to be sorted out but the chapter in the Western Cape were complicating matters, adding to what was already a complicated process, using intermediaries to negotiate with members like Oliver Tambo who was in exile, and Sobukwe who was on the periphery of the PAC and also politically restricted but still yielding a lot of influence.The process was made even harder after Biko’s intermediary with Sobukwe – Mapetla Mohapi -was murdered by the Security Police in prison.Biko was also in pursuit of unity talks with the Unity Movement in Cape Town. He wanted to meet with Alexander Neville who was the leading figure of the movement.Alexander had just returned from Robben Island after serving a ten year stint in prison. He had set up a study group at his home which included members of his own movement and the BCM.However, he was unhappy because his movement was unable to strike rapport with the Black community. Therefore, he requested his colleague, Nicki Westcott, who had strong connections with the Black Consciousness Movement in Cape Town to facilitate connections.The two movements set out to forge an alliance through joint action. They had even gone as far as creating joint committees of the BCM, Unity Movement and the ANC to carry out collaborative projects such as the nationwide protest against the granting of independence to the Transkei on 26 October 1976.ANC members such as Winnie Mandela and Joe Gqabi were involved in the collaboration.The chapter in the Western Cape felt that the King William’s group had centralised the movement around its resources.They believed the guys in King William’s Town were better paid because they were right at the heart of the funding.It was against this backdrop that Biko was forced to travel to Cape Town to address these problems.He didn’t believe he could address these concerns without physically meeting the Western Cape chapter even if that meant he had to violate his banning order.The well being of the movement meant more to him than his physical safety because it threatened to curtail the struggle and to Biko that was unthinkable.Biko as he often reiterated, “It is better to die for an idea that will live, than live for an idea that will die”.The quote above encapsulates what the movement and struggle meant to Biko. He was prepared to die for it and sacrifice his life. Therefore, there was a lot at stake in this journey.It was not a reckless game of cat and mouse that he was playing with the system. It was about taking the movement and struggle forwards and securing, ultimately, the liberation of Black people.Before departing for Cape Town, Biko and Jones met with colleagues at the Zanempilo Clinic, one of the many black community projects founded by the BCM to serve the community, on the 16th of August 1977 to brief them about the meeting.He left his car with one of the drivers to create the impression that he was around town.They used a car belonging to Black Community Programmes executive member, Rams Ramokgopa, who was in town from Johannesburg with Hlaku Rachidi and Tom Manthata to discuss the programme of the unity of the liberation groups of South Africa: it had been passed at a resolution at an earlier conference of the movement.As a result of that meeting, Steve and Peter Jones had to leave for Cape Town. At midnight, the pair slipped away under the cover of darkness.Peter Jones, or PC as he was known, was a fellow activist from King William’s Town. He was also Steve’s friend.On the 17th of August, at around 10 AM, they arrived in Cape Town. They went to Jones’ home in Strand, a town outside Cape Town. Biko took a nap while Jones went out to see the people they were supposed to meet.The people were not aware the pair were in town. There were no mobile phones or pagers around during those days. Public phones were the only means of communication.Whenever phones were used, the exchanges had to be coded because most were tapped by the Security Police.Therefore, Biko and Jones mainly had to show up at people’s doors to nullify the security risk and eliminate the potential of spies leaking information about their presence in Cape Town.Jones made contact with Ronnie Crotz and they went to fetch Johnny Issel who was a leader of the hardliners of the BCM chapter in the Western Cape.Issel was not at home. Jones left a message with his wife and informed her that Steve was around. Jones proceeded to drop Crotz back at his home and fetched Biko to meet with Alexander.However, they had to link up with Fikile Bam who was an activist and later became a judge.Bam, also known as Bra Fiks, had visited Biko at his home in Ginsberg in 1974 after spending a ten year spell on Robben Island and then was restricted to the Transkei.He had requested Francis Wilson, his former colleague at the University of Cape Town,  and now a friend of Biko to pull strings to get him out of Transkei and Biko facilitated the escape.It was at that ensuing meeting that Biko asked Bams to initiate a meeting with Alexander. So now that meeting was due to happen and Biko and Jones would catch up with the BCM guys later. The meeting with Alexander was a priority.They were supposed to link up with a guy called Armien Abrams who was a manager of a community based factory set up by the BCM in Cape Town.It fell under Jones jurisdiction. Both men were always in touch and Abrams was the perfect man to play the go in between.However, there was confusion if Jones had communicated that they were coming over with Biko. Jones insisted that he did; Abrams denied it.Bam was staying at a mansion in the suburb of Crawford. It belonged to Ismail Mohomed who was a mathematics professor at UCT. Abrams had been assigned the task of looking after it while he was away.On the way to the mansion, Jones stopped to make a call to inform them he was on his way with Biko. Jones dropped Biko off at the mansion to ensure Alexander’s house was secure.However, on Jones’ arrival, Alexander refused to see Biko. Although Biko and Jones had driven eleven hours to meet him, he would not meet them for a few minutes.Jones had no choice but to return with the bad news. Bam was furious. He called Alexander and informed him he was coming over but couldn’t get into details over the phone.He left with Biko. They parked at the back of the house. Bam entered and left Biko in his Volkswagen Beetle.  They argued for half an hour leaving Biko trapped and a sitting duck in the car.Eventually, Bam stormed out without securing the vital meeting. Biko was disappointed. He had the highest regards of Alexander and had viewed him as a fearless revolutionary intellectual.They returned back to the mansion where Jones and Abrams were. Biko insisted on returning immediately to King William’s Town because every minute they away the chances of been discovered increased.In the early evening of the 17th of August, they hit the road and began the twelve hour journey back. They almost made it.About an hour from home, the inevitable happened. Biko and Jones were stopped at a roadblock.They were asked by the police to step out and open the boot. Jones attempted to open the boot but he couldn’t. The only person who could was Rams Ramokgopa and he was back at Zanempilo.According to reports by Dr Xolela Mangcu and others, the car had been in an accident and there was a dent just above the left tail-light that caused the boot to jam.Jones invited the cops to try but they also failed. Apparently, the cops were accusing Jones of been a terrorist who was on his way to see Steve Biko. Unbeknown to them, the man they were talking of was with them.The senior officer – Colonel Alf Oosthuizen – gave orders to clear the roadblock and drive the two guys to the closest police station in Grahamstown.The Colonel drove Rams’ car with Biko sitting beside him and Jones took a ride with the other officers.At the police station the car was thoroughly searched. Not even the ashtray avoided close scrutiny. They found Jones’ wallet which had a few Rands and his identity document so they knew who he was.To make the situation easy for Jones because Biko knew he would not talk on the basis of principle and would most likely be tortured to obtain the information, he admitted, “I am Bantu Steve Biko”.The cops were shocked. It never crossed their mind that they were with the Biko they were talking about.Biko and Jones were separated. Biko was taken to Walmer Police Station in Port Elizabeth while Jones was also taken to a prison in the same city, Algoa Police Station, but 250 km apart.It was the last time the two friends would see each other.Jones would spend a few years locked up. In less than a month, Steve Biko would be murdered and denied the unity that he cherished and pursued even when he knew that it could result in a lengthy prison sentence or cost him his life.What was his motivation? Biko like most true revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara and Che Guevara was guided by great feelings of love. Love for his fellow men. Love for his society. Love for his country. Love for freedom.It was this love that drove Biko to sacrifice all he had, career and family, for the ultimate price. His mission: The Quest of a True Humanity, which you can check out on Sister Nadine’s WordPress page: Iamgoodhope, encapsulates Biko’s ultimate goal.He wanted to restore the true humanity of those who had been oppressed and exploited because of the colour of their skin, and also those who were damaged, and had lost their humanity through, actively or passively, supporting the apartheid system.Biko’s has often been portrayed as the romantic and fearless leader but rarely is there a mention of how he had actively committed class suicide a theory pushed by Amilcar Cabral.Biko sacrificed his career and any privileges his class and education would have entitled him so that he could work with the poor and underprivileged.Those who supported apartheid were rewarded; those who opposed were stripped of their rights, their jobs, their voices, the right to earn and a whole lot of other rewards.By dedicating his time and life to developing projects like the Zanempilo Clinic and other community based projects run under the banner of Black Community Programmes, Biko had bridged the gap between the intelligentsia and the majority which he had diagnosed as a hindrance to the liberation struggle and accurately pointed out, “The separation of the black intelligentsia from the rest of the black society is a disadvantage to black people as a whole”.Biko illustrated in this short ysis that he was a visionary and he understood that to bridge this gap, the black intelligentsia had to commit class suicide and work with the rest of the black people.The failure of the current regime to bridge this gap has resulted in the rise of the technocrats and the big chief or big man syndrome which has resulted in high levels of corruption and the blurring between private and public interests.Even at this early age, Biko displayed a level of maturity that all of our post independence presidents have lacked.His organisational abilities were exceptional: he created organisations that were not reliant on him but were able to operate through having different people changing leadership on a regular basis.The murder of Biko left a gaping hole in the body politic of South Africa. The liberation movement lost the one man who had the ability to unify black people in solidarity.The years of political violence between the black liberation movements in the eighties illustrates how Biko’s leadership was sorely missed.It was as if he had recognised, long before, that the fragmentation of the resistance would one day become violent and he had sought to unify the movement before the violence erupted.More than that, South Africa lost a fearless revolutionary intellectual  who led by example, and who had a genuine liberation ideology – Black Consciousness – that sought to free the minds of the people.That no other leader after Biko ever attempted to free the minds of the people, bears testament to the depth and greatness of Biko’s gift and style of leadership.His greatest realisation was that “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.And it was through the decolonising of the mind that the people would ultimately be set free as he argues in his essay Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity.Biko understood that tyrants are not going to hand over power because they have sudden pangs of guilt but they will only do it when black people exert pressure on them and force them to concede power through internal or external agitation [or both].Hence his message reminds us today that we must continually stand against oppression as he often reminded us that, “We must accept that the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress”.Biko’s words remind us that we are complicit in any situation where we find ourselves oppressed or exploited because most of us endure it sheepishly because we are too afraid to speak up and lose our rewards from the system.Therefore, those who cherish freedom and liberation, like Biko and others who died in the liberation of South Africa, have to “overcome the personal fear for death”. It is only when we are able to transcend the fear of death that we will find ourselves on the way.It is not enough to be scholars of the Black Consciousness text, but we must embrace it’s spirit and live like Biko, following in his example and selfless sacrifice, and those other fearless revolutionary intellectuals who were prepared to commit class suicide and bridge the gap between the intelligentsia and the rest of the black people to move the goals of the struggle forward..2 CommentsFiled under Great African Leaders, Revolutionaries, Steve Bantu Biko, Under The SpotlightTagged as Africa, African Leaders, Apartheid South Africa, Black Consciousness, Black Consciousness Movement, Death of a revolutionary, I Write What I Like, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, South Africa, Steve Bantu Biko, Steve Biko, Winnie MandelaSometimes, I write poetry that I never get to share. I was a poet before I was a blogger.I wrote poetry that was published in a few anthologies. I even put together a collection of poetry I was keen on publishing but looking back today, a lot of it makes me cringe.I performed on the London Spoken Word Scene for a few years before I went to university to study writing or find inspiration for a novel.Between then and now, I have written less and less poetry although it was poetry that got me going for years when I had no outlet for my ideas or I was struggling with prose.I think part of it has to do with the academic approach to writing poetry which I found too scientific and akin to skinning and dissecting corpses.It put me off writing poetry for a while. By the time I was through with my studies, the poetry that had once bubbled effervescently from my mind was a dry well.However, that period of dissecting corpses did throw up some interesting projects that I worked on for my poetry modules.I recently came across some spoken word poetry I created for one of my modules as I was clearing my computer because the start disk was too full.I thought I would share it with you guys. The picture quality is not that great but the sound is cool. It is not very original but I had fun putting it together.It was inspired by This Poem I heard been read by Mutabaruka at Def Poetry on Youtube or you can watch it below. Enjoy.Leave a commentFiled under Creative Writing, PoetryTagged as About Writing, Abstract Writing, Africa, African Leaders, Black Consciousness, Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara, Dis Poem, Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba, Poetry, politics, Samora Machel, Spoken Word, Steve Bantu Biko, Steve Biko, Thomas SankaraIn William Shakespeare’s lyrical tale of “star-crosse’d” lovers, the legendary playwright penned four immortal lines that embody a struggle and tragedy that still plagues mankind to this day. In those lines, Juliet tells Romeo:“What’s in a name? Thatwhich we call a roseBy any other name wouldsmell as sweet.”Her point was that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention because she was in love with the person who happened to carry the Montague name but not the  name “Montague” nor the family.Looking at what is happening in South Africa, we can reach the same conclusion in describing the absurdity of those in power who tried to spin the xenophobia which resulted in the deaths of numerous “foreigners” by calling it by another misnomer, namely Afrophobia.We could rewrite Shakespeare’s immortal quote, trying to make sense of this crime against humanity:“What’s in a name? Thatwhich we call AfrophobiaBy any other name wouldstill be inhumane.”The point is clear: whether or not we call the xenophobic attacks Afrophobia, the outcome is still the same. They are senseless murders.Numerous people died. Many more were displaced. Businesses were destroyed. Properties looted. People are living in fear. People were horrified. Disgusted.A man is held in Jeppestown by the police in Johannesburg for allegedly attacking foreigners in the xenophobic attacks last month and looting businesses owned by foreigners.The nation is severely divided. Relations between nations are tense. Tempers are flaring across borders and social media. The forecast is not looking good for Africa.From the north to the south, the east to the west, Africa is in trouble. We are in trouble. Rarely has one incident, maybe with the exception of Boko Haram, set so many people in Africa against each other, or united them to condemn such depravity.Yet international condemnation was absent in the furore engulfing Africa at the time. The mainstream [western] media barely uttered a word for over a week or two. When it finally did, many social commentators argued it was too little too late.They argued that if the attacks had targeted white foreigners, they would have reacted sooner condemning the attacks in the strongest terms. Maybe there is some truth to that.If that was the case, President Jacob Zuma would have reacted swiftly and firmly to avoid a situation where NATO countries would venture to put boots on the ground to protect their citizens as what happened during the Crisis in the Congo during the reign of Patrice Lumumba, and in Egypt under the watch of Gamal Abdel Nasser at the time of the Suez C Crisis. No African president wants a situation like that.Residents from Jeppestown hostels flee for cover when the police fire rubber bullets to disperse the unruly rioters who were attacking people and destroying and looting business, local and foreign owned.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]The mainstream media’s’ sluggish and non-committal reaction led many to question if black lives were of equal value with white lives.Residents from Jeppestown hostels flee for cover when the police fire rubber bullets to disperse the unruly rioters who were attacking people and destroying and looting business, local and foreign owned.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]Not many were convinced the white media placed equal value on black lives as it did on white lives. Their coverage of issues in Africa or their bias in their reporting of the murder of black men and women in America and many other countries has led many to question their motives.Whether or not we call these xenophobic attacks Afrophobia, it does not mask the horror; the depravity, the inhumane, or the shocking reality of this callous snuffing out of human life.It goes against the moral and humane tenets of what we call Ubuntu [Zulu], Hunhu [Shona], Umntu [Xhosa – South Africa], Botho in Sesotho and Setswana [Botswana], Numunhu [Shangaan], Vhuthu [Venda], Bunhu [Tsonga], Utu in Kiswahili/ Swahili [Kenya and Tanzania], Ajobi [Yoruba – Nigeria], Abantu in [Luganda] Uganda and many other names across East, West and Southern Africa.These humane tenets of Ubuntu, Hunhu is the common thread that runs throughout all the different ethnic groups of East, West and Southern Africa.The men from Jeppestown hostels making gestures and brandishing various weapons to threaten foreign-owned businesses in their local neighbourhood. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]It’s the same common thread binding all Africans from East to  West Africa and Southern Africa as one.The men from Jeppestown hostels making gestures and brandishing various weapons to threaten foreign-owned businesses in their local neighbourhood. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]It’s testimony that we, Africans, spring from the same source and we have more in common than we have in differences.The Zulu saying, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”: a person is a person because of people encapsulates this thinking. We can break it down further into Sotho and Tsonga:Motho ke motho ka batho (Sotho)Munhu i munhu hi van’wana vanhu (Tsonga)The meanings are the same as the Zulu saying above. As we can see clearly, our African worldview or philosophy holds true that we are only human because of other human beings; therefore, when we dehumanise others, we are dehumanised as a result.Archbishop Desmond Tutu tried to explain the concept of Ubuntu. He said,Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu unobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have.Archbishop Desmond Mpilo TutuA group of NIgerian men attempt to salvage a car from their vehicle repair shop which was burnt down by mobs. The entire workshop was razed and all its contents, other cars, destroyed. The police keep watch over them.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]We are divine human beings but we are fighting each over borders the colonialists set up at the Berlin Conference in 1884 – 1885 when the European powers cut up our continent and divided it amongst themselves as their imperial conquests, creating these nations we inherited at independence.A group of NIgerian men attempt to salvage a car from their vehicle repair shop which was burnt down by mobs. The entire workshop was razed and all its contents, other cars, destroyed. The police keep watch over them.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]All these nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria, etc. are white constructs.Africa never had these artificial borders on a map until the colonialists cut up the continent to build their personal fiefdoms.Prior to that, we, Africans could move freely within our continent in search of food, greener pastures, water, etc. without restrictions as we have today.It was through these migrations that we intermarried, traded material goods and ideas and acquired new skills that enriched our various ethnic groups.However, the borders we have today hinder trade within the continent. They prevent the easy exchange of ideas, cultural and economical capital and exchange of human resources.A family packs their belongings and flee from Jeppestown after receiving death threats by angry mobs. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]The continued division is a hindrance to the development of Africa and we are impoverished because of it.A family packs their belongings and flee from Jeppestown after receiving death threats by angry mobs. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]The division perpetuates a continual state of arrested development which prevents us from realising our potential as a continent.The Europeans are constantly calling for continental unity: they realise that a united Europe is stronger in the political, economical, military and cultural spheres.Yet we, Africans, still refuse to see that our safety and security, progress and strength lies within our ability to unite as a continent.It seems that the tactics of divide and rule first used by the Romans and later adapted by the Europeans are still as effective today as they were back then in breaking our forward stride.As long as we are fighting for these small nations we inherited instead of knocking down these imperial borders, the greater vision of the United Africa Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and others called for will always remain a fleeting illusion.Some Africans pride themselves about their ability to think outside the box. Ironically, this idea is a cliché, therefore, it can only produce clichéd thinking.Furthermore, it is nothing but an illusion because those very people can’t think outside the borders set up through the colonisation of the continent, nor outside the confines of their intellectual sandboxes.We need to stop thinking nationally but develop a continental perspective because the future for Africa lies within the confines of the motherland. No nation is an island.Our inability to think beyond these border posts the colonialists set up for us is sheepish behaviour. It prevents us from manning up and dealing with the root causes of our poverty and oppression.It is the reason why many other races and people treat Africans like little boys and girls who constantly need guidance because we can’t do things for ourselves and improve our lot.Our minds have been twisted to respect flags: useless pieces of cloth coloured and designed by man but which have no value whatsoever.We have flag flying independence but no economic independence which means the very idea of independence is an illusion.We remain dependent on whoever is pulling the purse strings. They are the ones pulling the puppet strings of those caricatures of human brings we call African leaders.Instead of addressing the question of economic independence, we forsake the greater humane good in deference to these useless pieces of cloths that we pledge to die for, yet we wouldn’t die in the quest for humanity, or fighting the forces that seek to keep us politically and economically subservient.We wouldn’t die for our brothers or sisters but we would die for a useless piece of cloth. This illustrates the problems with the things that we value.The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human RightsAfrophobia or xenophobia is a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a violation of the right to life. It is a violation of the right to protection. Afrophobia or xenophobia violate almost all the rights that should be accorded to every human being.We should never let it spread its ugly roots in our communities. It is a poison that kills and tears apart the delicate fabric of society.Afrophobia or xenophobia is murder with an abstract name to divert attention from what is really going on in South Africa. It is murder with a different dress on.P An armed policemen in Johannesburg checks out the remains of a car sales shop where rows of cars lie under dust and soot after the business owned by a Nigerian was burnt down by some local South Africans during last month’s xenophobic madness.Afrophobia or xenophobia is unAfricanAfrophobia or xenophobia is an ugly thing: it is unAfrican. It is unAfrican for hosts to mistreat visitors.It goes against the tenets of Ubuntu, Hunhu, Umntu, Utu, Ajobi, Vhutu, Bunhu, Abantu, etc. most of us were taught to adhere to from an early age.We were taught to welcome and accommodate strangers. We were taught to offer food and water to visitors who visited us. Failure to observe these customs were frowned upon by our elders.It was a sure way to earn a chastisement and it was always condemned as a sign of ill breeding as it reflected poorly on ones upbringing. It reflected poorly on ones parents or guardians if one failed to observe these customs.A person who displayed values such as compassion, empathy, respect or morals was often described as munhu ane hunhu: a person imbued with humaneness.Anyone who lacked these ethics or morals was seen as a person asina hunhu or haana hunhu, a person lacking humaneness. They were not ashamed of behaving badly, robbing, disrespecting elders, cheating, lying, raping, stealing, killing, etc.Ubuntu, Hunhu, is what makes us munhu ane hunhu or vanhu vane hunhu: good humane people.It is a shame that those in the know tried to repackage murder and crimes under a more acceptable and palatable label. That is a shame because Ubuntu condemns corruption of any kind.They seem to have abdicated their African culture for a caricature of a hybrid culture that is undistinguishable. It seems like they lost their humaneness.Ubuntu/ Hunhu is the core of the African conception of humanism. A person who embodies this concept of humanism is said to be a good human being who understands propriety; they are morally upright.They’re responsible, honest, just, trustworthy, hard working, full of integrity, possess a cooperative spirit and can stand in solidarity with others.They are hospitable and devoted to the  well-being of the family and the wider community. In a nutshell, anyone with Ubuntu/ Hunhu understands how to uphold the norms and values of the family, the community and society.Therefore, they would never commit the horrific acts we witnessed because life in African culture is sacred.Those who fall short are often rebuked In Shona or Ndebele [Zimbabwe] as “Hausi hunhu ihwohwo/ Ayisibobuntu lobu” (This is not humanness).These type of people are viewed as ruffians or scoundrels because of their lack of a moral compass that shows humaneness.In African tradition or culture, murder is not encouraged. It is a harbinger of ngozi, a curse, because it causes avenging spirits to wipe out generations and cause bad luck until the deceased is appeased.Pre-colonisation, when a person took a person’s life, they had to atone for their transgression by compensating the family of the deceased; not only to compensate the family materially, but to appease the dead to allow them to rest in peace.In some cases, the perpetrator or his family were ordered to hand over a member of their family, normally a young girl – a virgin, to the family of the deceased. This was accompanied by rituals that had to be performed but I won’t get into the details here. That is a topic for another day.However, it illustrates the sanctity Africans had for the living. It was sacrilegious to take a life because the repercussions were devastating for everyone, including those who were not directly involved. Not even the unborn were immune from Ngozi when they finally came to be.However, it is worth reiterating that Afrophobia or xenophobia are unAfrican. It is not the way of Africans who know themselves and adhere to the philosophy of Ubuntu/ Hunhu.“Murder is murder”, a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall. She was correct and I concur with her.Learning from past tragediesLet us not forget that more than a month ago, Rwanda was commemorating 21 years of the genocide on the 7th of April 2015 and then these attacks happened weeks later.It seems like we, Africans, have not learnt the lessons that ensued from that tragedy and we are bound to repeat the same mistakes again.Let us not forget that while 800 000 to a million people were slaughtered, the people in power were busy dithering about what to call the genocide instead of taking action to prevent or contain it.It seems like we are repeating those mistakes again by drawing red herrings, trying to intellectualise these crimes against humanity. Whether it is Afrophobia or xenophobia, it is an ugly thing: it is unAfrican.While others may argue about the scale and numbers of the murders between what happened in Rwanda and in South Africa, it is irrelevant.One life callously snuffed out is one life too many. It can be avoided and it should be avoided.What is Afrophobia? I must admit that I was unaware of this word until these events occurred and I heard that the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini described these attacks as Afrophobia.Naturally, my curious nature forced me to look it up and find out what it really means. And a good starting point was Wikipedia. It describes Afrophobia as:“hostility toward people, culture, or ideas of African derivation, particularly those of Sub-Saharan negroid origin. Unlike Anti-Semitism, Afrophobia is primarily a racial, and, to a lesser extent , cultural phenomenon, lacking a strong religious dimension.”It goes on to state:“A degree of Afrophobic self-loathing has on occasion extended to blacks themselves, leading many in the 19th and early 20th centuries to adopt artificially straightened, lye-conditioned coiffures in repudiation of their natural hairstyles. The term ‘Afrophobia” is sometimes used with this ironic metonymy in mind, using the fear of the Afro as a metaphor for the fear of one’s African heritage.”Considering that the main victims of the attacks are people of African origin, it “appears” that Afrophobia is the appropriate term.Hence the irony: the hostility is directed towards people of African derivation by people who look like them.It appears to be a fear of self or “self-loathing”. It is a fear driven by ignorance. A fear heightened by lack of morals.A fear elevated by a segment of society who cannot understand what brings other Africans to South Africa and what motivates them to strive against all odds and succeed in an alien territory.It is a dangerous fear because it can and has been manipulated by politicians and media by channelling it to disastrous ends as we have witnessed in the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and many other conflicts throughout history.It always begins with the denigration of others, demonising them and scape-goating them for the socio-economic and political ills a nation faces.On the other hand Joseph L Celucien defines Afrophobia as “the fear and denigration of Africa, and the dissociation of things African and peoples of African ancestry”.Both definitions imply that Afrophobia can be self inflicted or inflicted by the other, non Africans.In this case, the attacks in South Africa are inflicted by “some” black South Africans on other, mainly, black Africans from other nations on the continent.It is ironic that there are elements within South African society that refer to “Africa” as if it was a foreign country, and they live on a totally different continent or planet totally detached from the motherland.It is this “dissociation” Celucien refers to as the detachment from the immediate surroundings or physical or emotional experience that makes it possible to murder one’s own in cold blood without feeling a thing.Some of these Africans don’t act like Africans living in Africa, but Europeans living in Africa. They create a “them” and “us” mentality which is an ingredient that fuels xenophobia.It is a shame that some of these individuals are powerful figures within the government, society and the media who should know better than to ferment hatred and division.The Afrophobia IllusionThe operative word above was “appears”. That doesn’t mean I accept that what is happening or happened is Afrophobia. I believe it is xenophobia.The question is when Europeans discriminate against their fellow Europeans from the continent, do they cry out Europhobia? No, they do not.It is simply xenophobia. Therefore, it is idiotic for us Africans to claim it is Afrophobia: if the same thing happened anywhere else in the world, it would be labelled as xenophobia.We cannot deny what happened by trying to muddy the waters, claiming that it is Afrophobia. These attacks on people of African origin from other countries in Africa is XENOPHOBIA plain and simple.The complaint is against “foreigners”, albeit black ones; therefore, there is no way we can spin the truth unless those in the media and in power have ulterior motives.Why are black Africans under attack by their fellow black South African kin?There lies the absurdity of the attacks. It is an anomaly the term “foreigners” among “some” black South Africans refers to black Africans only.Whites are viewed as expatriates, investors or tourists. They are not perceived as foreigners but people bringing in foreign currency, opportunities, jobs, cultural capital, etc.Because they don’t share the same spaces as the majority, they are not perceived as a direct threat in the competition for scant resources.In contrast, Black Africans often referred to locally as “makwerekwere”, a derogatory term demonising them as thieves, are perceived as people who come to South Africa to sell drugs, steal jobs and opportunities from the locals.They are often accused of stealing women and men too absurdly as illustrated in the picture below. Who would want to steal the woman of the guy below?In other cases, they are accused of stealing whole suburbs like Yeoville, Berea or Hillbrow in central Johannesburg.Ironically, the area that foreigners, black Africans, occupy is a grain of sand in a desert when compared to the area controlled by white South Africans or white foreigners which makes this argument most absurd.To make matters more complicated, a lot of blacks from other countries end up living in the shanty towns, townships and rural areas or farms with black South Africans.Hence, because they share the same space, both are pitted to compete against one another for a place on the lowest rung on the South African socio-economic ladder.Such competition opens up room for hostilities and consequently the ugly scenes we are witnessing today.The legacy of Apartheid and colonialism subliminally brainwashed black people to respect white life because it supposedly had more value. This taboo was reinforced through subliminal brainwashing by convincing black people that they were inferior and whites superior through separate development.It was a taboo for a black person to kill a white person then. The consequences of killing a white person were worse for killing a white person compared to killing a black person.Even looking at a white woman could cost a black man his life or a lifetime behind bars. The old immorality laws made sure blacks always knew their place and forced them to respect white life.It seems like the legacy of Apartheid was internalised and on a subconscious level White foreigners are less likely to be targeted as black foreigners are.It is also ironic that a lot of Chinese and other Asian nationalities often take up jobs in South Africa or marry South African women yet they are not targeted in the same manner as other Africans from other countries.In a way, this illustrates that issues about jobs or women are not really the underlying causes for these attacks.What sparked these xenophobic attacks?Politicians, the media and others have institutionalised xenophobia and have often used unsavoury terms to demonise black foreigners, blaming them for everything that is wrong in South Africa, that is when they are not blaming Rhodes or Apartheid.The latest rounds of attacks were allegedly sparked by something the inappropriately misnamed Zulu king, Goodwill [Illwill] Zwelethini said, calling for the foreigners to pack their bags and go. He also allegedly likened them to lice and ants.According to a speech made by Julius Malema in parliament, Zuma’s son is alleged to have added his vitriol to an already volatile situation.However, it goes further back. There were other attacks in 2008. Prior to that there were low level attacks that date back to the mid 90’s but never gained any traction. They remained isolated incidents and under the radar.In recent years, high level verbal attacks by powerful members in society scape-goating foreigners has increased the hatred of black foreigners. They have been blamed for crime and violence as if South Africa was not already a crime ridden country and one of the crime capitals of the world.Foreigners are blamed for the weakening rand. They are blamed for the lack of jobs. They are blamed for poor or non existent service delivery. They are blamed for the lack of housing.Social, economic or political ills are blamed on them. They are convenient scapegoats because they don’t have a voice. They have no means of articulating their position because of lack of organisation or a body to articulate their concerns.The lie is repeated often enough and many people accept is as the gospel truth. However, very few people are willing to critically examine the root causes and point out that an incompetent leadership is the root cause of the social, economic and political ills South Africa is experiencing.Very few want to admit that the growth of a tiny black elite and a lack of socio-economic and political transformation are the reasons why the poor are getting poorer and it is not the vulnerable African immigrants who are the problem.The meteoric rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] under Julius Malema demonstrates that there is discontent among a significant cross section with regards to the lack of political and socio-economic transformation.It is a motivating factor in the unrest. However, to deflect from the truth, politicians create an enemy to blame for the problems poor South Africans are experiencing. The voiceless and vulnerable immigrants are made the scapegoats to shoulder this blame in a manner resembling Hitler blaming the Jews for Germany’s woes.The reality is that whether or not the immigrants are driven out, the situation is not going to change for those competing at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.Without any meaningful transformation, the poor are going to get poorer and the rich richer. There needs to be a greater push towards changing the mindsets of certain sections of the community who remain illiterate and have no practical skills to offer in the workplace.There needs to be more done to change the mindset of those who spend their time drinking and chasing women, parting with whatever little money they have purchasing juju to bring them luck or secure jobs; or those who believe that funding the flamboyant lifestyle of prosperity prophets will miraculously transform their lives, and they will be blessed in return with miracle money and prosperity.This cultural paradigm needs to be addressed first. However, there isn’t a Steve Bantu Biko like figure alive today who can address the question of psychological emancipation and encourage a spirit and mentality of self reliance.More needs to be done to address the dependency syndrome that makes some believe that the government is a good parent that can cater for all of the needs of everyone. People need to do more to work on continually improving their self through their own means instead of waiting for others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves.The question is how long are those at the bottom going to carry on walking around in their dazed stupors, refusing to see what is so obvious.How long are they going to continue voting sentimentally for those who are going to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses?Divide and RuleWe are all oppressed. But we are oppressed in different ways by the ruling elite. Some are oppressed by their gender. Some by race. Some ethnicity. Some class, religion, political affiliation, etc.The motive is keep us fighting among ourselves over the crumbs and trivial matters; while we are distracted by our infighting, they are making off with the lion’s share of the economic cake.As long as we remain fragmented and divided by ideological differences, the elite have nothing to worry about. They can get away with murder and they will use their dirty tactics and hungry youths and people to do their dirty work or fight wars dreamed up by old men.It is no coincidence that one of the looters arrested in the pictures above and below claim they were sent to carry out xenophobic violence and loot the shops of foreigners or local businesses.These are criminals with no compunction who have no ideological standing. They are rebels without a cause.These are not the type of people who can or want to work when they can be rewarded through instant gratification, reaping where they did not sow.They blame foreigners for taking their jobs but use that as an excuse to rob hard working people. They blame foreigners taking their women to find easy pickings for their criminal activities.They are criminals masquerading as protesters with genuine concerns. Why are they not attacking the Chinese who are doing the very same things they are complaining of?Don’t get me wrong. I am not inciting violence against any race or nationality. My question is a rhetoric one and nothing more than that.Consequences of XenophobiaWe all suffer, directly or indirectly, from the consequences of xenophobia. When one black person commits a transgression, the whole race is tarnished.We don’t uplift our nation or race. Rather, we continue to reinforce the racial stereotypes that some have tried for centuries to prove true.We have come a long way as a continent but we have a long way to go still. All the progress that we have made is wiped out by transgressions like these xenophobic attacks. It makes us look less humane. It makes us look like barbarians, people who haven’t seen the light.The families of the victims of the attacks have lost sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandsons, etc. They have lost breadwinners. They have lost hope.The future is a much darker place. We cannot even begin to imagine their grief. Only someone who has lost a family member through senseless violence can appreciate it. The rest will have to imagine it.The families of the perpetrators suffer too because of the actions of their sons. They are ashamed of the actions of their sons. They are stigmatised.They also have their losses and share of grief to contend with, let alone the ruined futures of the young men involved in some of these gruesome attacks as illustrated by the consequences the families of the murderers of Emmanuel Sithole a.k.a. Josias suffered after he was murdered in Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, South Africa.As I touched on above, there has been a massive fallout between South Africa, its neighbours and other countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, etc.Nigeria recalled its high commissioner. Malawi was threatening to expel the South African Ambassador to the country.South African workers who were based in Mozambique had to be repatriated back home because of fears that they would be attacked.The South African Embassy in Nigeria was shut down for over a week due to protests in Nigeria.A number of countries have repatriated their nationals back home. Over two weekends, there were protests at the South African Embassy in London.The whole continent is destabilised because of the actions of a few. There are some who claim that there are efforts by external forces to create such a situation and exploit it. Whatever the truth is, we are responsible for our own actions and we have to accept it like men and women with minds of their own to think.The Rand fell while these xenophobic attacks were occurring. It is not Africans who benefit from the fallout of the Rand but the major currencies and we have to pay more to make ends meet in South Africa. It is the poor who suffer when inflation rises.Armed members of the SAPS gesture to a Nigerian man to keep his distance to prevent him from approaching a South African Man who has been arrested while in the process of looting a Nigerian owned business in Jeppestown, Johannesburg. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]  There are on-line petitions and campaigns to boycott South African artists, companies and products.Armed members of the SAPS gesture to a Nigerian man to keep his distance to prevent him from approaching a South African Man who has been arrested while in the process of looting a Nigerian owned business in Jeppestown, Johannesburg. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]  Some campaigners are calling for the likes of the Zulu King to be hauled before the ICC. Others are calling for South Africa to be expelled from SADC and the African Union and leave it isolated as it was during the Apartheid era.However, the truth is that it is not going to happen. There will be some posturing by ambassadors, presidents and politicians vying for political capital to brush up their bruised egos but nothing meaningful will come out of it until the next wave of attacks when all the posturing will be repeated again like a never-ending charade.Reviews and inquests will be conducted but it will not make a difference. It is a part of the sham that is modern politics. Afterwards, announcements will be made that they have learnt their lessons and politicians will make empty promises again.Politicians are going to attend meetings at the AU and SADC to discuss these matters over numerous courses of meals but the discussions at the conference table will serve us no purpose.Tackling the root causes of xenophobic violenceHowever, the politicians will not address or tackle the root causes. It will not happen. Tackling the root causes will mean introspection and constructive change which is not something our African politicians are used to or willing to do.Tackling the root causes of xenophobic violence means educating the people and tackling the high level of illiteracy, ignorance, poverty.It means delivering on election pledges, transparency and honesty from those in government. It means structural changes to the socio-economic and political order. It means getting rid of corruption and bad governance.No leader is willing to tackle these issues head on. African leaders, as a collective, all shy away from tackling these issues because they believe that they will threaten their survival.Keeping the people divided and fighting each other and struggling to survive means the poor don’t have the luxury to think, and develop an awareness of why they are hungry and poor.By keeping people hungry and fighting between themselves, politicians and the elite prevent the masses from thinking critically and turning against them.It is at times like this we miss leaders like Steve Biko and his Black Consciousness Movement and philosophy. I can imagine Biko reminding the people that:“The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country [on the continent] of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.”The parenthesis above is mine. I believe Biko would find it difficult to believe that an African would be considered a foreigner on the continent of his or her birth; he would stand up and speak out against the reduction of the black man and woman’s dignity through xenophobia and the reckless utterances by those who yield power in society.That no other leader after Biko has attempted to empower the people and decolonise their minds reinforces his idea that “the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.Politicians, like ticks, thrive on the blood of a mainly ignorant population. They can piss on them and tell them it is raining; their deaf, dead, dumb and blind followers will mobilise to convince the masses that the president said it is raining and so that is that.Forget that the piss is warm and stinks. These ignoramuses in our midst will ignore the evidence in front of their eyes and demonise whoever thinks with their own mind and rejects the lie that it is raining. Those who reject the word will be accused of being unpatriotic or sell-outs; i.e. if they are not subjected to violence to silence their protestations.Africa is facing a crisis of leadership as I wrote before and we need new leaders to take the continent in a different direction.Is the influx of foreigners into South Africa a unique situation?The influx of foreigners into South Africa is in no way a unique situation. It is a universal occurrence. Even countries without economies as strong or as diversified like South Africa such as Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, etc. are taking their share of economic and political refugees displaced within Africa.But, there are no cries of xenophobia yet they also face dire economic circumstances and the same high levels of unemployment.Yes, there are complaints of the Chinese immigrants coming into African countries and killing industries with cheap imports or taking over whole sectors of the economy or monopolising some mining sectors.However, we are yet to see uprisings against the Chinese from other Africans across the continent as we witnessed in South Africa.The xenophobic attacks we witnessed are unique to South Africa. The scale and barbarity of the acts eclipses anything we have probably ever seen.We have witnessed politicians in the west using immigration as a means of manipulating the electorate using fear tactics.Nigel Farage’s UKIP Party manipulated immigration in the run-up to the recent UK Elections to the   extent of whipping out xenophobic fervour against immigrants, African and European.Consequently, the Conservatives, Labour and others had to create a perception that they were tough on immigration to avoid being run over by the anti-immigrant electorate.In this scenario, immigrants received the blame for lack of jobs, unemployment, losses to the NHS, etc.The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of teaching, nursing and IT jobs that are lying vacant because there aren’t qualified people who can fill those jobs.It is a sham that slogans like British Jobs for the British are created and they resonate with the populace when in reality, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs British people can’t fill because they don’t have the necessary skills.The truth is that they are going to recruit foreigners to fill those jobs because there is no other way around it. Politicians play dangerous games by creating such scenarios when the reality is very different from the perception.This is not to insinuate that this only happens in the UK. No way. It happens in all the major countries in the west such as the US, Canada, etc.So as stated above, the South African situation is not unique but they have dealt with it in a manner that we have not witnessed anywhere else in the world where people are experiencing the same problems.Light at the end of the tunnelWhenever there is a dark period, there is also light at the end of the tunnel. Forgive me when I say South Africans as if all South Africans are the same. I have stated above that “some” sectors of society are responsible for what happened.There are probably larger pockets of society who are totally against what happened. They did not want this to be done in their name. They do not condone xenophobic violence of Afrophobia or whatever you call it.Children join the protests against xenophobia. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]We have also heard of various movements within the ghettoes that have been stepping up to the plate, patrolling their neighbourhoods to protect foreigners and their businesses.Children join the protests against xenophobia. [Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]There are numerous initiatives started by South Africans both at home and in the Diaspora to say #NoToXenophobia.There are a number of musicians, artists and politicians who have stood up and said No To Xenophobia.Let us not forget all those good hearted South Africans who said enough is enough and took to the streets in protest, demanding an end to the violence and denouncing xenophobia.Anti-xenophobia protesters take to the streets of Johannesburg in thousands, holding up their placards and making sure their message is heard loudly and clearly.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]There is hope at the end of it. There always is. When we lose hope, we die.Anti-xenophobia protesters take to the streets of Johannesburg in thousands, holding up their placards and making sure their message is heard loudly and clearly.[Picture source: Ihsaan Haffejee – Al Jazeera]I say that the demon of xenophobia/ Afrophobia must be exorcised from the hearts and minds of the black man and woman. As they say in South Africa – Simunye – We Are One!I believe in the words of Biko and his belief that, “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face”.South Africa is not going to do that through xenophobia. It is going to do that by working together with her sisters and brothers in Africa and uplifting the human race.We have a lot in common. We share a common heritage and it is our duty to uplift each other from the gutter as those who did it before us like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel and others did to see a decolonised Africa.We are not each others enemy. We want and need the same things. We want a greater slice of the economic cake that comes from the rich repositories of mineral wealth that ensues from our continent.We want a better life for all: equal access to minerals, economical and political resources. We want an Africa free from violence, starvation and poverty.Our greatest enemy today is corruption, ignorance and poor governance. They are doing more damage to Africa then anything else. It is the reason why our progress has been arrested. It is the reason why the socialism we fought died in the embryonic stages.The spectre of neocolonialism and imperialism are on us: they are making off with our wealth while we are dying of thirst yet we are standing in water.George Orwell, the famous writer, once wrote in the dystopian novel 1984 something to the effect that Africa was the continent that was passed over from one conqueror to another.Reality is stranger than fiction; it seems like this fictitious work has some morsels of truth in it: we are becoming a continent that is fulfilling the words of Orwell as we are passed on from one hand of the conqueror to another.Dear brothers and sisters, we must learn to love ourselves. We must love one another. Even the revolutionary is driven by enormous love.It is important to have an enormous capacity of love to enable us to carry out the arduous and most difficult task of denouncing the cruel, and obscene assault against human beings who have the least in society when it is so much easier and comfortable to accommodate the power structure from which we can reap benefits for ourselves.Our commitment must not yield to social injustice; we must give hope and hold firm to the conviction that an unfair and discriminatory world can be changed to be more just, less dehumanising and more humane. Change is difficult but it is not impossible. It is possible. We have numerous opportunities and possibilities to shake the structure of the world.In the words of the great pedagogue, Paulo Freire, “I think that with a tranquil more alert and awakened consciousness, we should assume a position of indignation. I mean we should become indignant, but not at the favela dweller who kills, but indignant at the historical, political, social and economical situation that creates the possibility of me being killed by this unfortunate person”.The root causes of the xenophobic violence doesn’t lie with the poor who have carried out that violence. On the contrary, the root causes that force migrants to flee their countries do not rest on the shoulders of the migrants.Likewise, both are pawns in a greater struggle for power and control. It is a struggle shaped by historical, political, social and economical situations of which both are not always conscious of, or have an awareness of how they have shaped circumstances, but they view each other as enemies or competition.Brothers and sisters, we all need the same basic things in life. All our countries are in the grip of the same forces. Therefore, we need each other to struggle against these forces that seek to use our African-ness as a mark of subservience.Let us not be driven to desperate measures and remember that we are unofficial diplomats of Africa. As diplomats of the continent, we should work towards uplifting our motherland in all our endeavours.Let us uplift one another from the slum and continue to strive for excellence in our chosen fields. Our focus should be on the kind of legacy that we are going to leave for our children and their descendants.Are we going to keep up the stereotypes or are we going to break the chains? I believe we have the capacity to start a new chapter and continue where our respective revolutions left off and restore dignity and humanity to all Africans.Oppression and poverty are dehumanising. It is our moral duty, our political duty to make Africa a less dehumanising place. Therefore, as unofficial ambassadors we must lead by example and be proud of our culture and remind the world of the beauty of our culture: that is our respect for life, private property and the likes as the picture by Steve Biko spells out below.We are not each other’s enemy; we should be each other’s keeper. We have nothing to lose but our colonial chains. We have a land overflowing with milk and honey, gold and diamonds, cobalt and coltan, platinum and uranium and everything that the world desires. Africans from all over unite! We have a continent to win. Aluta Continua!It is time to pause and reflect and realise that to reach our goals we need each other. No man or nation is an island. Our generation must do to our governments what our predecessors did to the colonial regimes if they refuse to change the political and socio-economical structures of Africa. Revolution is the only solution!I leave you with the following words by Steve Biko, “Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood”. Aluta Continua!Leave a commentA scholar of Black Consciousness, Thegatvolblogger, studying I Write What I Like which provides an exposition of Steve Bantu Biko’s Black Consciousness Philosophy.I Write What I Like is a book featuring the collection of articles written by Steve Bantu Biko. It is an exposition of the Black Consciousness Philosophy. The book’s title comes from the heading of the column in which Biko published his articles in the SASO [South African Student’s Organisation] newsletter. These articles written using his pseudonym Frank Talk form the core of the book.I Write What I Like also comprises addresses, letters, reports and interviews he gave during the formation of SASO in 1969 until months before his death in 1977.This collection was published in 1978 a year after his death. Aelred Stubbs edited the collection and also wrote the preface.The series of articles, fifteen in total plus four extras, that form I Write What I Like are supplemented by two transcripts from Biko’s evidence in the SASO/ BPC Trial that took place in the first week of May 1976; an interview conducted by a European journalist in the first half of 1977 and an extract from an interview conducted by an American businessman month’s before Biko’s final detention and death.The extras in the book are What is Black Consciousness; The Righteousness of our Strength, Our Strategy for Liberation and On Death. In total, there are 19 chapters in this collection that set out the Black Consciousness Philosophy in Biko’s own words.The video below is the first part of the interview which appears in Chapter 18 of I Write What I Like: it is entitled Our Strategy for Liberation although the video title states Steve Biko Speaks on the Black Consciousness Movement.The complete video which is in three parts is a recapitulation of the whole argument or exposition of Black Consciousness collected in this book.He reflects on the impact of the student uprisings in Soweto and elsewhere in South Africa since June 1976, and lays out his plan for a united liberation front to confront the forces of oppression.It is here that he explains his vision and unique mission to reconcile the African National Congress [ANC] and Pan African Congress [PAC] and bring them into this united liberation front. At this point he is still hoping for a non-violent solution to stem the rising racial conflict.I first encountered Biko through fleeting media reports as I was growing up. There was an aura about him that struck a lasting impression on me then but I was  way too young then to understand his significance and relevance.I understood then as I know now that he was unjustly killed by white policemen. Over the years I gathered fragments here and there that put more perspective to this face that was embedded in my subconscious.It was only when I stumbled on the movie Cry Freedom, the powerful film produced and directed by Richard Attenborough featuring Denzel Washington as Biko, that I began to gain a better understanding of his significance and legacy.The book Biko written by Donald Woods, former editor of the Daily Dispatch and a personal friend of Biko, introduced me to the Black Consciousness Philosophy.The book contained quotes and extracts from Biko’s article which gave me a deeper appreciation of the finer nuances about the Black Consciousness Philosophy.It wet my appetite and I hungered to feed myself from from the source. Both the movie and the book transformed me into a convert and set me off on my quest to read more about Biko until I discovered I Write What I Like. That was my conversion.Since then I have read the book numerous times. With each subsequent reading, I always discover something I missed during the previous reading.The book is so well written, any reader, reviewer or critic is spoilt for quotes which is a testimony to the quality of its content and ideological relevance. That is the hallmark of a good writer. Each time I read the text I wish I had written those lines.My first experience of engaging with the writing of Biko was like discovering an oasis of freedom in a desert of enslavement. His work is on the same par as the writing of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, the speeches of Thomas Sankara and the Autobiography of Malcolm X.Humanity would be much impoverished if we were robbed of the work of these prophet intellectuals and philosophical giants.My only criticism of the book is that it is too short and left me wanting more which is a good thing.Steve Biko, or Bantu as he was popularly known among his own people in Ginsberg [King William’s Town], was the legendary anti-apartheid activist, dissident or public intellectual and Black Consciousness philosopher.Bantu was the name he was given by his parents when he was born on the 18th of December 1946 in King William’s Town. Bantu means people.It was an apt name, a premonition, a precursor of his abilities or God given gift to reach out and connect with old and young people and others of all races. I Write What I Like reflects this quality of Biko.He was the co-founder of SASO, the Black Consciousness Movement and the Black Community Programmes which set up community programmes like the Ginsberg Crèche, Ginsberg Educational Fund, Njwaxa Home Industries, Zimele Trust Fund [established to help black political prisoners and their families] and Zanempilo Health Clinic.I Write What I Like reinforces Biko’s belief that the liberation and salvation of Black people in South Africa lies in their own hands. It will come about when they operate as a unified group. It is only through the liberation of their minds that they can break their shackles of subjugation.Black Consciousness is his special inspiration, the unwavering belief that the Black is as equal and as worthy as any other. This is not mere grounds for recrimination.  Far from it.He wishes the Black man and woman has the same rights as others and that they must fearlessly claim them. Freedom and liberty means personal responsibility which is important to pursue, even unto death, or compromise full personhood.These are his beacons, cardinal points, goalposts and references points. These form his guide. These are some of the key tenets of the Black Consciousness Philosophy and the movement of which he was a co-founder.There are recurring themes in I Write What I Like. These are Blackness; consciousness, fear, freedom, liberals, liberation, oppression, power, racism, subjugation. These themes are interwoven within the series of articles to form the Black Consciousness philosophy.Biko’s intention is to conscientise Black people to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call an awareness of their situation, to be able to yse it, and to provide answers for themselves.For Biko, “Black Consciousness is a way of life, the most positive call to come out of the black world for a long time”. It is not hyperbole. It is not political rhetoric.It is revolutionary. It is the future. It is the vehicle that transforms the attitudes and thinking of generations to come. It is revolutionary because it rejects the old approach, old slogans, protests, and meaningless rhetoric of previous years in the struggle against apartheid.The language of yesteryear is dead. Buried. Terms like coalition, fear of white policemen or the government, integration, protests, etc. are remnants of a bygone era.The door is shut in the face of white integrationists. The ranks are closed. Black students, on the other hand, begin to rethink their position in Black-white coalitions.There emerges in South Africa a group of angry young black men who are beginning to grasp the notion of their particular uniqueness and who are eager to define who they are and what.The emergence of SASO and its tough policy of non involvement with the white world sets people’s minds thinking along new lines.It is a challenge to the age-old tradition in South Africa that opposition to apartheid is enough to qualify whites for acceptance by the Black world.Biko is at the forefront of this radical thinking. He is one of the key thinkers and strategists. He is not a mere theorist but a man of action.He helps set up organisations rooted in oppressed communities, promoting self-reliance projects that affirm that blacks should earn their own keep with dignity while taking care of one another.They should reassess how they use their economic, cultural, social and political capital, and reinvest it within their own communities to uplift themselves.The myth of the invincibility of the white man is exposed. His white yardstick of values and beliefs is discarded like an ill fitting garment. The masquerade of apartheid is unmasked and the vanity exposed and challenged.The Black Consciousness Movement re-shapes the struggle terrain and redefines the rules and terms of engagement. Their focus shifts from the periphery and they begin an in-looking process that focuses on the mind of the oppressed because they realise that it is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the oppressor.The book covers the philosophy of Black Consciousness. It addresses crucial and diverse issues such as African culture, apartheid, bantustans, Black liberation, capitalism, the Christian church, economic exploitation, white liberals, white racism, and Western support for the apartheid regime, etc.I Write What I Like captures Biko’s charisma, intellect and vision. It portrays an astute philosopher rooted at the center of the struggle for freedom, setting out his idyllic road map to a new society.Philosophy is not a term normally associated with or attributed to Biko. He’s primarily viewed through the prism of a political activist, dissident or public intellectual and overshadowed by the looming shadow of his tragic death.In layman terms, a philosopher is a person who studies philosophy, or a person who remains calm and stoical in the face of difficulties or disappointments. Both definitions are Biko personified.Numerous writers such as Father Alered Stubbs, Donald Woods – Biko, Barney Pityana and Xolela Mangcu – Biko A Life who were personally acquainted with the legend bear testimony to Biko’s character as someone who remained calm and stoical in the face of difficulties or disappointment.The book is a wealth of history, philosophy and psychological insight, understanding, wisdom and wit. Biko was an avid reader and the book reflects his engagement with the philosophical writings of Jean Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, Aime Cesaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Stokely Carmichael a.k.a. Kwame Ture, Frantz Fanon, etc.I Write What I Like contains references, quotes, allusions, approaches, ideas or methodologies similar to the intellectuals mentioned above.This is an illustration of his intellectual fluidity. The references to their philosophies or thoughts suggests Biko’s mind is a multiplicity of selves. Understanding those selves implies understanding others and society in general.Most voracious or widely read readers are able to learn twice as fast because they have the ability to learn through the experiences and lessons that took others a lifetime to understand and articulate as coherent truths.Some of these allusions, approaches, ideas, references and methodological similarities are evident.For example, Carmichael and Hamilton Define Black Power in 1967 state, “The adoption of the concept of Black Power is one of the most legitimate and healthy developments in American politics and race relations in our time“.In contrast, Biko writes in White Racism and Black Consciousness, “The call for Black Consciousness is the most positive call to come from any group in the black world for a long time”.There are differences in the contexts, diction and semantics but the similarities in defining themselves is evident. However, it doesn’t end there.Carmichael and Hamilton state, “Black Power therefore calls for black people to consolidate behind their own, so that they can bargain from a position of strength”.“Before black people join the open society, they should first close their ranks, to form themselves into a solid group to oppose the definite racism that is meted out by the white society, to work out their direction clearly and bargain from a position of strength,” Biko writes in comparison.The Black Power Movement state “Black visibility is not Black Power”. Biko and SASO on the hand say, “What we want is not black visibility but real black participation”.It is evident the Black Power Movement and the Black Consciousness Movement share similar ideas and strategies. The two movements are like ideological twins.They are willing to walk on a tightrope. They refuse to conform to external expectations. They dare to invent the future like mad men. Their thinking is on a deeper level. They question power. They question values. They question identities, the system and everything. Their focus is not merely on external decolonisation but on the decolonisation of the mind which Biko refers to as an inwards looking process.Stokely Carmichael with his wife, South African musician, Miriam Makeba shortly before they left America to live in Guinea, Africa.There are also similarities in their strategies such as the exclusion of liberals, calls for organisation, calls to reject racist institutions, define their own goals, lead their own organisations and support their own organisations. They are kindred spirits who have never met but are like liberation twins who are separated at birth but still think alike though they are thousands of miles apart. Though their paths never cross, but the roads they travel are similar.The following quotation from the Black Power Movement [Carmichael and Hamilton] wouldn’t be out of place in I Write What I Like:“The point is obvious: black people must lead and run their own organizations. Only black people can convey the revolutionary idea – and it is a revolutionary idea – that black people are able to do things themselves. Only they can help create in the community an aroused and continuing black consciousness that will provide the basis for political strength. In the past, white allies have often furthered white supremacy without the whites involved realizing it, or even wanting to do so. Black people must come together and do things for themselves. They must achieve self-identity and self-determination in order to have their daily needs met. . . “Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement and the Black Power Movement in America have similar ideas and approaches although they are operating in different contexts. This is probably due to the similarities of their struggles.They are both fighting against a capitalist system where white capital and racism identify the black skin as a mark of subservience; therefore, subjects to be subjugated and economically exploited for the benefit of the white population.Biko believes that the Black people of the world, in choosing to reject the legacy of colonialism and white domination and to build around themselves their own values, standards and outlook to life, are establishing a solid base for meaningful cooperation among themselves in the larger battle of the Third World against the rich nations.In the essay, Black Consciousness & the Quest for a True Humanity, illustrated in the image of the excerpt below, it illustrates Biko’s understanding of different disciplines resulting from his wide reading.The link above links to a PDF version of this article that you can read online. Many argue that this is one of Steve Biko’s most articulate articles and the best he ever wrote.An excerpt from the article Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity written by Steve Biko and taken from the book I Write What I Like.This article addresses the points I raised above. It goes further to pinpoint the role of the church in the subjugation and exploitation of Black people through creating a just cause condoning the oppression of Black People.Biko believes the Black Consciousness approach would be irrelevant in a colourless and non-exploitative society. It is relevant here because the anomalous situation is a deliberate creation of man.“The leaders of the white community had to create some kind of barrier between blacks and whites so that the whites could enjoy privileges at the expense of blacks and still feel free to give a moral justification for the obvious exploitation that pricked even the hardest of white consciences,” he writes.It is worth reading further to understand how and why these barriers were created, and the role the missionaries played although they knew that not everything they were doing was necessary to spread the word of God.One of the greatest influences on Biko’s Black Consciousness Philosophy is Frantz Fanon. Fanon’s works such as Black Skin, White Masks inspired  some of Biko’s articles like Black Souls in White Skins, White Racism and Black Consciousness and Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity.The Martinique-born Afro-French psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer, Frantz Fanon, who wrote books like The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks had a major influence on the writing and thinking of Steve Bantu Biko.At times Biko paraphrases Fanon. At times he acknowledges his contribution through direct quotes; e.g. he quotes him directly in White Racism and Black Consciousness: As Fanon puts it: “Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content; by a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it.”As pointed out above, “emptying the native’s brain of all form and content” and distorting, disfiguring and destroying of the past was the modus operandi of the missionary and his brainwashed education and religion.Biko is not content to merely paraphrase or quote Fanon. He applies his understanding to what he knows within the South African context.And in response to Fanon’s diagnosis, Biko notes the condition and prescribes the remedy to cure these social and historical ills: “We must reject the attempts by the powers that be to project an arrested image of our culture. This is not the sum total of our culture. They have deliberately arrested our culture at the tribal stage to perpetuate the myth that African people were near cannibals, had no real ambitions in life, and were preoccupied with sex and drink. In fact the wide-spread of vice often found in the African townships is a result of the interference of the white man in the natural evolution of the true native culture.” Thus for Biko, his emphasis is on Black people and restoring to Black people a sense of the great stress they placed on the value of human relationships to illustrate that they always had a high regard of people; their property and life.The reclamation and restoration of these values are central to the Black Consciousness Philosophy.The call for Blacks to lead the struggle against apartheid is a dominant theme. According to Biko, no one can free Black people except Black people themselves.He identifies the strength of the white power structure and sets it out, “The overall success of the white power structure has been in managing to bind the white’s together in defence of the status quo”.Therefore, Biko aims to bind Black people together and create a unified liberation movement which uses its group dynamics to challenge the hegemony and status quo.He also draws inspiration from the long liberation history of South Africa and its revolutionaries and touches on it in the article above.This history goes back to the two great Xhosa chiefs, Ngqika and Ndlambe, and their respective prophet-intellectuals, Ntsikana and Nxele, in the 19th century.This tradition also includes Tiyo Soga and Robert Sobukwe; the latter led the breakaway from the ANC to found the PAC because the ANC fraternised with white liberals and communists.The Black Consciousness Movement uses the template built by the PAC to exclude white liberals from its midst to form a liberation movement led by Blacks.At the time, most of the liberation movements were led by white liberals who financed them too. Very few Black organisations were not under white direction or guardianship.The PAC broke this monopoly of white guardianship in the fifties, therefore, sowing the seeds for the BCM. The PAC was active in King Williams Town and Biko’s older brother, Khaya, was a member.Biko also held Sobukwe in great esteem: he affectionately referred to him as The Prof. So Biko would have been very aware of their modus operandi because his brother tried on numerous occasions but without success to persuade him to join the PAC.Biko’s article illustrated below, The Church as Seen by a Young Layman, which is available via the link as a PDF, illustrates Biko’s awareness of his history and the heroes that formed part of that long liberation struggle lineage.In this article, he is concerned with the “return to our beliefs, values” and rewriting history to restore it with its original value.He is also questioning the role the church plays in the subjugation of Black people and providing solutions to make it relevant to the oppressed in South Africa.Biko’s awareness of the distortion of history by the settlers convinces him to reclaim it and restore it with its true value.He explains that the coming to consciousness of the Black man will only be possible through rewriting Black history and producing in it the heroes that form the core of Black resistance to the white invaders. He writes:“More has to be revealed, and stress laid on the successful nation-building attempts of men such as Shaka, Moshoeshe and Hintsa. These areas call for intense research to provide some sorely-needed missing links. We would be too naïve to expect our conquerors to write unbiased histories about us but we have to destroy the myth that our history starts in 1652, the year Van Riebeeck landed at the Cape.”“Our culture must be defined in concrete terms. We must relate the past to the present and demonstrate a historical evolution of the modern black man,” he elaborates further.His quest is not to return to some primordial or glorious past, but to return to it in spirit and seek inspiration from that history to make it relevant to the present.Restoration of Black people’s history, beliefs and values is a recurring theme at the heart of the Black Consciousness Philosophy.Philosophy is the academic study of knowledge, thought, and the study of life. It also includes any system of beliefs or values, or a personal outlook or viewpoint.Originally, philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia which means love of wisdom. The latter phrase encapsulates Steve Bantu Biko.I Write What I Like captures and reflects Biko’s philosophia quality. His love of knowledge and wisdom permeate the text. It is a direct result of his study of life in South Africa, Africa and what is happening globally, plus his voracious reading.He absorbs it all and uses his understanding to mould a philosophy that addresses the subjugation of Blacks in apartheid South Africa by demystifying the myths, systems or beliefs used to justify the oppression of Africans.He gives the people a revolutionary outlook that breathes new life into them and the confidence to face the system as re-born men and women.He never writes to boast or show-off. His intention is to change the thinking of Africans. He is committed to engaging with the ordinary person.He wants to be understood. This is reflected in a response he gives to an interviewer in Our Strategy for Liberation.“We believe it is the duty of the vanguard political movement which brings change to educate people’s outlook”, he explains.The teacher, the educator, in him is obvious. The lucid exposition of the Black Consciousness Philosophy in the book speaks for itself.These articles appeared in the SASO newsletter which was the theoretical organ of the Black Consciousness Movement; it was the medium used to disseminate ideas and educate its adherents and the wider society.The readers of the newsletter, or readers of this book, who wish to explore and understand Black Consciousness will be enlightened by Biko’s articulate arguments, intelligence, touched by his humanity and impressed by his lack of vengeance against whites.Despite his experiences with the apartheid police and subjugation by the regime, Biko is not bitter. This text lacks bitterness. The pronoun “I” is almost absent: it is synonymous with the ego. He maintains an objective perspective which indicates a sense of fairness.I guess this is what Biko refers to as “The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa – giving the world a more human face”.He retains that rare humane trait exhibited by philosopher kings or prophet intellectuals. He transcends the vanity created by the apartheid regime and its dehumanisation of the indigenous people.Biko’s Black Consciousness Philosophy is revolutionary. It is the first time that a leader in South Africa articulates a liberation ideology or philosophy that addresses the psychological emancipation of the people.Most leaders merely concentrated on the external factors such as unjust laws, toyi toying, violent struggle, sabotage, etc. Biko digs deeper than the skin and addresses the mind.Therefore, he has a hard sell because his ideas are new. At the time he is writing, the ANC and PAC are banned so the Black Consciousness Movement is the vanguard movement leading the revolution in the absence of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe and Nelson Mandela and other elders.Biko understands the importance of putting ideas across to the people in a language that they understand as he says in his own words, “All these must be explained to the people by the vanguard movement which is leading the revolution”.As the vanguard movement, and the spiritual father of the movement, this burden falls on Biko’s young shoulders.Unlike other leading intellectuals or those who use their intellectual powers of persuasion to uphold the status quo, and cloud their message through the use of abstract terms, or the language of academia to make their work accessible to the privileged minority, Biko writes in a simple, concise, precise and fluid manner.Biko believes that ‘”Black Consciousness” seeks to talk to the black man in a language that is his own’. Therefore, he keeps his writing accessible to the audience he is addressing.During the BPC/ SASO trial he explains that they settled for English as the common language because there were ten languages available and they had to cater for other groups like the Coloureds and Indians who fall under the definition of Black people according to the Black Consciousness Philosophy.They are more or less equally oppressed and exploited; therefore, Black is not a term that refers to one’s skin colour. Rather it addresses the conditions of the oppressed and exploited.He also elaborates how language is used and received by people from different cultures because of our different ways of reading or interpreting the context and contents of a speech.For example, in response to a question about a document circulated at the funeral of an activist which the court believes the language can be interpreted as inciting violence or anger, Biko replies:“I am saying both the drawers of this particular piece and the recipients will have no doubt about their communication. You in the middle who is an Englishman, who looks at words you know piecemeal, you may have problems, but the person who perceives it within the crowd has no problem. They are at one, they understand what they are talking about. You may not understand it because you are looking at the precise meaning of words.”The text of Biko’s work is very simple and accessible. Because it is accessible, it is persuasive especially to people who understand the apartheid context and the historical period.The longevity of I Write What I Like bears testament to its persuasiveness and relevance decades after it was published.That he writes so simply and persuasively reflects his clarity of mind, his ideas and his ability to communicate complex ideas at the level of a layman to a layman without watering down the strength of the argument.His clarity of thought is a hallmark of a philosopher. He is not interested in the abstract ideas numerous philosophers pursue.Biko’s philosophy is rooted in his social and political context. It tackles the realities of the oppressed and creates a fighting philosophy in the process.While reading Biko’s work, we take a number of things for granted. Firstly, we forget that he was only 23 years when he began to develop his own ideas and thinking about Black Consciousness.Not many people at that age have such a clear conception of society or the world to start formulating such strong ideas. This is partly what makes I Write What I Like a remarkable work.To say he did it alone is untrue. He worked with friends like Barney Pityana and other fellow students. Together they formed an intellectual cell where they debated and discussed issues and exchanged ideas.Out of that cell emerged the Black Consciousness Movement. Its genesis and development follows similar lines of social change and revolutionary intellectual movements throughout the history of the world.In addition, I alluded to how Steve was a lover of wisdom. Barney Pityana testifies that “Steve was a voracious reader. He read everything he could lay his hands on”.Steve was a medical student but he could debate the finer points of literary criticism with Barney who was an English major.His voracious reading expanded his intellectual horizons and allowed him to engage proficiently and intelligently with numerous disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, religion, history, politics, current affairs, etc.That he was widely read, is evident in his comfort and ability to discuss different subjects, quote from myriad sources or bring together an amalgamation of ideas and apply them to the South African context and mould them into Black Consciousness.We take our access to books, research papers, historical documents and the internet for granted. Biko didn’t have the resources modern scholars have today.However, his voracious reading of what he could lay his hands helped him forge an international perspective and ideas that were universal in their appeal.He was an astute observer of the events unfolding in the world such as the politics of decolonisation of Africa and India and the African Diaspora.He was well versed in the local South African history and the resistance the locals put up against the British and Dutch settlers. All these various struggles that preceded him informed his ideas and helped to shape his philosophy.The politics of the Civil Rights Movement in the US was also crucial to his learning and developing certain tenets of the Black Consciousness Philosophy.This is evident in Chapter 14 entitled Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity.He despairs at the role Christianity plays in the subjugation of Black people and calls for its reformation borrowing ideas from Black Theology and modifying them to suit the South African context.Black theology is historically an American product emerging from the Black situation there. I’ll take the liberty to inflict a long quote on you from the article named above to illustrate my point.“Here then we have the case for Black Theology. While not wishing to discuss Black Theology at length, let it suffice to say that it seeks to relate God and Christ once more to the black man and his daily problems. It wants to describe Christ as a fighting God, not a passive God who allows a lie to go unchallenged. It grapples with existential problems and does not claim to be an ideology of absolutes. It seeks to bring back God to the black man and to the truth and reality of his situation. This is an important aspect of Black Consciousness, for quite a large proportion of black people in South Africa are Christians still swimming in a mire of confusion – the aftermath of the missionary approach. It is the duty of all black priests and ministers of religion to save Christianity by adopting Black Theology’s approach and thereby once more uniting the black man with his God.”What emerges from Biko’s series of articles is a solid philosophy inspired by diverse intellectual forces such as the African Nationalism of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda, Kamuzu Hastings Banda and Julius Nyerere; the Pan Africanism of Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure; the Negritude writers of West Africa and Paris, and the Black Power Movement of Stokely Carmichael a.k.a. Kwame Ture, Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party.There are very few surviving audio or video recordings of Steve Biko. He never got the opportunity to pen his own memoirs or autobiography to tell his own story.However, a lot has been written about him. There are numerous articles, essays and books about him or his work, critiquing it.Songs have been made about him. Documentaries and films too. All these individual narratives are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that build a composite picture of the man, the legend, the tragic hero and the revolutionary.They aid us in understanding how the world embraced him and what he represented. They illustrate the internationalist appeal of his work and the peoples it touched. Furthermore, they reinforce his enduring legacy.There are those who accused him of racism. However, that is the propaganda used by those who feared or misunderstood his radical thinking and attempted to use that to demonise or discredit him.Others who used that approach tried to undermine his legitimate concerns by attempting to portray him as a racist were the secret police and the state to undermine his message and uphold the status quo.The text speaks for itself. It doesn’t call for annihilation of white people. It doesn’t call for revenge. Rather Biko preaches non-violence.He preaches understanding. He addresses the concerns of those who claimed Blacks were racists. He made it clear:“What of the claim that blacks are becoming racists? This is a favourite pastime of frustrated liberals who feel their trusteeship ground being washed off from under their feet. These self-appointed trustees of black interests boast of years in the experience in their fight for the ‘rights of the blacks’. They have been doing things for blacks, on behalf of blacks, and because of blacks. When the blacks announce that the time has come for them to do things for themselves all white liberals shout blue murder… What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism. We are in a position in which we are because of our skin. We are collectively segregated against – what can be more logical than for us to respond as a group?”Biko explains why they chose to go at it as Blacks only. The definition of Blacks is not a matter of pigmentation or a lack of it but a mental attitude of declaring oneself as Black.It is an inclusive term including oppressed groups such as the Coloureds (otherwise referred to as mixed race in other countries) and Indians.These three groups were often referred to as non-white in South Africa and used as buffer layers between Blacks and whites but Biko and the BCM rejected that classification because it treated them as an inferior subspecies or subhuman of what was considered the norm – white.He writes in The Definition of Black Consciousness, “We have in our policy manifesto defined blacks as those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated as a group in the South African society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realisation of their aspirations”.“Merely be defining yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being”, he goes on to state.This definition is both political and strategic to build up a powerful alliance between oppressed and exploited groups.I Write What I Like is one of the few documents that preserves Biko’s voice and philosophy. We are grateful because it is the closest we can get to his own thinking without the use of an intermediary.Nothing is lost in translation or interpretation. The text remains unaltered except for the brief paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter that provide a basic commentary putting the articles into context.The book captures Biko’s thinking from the start of his political career and takes us up to within months of his death.It provides us with insight into the evolution of the BCM from a small students union [SASO] through to its transformation into a fully fledged movement with various organisations linked to it such as the BPC.It also illustrates the gradual evolution in Biko’s thinking from his modest start, speaking as the voice of Black students to his role as a leading statesman, representing the masses and setting out his vision for the future.During the formation of SASO in Chapters 1 – 3, Biko and co refer to themselves as non-whites. However, in chapter 4, the word is obliterated from their vocabulary or conscience. It is nonexistent. From then on they refer to themselves as Black.The text sets out the definition of Black Consciousness philosophy. Biko defines it as:“Black Consciousness is in essence the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their operation – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as group in order to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude. It seeks to demonstrate the lie that black is an aberration from the “normal” which is white. It is a manifestation of a new realisation that by seeking to run away from themselves and to emulate the white man, blacks are insulting the intelligence of whoever created them black. Black Consciousness therefore, takes cognizance of the deliberateness of God’s plan in creating black people black. It seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their religion and their outlook to life.”This is precisely what Black Consciousness is about. It is about self determination. It rejects the idea that the lives and fate of black people can be defined by a tiny settler minority.It is about reaffirming and reclaiming the Black system of beliefs and values, allowing Black people to assert their own personal outlook or viewpoint without coercion or persuasion by others i.e. the white man.There are many ways of “being”. There are many ways of seeing the world. There are many ways of relating to the world. None is more superior or inferior than the other.The intention is not to subjugate white people. In fact, it is to free them because they are also enslaved by their racism.Biko argues that the system of apartheid was created specifically for the purpose of subjugation of Black people to exploit them and entrench their privileged position in society and benefiting from the riches of the country.He believes it is not a coincidence Black people are exploited. It is a deliberate plan.Therefore, Black Consciousness is Biko’s vehicle to liberation as he explains, “Liberation is therefore of paramount importance in the concept of Black Consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage. We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self”. Biko opposes racism. His whole text is absent of racial incite. Rather he illustrates the pitfalls of racism and the harm it inflicts on both the racist and the victim. They are both enslaved by it.His understanding of racism fundamentally echoes that of Frantz Fanon and American Black Power activists like Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton in the 1960s.Carmichael and Hamilton defined racism as, “the predication of decisions and policies on considerations of race for the purposes of subordinating a racial group and maintaining control over that group”.This form of institutional racism was further developed and explained by American sociologists like Robert Blauner. He argued, racism was “located in the actual existence of domination and hierarchy”.Biko believes racism is a question of power, the power to subjugate and without that power one can’t be racist.He defines racism as “discrimination by one group against another for the purpose of subjugation or maintaining subjugation”.“We do not have the power to subjugate anyone… Racism does not only imply exclusion of one race by another – it always presupposes that the exclusion is for the purposes of subjugation”, he adds.The definition of racism above illustrates that exclusion of whites from the Black Consciousness Movement is not an act of racism. There is no intent to subjugate or maintain subjugation. Therefore, it is not racist.It is merely an act of solidarity among the oppressed to rid themselves of the shackles that enslave them. It is a genuine attempt to facilitate a very strong grassroots build-up of black consciousness such that Blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.Biko’s  references to whites as the group that “wields power”, the “totality of white power”, or “white power presents itself as a totality” reinforces the idea that within that context, only whites can be racist because they wield all the power to subjugate, dominate and maintain the white supremacy structure to exploit Black people for their economic benefit.Biko’s views are supported by Hendrik Vervoerd, the chief architect of apartheid. In his attempt to justify apartheid or separate development Vervoerd stated:‘Reduced to its simplest form the problem is nothing else than this: We want to keep South Africa white… “keeping it white” can only mean one thing, namely white domination, not “leadership,” not guidance, but control, supremacy. If we agreed that is the desire of the people that the white man should be able to protect himself by retaining White domination, we say that it can be achieved by separate development.’This is what Biko is rejecting and resisting. This is what he is fighting. This is the totality of white power he is against not the individual.Furthermore, Biko not only objects to the white liberals trying to hijack the liberation movement, but to their paternalism in constantly treating Blacks like perpetual under 16s, and supplying them with solutions which suit the white liberals but are not what Blacks necessarily envision.Like Carmichael and Hamilton, Biko dismisses the integration the liberals eschew because it is artificial. According to him, the integration they talk about is a response to a conscious manoeuvre rather than to the dictates of the inner soul.Biko accepts an integration that is organic, mutual. He believes each group must be able to attain its style of existence without encroaching on or being thwarted by another.Out of this mutual respect for each other and complete freedom of self-determination there will obviously arise a genuine fusion of the life-styles of the various groups.He also rejects Black leaders who cooperate with the apartheid regime. He articulates the damage these so-called leaders inflict on the people through fragmentation of the struggle and the confusion they sow in the article entitled Let’s talk about Bantustans.Bantustans, or Bantu homelands, were independent or autonomous African homelands set aside by the regime for different tribes or ethnic groups.Biko was working hard to unite the people so he viewed the Bantustans as a South African version of the Roman imperialist idea of “Divide and Rule”.The bantustans allocated 13% of the land to Africans who formed 80% of the population and left whites who were the minority, 20% of the population to enjoy 87% of the best arable land.Therefore, Biko saw bantustan leaders such as Kaiser Mantanzima, leader of the Transkei, Gatsha Buthelezi of Zululand and Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana as “sell-outs and Uncle Toms”.It is probably the only time one can detect some anger in Biko. He rips into the leaders and exposes the futility of their plans by allowing the people who are oppressing them to offer solutions to the problems they created.Biko uses the following ogy to illustrate the futility of the apartheid regime prescribing solutions for the Bantustan leaders: “If you want to fight your enemy you do not accept from him the unloaded of his two guns and then challenge him to a duel”.Biko’s disappointment with their approach is obvious. He doesn’t hide his strong views as illustrated: “there is no way of stopping fools from dedicating themselves to a useless cause”.He is against the idea of these homelands. He sees them as a great injustice inflicted on the Blacks regardless of the propaganda the regime spins to make them look like there is genuine progress. Biko denounces them in the strongest terms.‘These tribal cocoons called “homelands” are nothing else but sophisticated concentration camps where black people are allowed to “suffer peacefully”. Black people must constantly pressurise the bantustan leaders to pull out of the cul-de-sac that has been created for us by the system,” he writes.He accuses these leaders of subconsciously aiding and abetting in the total subjugation of the country. They are exonerating the country and giving the process legitimacy.“No, black people must refuse to be pawns in a white man’s game,” Biko warns the people.He advocates for Black people to provide their own initiative and to act at their own pace and not one created for them by the system.Apart from these leaders who are helping maintain the status quo, confusing the masses and fragmenting the resistance to apartheid, Biko rejects Black policemen, security forces or those who collaborate with them.He sees them as “extensions of the enemy into our ranks”. He views them as a danger to the community and he is not afraid of stating that publicly. He doesn’t even see them as Black.He doesn’t support them or their motives. They might as well be outsiders or Judas Iscariot to Biko:“One can say of course that blacks too are to blame for allowing the situation to exist. Or to drive the point even further, one may point that there are black policemen and black special branch agents. To take the last point first, I must state categorically that there is no such thing as a black policeman. Any black man who props the system up actively has lost the right to being considered part of the black world: he has sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver and finds that he is in fact not acceptable to the white society he sought to join. These are colourless white lackeys who live in a marginal world of unhappiness. They are extensions of the enemy into our ranks.”He demonstrates this fearlessness at the SASO/ BPC Trial in 1976. In response to a question by the defence attorney about black policemen who work for the government, Biko calls them “traitors”.He says this without any equivocation and he says this to a room-full of policemen. One has to remember that the apartheid police was one of the most feared institutions in the country then.They can arrest people without any charges and detain them. They kill with impunity because they have guaranteed state immunity. They beat people and they have no recourse to justice.“The black man has no ill-intentions for the white man. The black man is only incensed at the white man to the extent that he wants to entrench himself in a position of power to exploit the black man.”Steve Bantu BikoI Write What I LikeThe two chapters that cover the SASO/ BPC Trial are enlightening. The transcripts illustrate how Biko uses the trial as a platform to spread Black Consciousness. He transforms the charge of terrorism against the state itself.He walks a fine line between walking and talking revolution and inciting treason which can earn him a jail or death sentence.Not only does he defend Black Consciousness, but he addresses white misconceptions of Black Consciousness.He reinforces the movements commitment to non violence, anti-racism, anti-exploitation, unity and creation of an egalitarian society which Biko seeks to create.The trial was a result of members of the BPC holding a pro Frelimo Rally to celebrate Frelimo as the de facto government of Mozambique.However, the way the indictment is formulated, makes it clear that Black Consciousness is on trial.Biko turns it around. This trial is for the Black Consciousness Movement what the Treason Trial was for the Congress Alliance of the 1950s. It is to Biko what the Rivonia Trial [1964] was for Mandela.Both these trials showcase the fearlessness of the leadership and the content of the message that both trials send out to the Black community and the world at large.The SASO/ BPC Trial confirms to society and the world that Biko is the authentic voice of the people and he is not afraid to say openly what other Blacks think but are too frightened to say it aloud.The trial also illustrates how Biko handled hostile interrogation or cross examination by being always quick to take the route of humour and respond to what was human in his persecutors as illustrated in this short exchange.QUESTIONER: Why do you seek confrontation?BIKO: There is nothing wrong with confrontation as such.QUESTIONER: Confrontation leads to violence. Do you approve of violence?BIKO: No, confrontation does not necessarily leads to violence. You and I are now in confrontation, and there is no violence.ADVOCATE ASIDE TO COLLEAGUE: This isn’t a confrontation – it’s a massacre.Black people though remain his main concern. The whole philosophy of Black Consciousness is the remedy Biko believes will cure the patient and rejuvenate them back into health.He turns his attention to them in We Blacks. Biko was a medical student and at times uses medical terms to scrutinise the problem.Black Consciousness therefore is his way of diagnosing the ailment, establishing the root cause and setting up the remedy as he puts it in his own words:‘One needs to understand the basics before setting up a remedy. A number of organisations now currently “fighting apartheid” are working on an oversimplified premise. They have taken a brief look at what is, and have diagnosed the problem incorrectly. They have almost forgotten about the side effects and have not even considered the root cause. Hence whatever is improvised as a remedy will hardly cure the condition.’By this, Biko means that other organisations ignore the premise that apartheid is tied up with white supremacy, capitalist exploitation and deliberate oppression so it makes the problem more complex.He also notes that spiritual poverty is also part of the cocktail of social ills that creates mountains of obstacles in the course of emancipation of Black people.Biko asks probing questions of the Black man. “What makes the black man fail to tick? Is he convinced of his own accord of his own inabilities? Does he lack in his genetic make-up that rare quality that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations? Or is he simply a defeated person?”He answers these questions and articulates them well. Like a doctor, and Fanon his inspiration who also studied medicine [psychology], he understands the effects of apartheid and colonialism.He understands how they dehumanise the native and mess up his head and self confidence.In characteristic style, Biko proclaims: ‘The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth. This is what we mean by an inward-looking process. This is the definition of “Black Consciousness”‘.The seeds of the Black Consciousness Philosophy speak for themselves when in 1976, school children reject Afrikaans as a medium of instruction and take to the streets in protest.The apartheid police retaliates by shooting them down in a hail of bullets on the streets of Soweto. These school children answer Biko’s question about the Black man: “Does he lack in his genetic make-up that rare quality that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations? Or is he simply a defeated person?” No! They are not defeated people. They have that rare quality that makes a man or woman or child willing to die for the realisation of his or her aspirations.The Black Consciousness Philosophy and Movement produce new men and women.They are conscious. They are militant. They are proud of their blackness and totally reject the white yardstick as the standard to judge themselves. They are prepared to die for their ideals.Biko’s realisation comes to bear fruit. His aim to remove the fear factor in Black people is evident.He states, “But part of what you are trying to kill has not quite died, the whole concept of fear, and black people steeped in fear. We want to get them away from this”.The children are not the only ones who are prepared to die. Many members of the Black Consciousness Movement are hunted down and murdered by the apartheid regime too.Some are murdered while they are being held by the police. Biko is one of them and the most high profile of the lot.He believes in his ideas and dies for them. He dies for his conviction: “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die”.He also knows that the cause is justified and victory is assured as he prophesies, “We believe in the righteousness of our strength, that we are going to get to the eventual accommodation of our interests within the country”.In the final chapter, On Death, Biko relates how a friend of his is killed days before he is arrested for the final time, “They just killed somebody in jail – a friend of mine – about ten days before I was arrested”.He talks about death casually in an almost detached manner, like a man who is used to death. He talks about it like a man who has reconciled himself with death.The irony is this final chapter contains the last words recorded shortly before his death.Like many of his comrades and school children murdered by the regime, he also answers his own question when the regime murders him: “Does he lack in his genetic make-up that rare quality that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations? Or is he simply a defeated person?”The opening paragraph of the last chapter illustrates that rare quality in his genetic make-up that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations.This paragraph I am about to quote is quite poignant. It is ironic because months later he is murdered and his words ring true.“You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicising thing. So you die in the riots. For a hell a lot of them, in fact, there’s nothing really to lose – almost literally, given the kind of situations that they come from. So if you can overcome the personal fear of death, which is a highly irrational thing, you know, then you’re on your way.”Again Biko is correct. His death, the method of his death is a “politicising thing”. His death shows up the brutality of the apartheid regime. The world’s eyes focus on the regime and the opposition to apartheid outside the borders of South Africa increases.Unfortunately, he is wrong in one aspect. There is something to lose.The BCM loses its most articulate theorist, it’s charismatic ambassador and selfless spiritual leader. South Africa loses a young statesmen who could have gone on to become an influential leader in post apartheid South Africa.South Africa loses a visionary who wanted to build a new society as he said: “in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, just the people. And those people will have the same status before the law and they will have the same political rights before the law. So in a sense it will be a completely non-racial egalitarian society”.His words, his ideas are the spark that light a veld fire across South Africa. With his simple messages Black is Beautiful! Be proud of your Blackness! Assert yourselves and be self reliant!“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Organise! His work is complete. Black people shed their feeling of inferiority and they walk tall.Biko’s writing is sincere and thought provoking. You might not agree with everything he says partially because time and circumstances have changed and there have been material changes in South Africa.However, that is not entirely true. Biko warns about the dangers of the integration that the white liberals are pushing for. He warns them that it is bound to be a disaster if it is not done properly:This is the white man’s integration – an integration based on exploitative values. It is an integration in which black will compete with black, using each other as rungs up a step ladder leading them to white values. It is an integration in which the black man will have to prove himself in terms of these values before meriting acceptance and ultimate assimilation, and in which the poor will grow poorer and the rich richer in a country where the poor have always been black. These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the black man’s mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds.Biko is correct. The poor in South Africa today are growing poorer and the rich richer due to the lack of transformation Biko proposes in I Write What I Like.Recent reports in the media have highlighted how people are going for days without food to eat because of the high unemployment and lack of structural changes.The changing of political power from white leaders to black leaders did nothing economically for Black people.Biko expresses his concerns if this happens:There is no running away from the fact that now in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any form of political freedom which does not touch on the proper distribution of wealth will  be meaningless. The whites have locked up within a small minority of themselves the greater proportion of  the country’s wealth. 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 almost as of yesterday. So for meaningful change to appear there needs to be an attempt at reorganising the whole economic pattern and economic policies within this country.Of course, he is correct on that point. This is the situation in South Africa today.The rise of the technocrats and Big Chief Syndrome has created a class of the ruling elite and their acolytes who benefit from the country’s vast economic resources while the poor are sidelined.As a matter of fact, the great compromise made by Mandela benefitted foreign capital and their compradors. Imperialism triumphed at the expense of the people’s revolution, betraying the ANC Freedom Charter.Under the current leadership there is no distinction between public authority and private interests. Corruption has become endemic and striking workers are shot down or dispersed with brutal force, something reminiscent of the apartheid regime.Biko’s words, ideas and philosophy still appeal to the poor and downtrodden who still see him as a symbol of resistance and liberation against Black exploitation and oppression.Today there are those like the Economic Freedom Fighters and others who claim validity for their ideas by claiming a lineage to Biko.They are calling for genuine economic transformation and are seeking to address the land question which has seen the majority of the land remaining in the hands of a tiny minority.Steve Bantu Biko and the Black Consciousness Philosophy remain relevant to our generation because of the lack of reorganisation of the whole economic pattern and economic realities in Africa.He remains a politicising factor today because Black people remain at the bottom rung of every society we live in.Biko’s calls for Black people to unite and liberate themselves are relevant today when we see what is happening with police brutality and militarisation of the security forces within Africa and America.Black lives don’t matter is the message they seem to be sending out.However, Black Consciousness urges us to assert ourselves: Be proud of your Blackness!His writing displays the many facets that are Steve Biko. Chapter 17, American Policy towards Azania, showcases Biko at his diplomatic best. It is a masterclass in diplomacy.He walks a fine line between telling the greatest superpower off and pricking their conscience: he comes as close he legally can to call for trade boycotts, arms embargoes, and withdrawal of investments from Senator Dick Clark.Steve wrote the memorandum after he was released from 101 days in detention under section 6 of the Terrorism Act less than a week before his meeting with Clark.He had no access to books, newspapers, the radio while he was held in isolation. He only had access to a Bible. The coolness and tact he displays in the memorandum illustrates Biko speaking with a mature and conscious authority as leader of the real opposition to the Nationalists in Pretoria.He makes a passionate and penultimate plea to those who can bring about a nonviolent end to the tyranny of apartheid. The only reason apartheid continued for so long is because America supported this totalitarian regime.America has a long history of supporting dictators, totalitarian regimes and masterminding coups in Africa and South America, Israel and Asia.Biko picks that thread up and informs Senator Clark:“Because of her bad record America is a poor second to Russia when it comes to choice of an ally in spite of black opposition to any form of domination by a foreign power. Heavy investments in the South African economy, bilateral trade with South Africa, cultural exchanges in the fields of sport and music and of late joint political ventures with the Vorster-Kissinger exercise are amongst the sins with which America is accused. All these activities relate to whites and their interests and serve to entrench the position of the minority regime”.This is a different Biko speaking from the Biko who we meet during the formation of SASO. This Biko now speaks with the an air of diplomacy and statesman-like air.He also sets out minimum requirements he expects the Americans to meet if America intends to act as a mediator because her current actions make her hands dirty and that is unacceptable for a mediator.One of Biko’s requirements is that:“America must call for the release of political prisoners and banned people like Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Barney Pityana and the integration of these people in the political process that shall shape things to come.”It is also worth noting that in Chapter 18, Our Strategy for Liberation, Biko has come full circle. He expresses hopes for groups of whites who can come up to form coalitions with blacks to minimise the conflict.It is a far cry from the initial strategy of withdrawal from Black-white coalitions of SASO and the Black Consciousness Movement’s formative years.This is a reflection of the confidence Biko had in the Black Consciousness Movement’s ability to stand their ground and by their values and beliefs and to have a strong and leading voice within any Black-white coalitions.It illustrates Biko’s ability to confront reality as he grapples with the issue of how to achieve freedom, and grow while developing his ideas all the time and broadening his outlook simultaneously.I Write What I Like sets out the genesis, growth, development and evolution of the Black Consciousness Philosophy.It is an engaging read showcasing the subtle evolution of Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement’s thinking and philosophy.Biko had faith and conviction in victory. He took up a struggle alongside other men and women of his generation, and in doing so, managed to create a spark that powerfully resonated and disturbed the forces of injustice.I don’t know if he knew that he was lighting fires of struggle throughout the world. However, I know that whenever his name is mentioned or his image appears, he still has the moral strength to powerfully disturb the forces of injustice today and inspire the oppressed and exploited to stand up for their rights.His image and name still ignite a passion within the oppressed and exploited today that makes the foundations of power tremble. His conviction, humanity and demanding character command respect.He was a revolutionary among revolutionaries. He was a man who could have gone on to be a successful doctor or lawyer, but he turned his back on the easy road, and dedicated himself to assert himself as a man of the people; a man who makes common cause with the suffering of others. That is probably what inspires people the most.The apartheid regime killed Biko. It killed him because of its entrenched racism. Racism is a mental illness. It is also a question of power. Biko had diagnosed their condition and setout a remedy to cure their malady.He also recognised their power. He knew that a unified Black people were the antidote to white power. Therefore, he was a threat to the white hegemonic power with his calls to unite Black people and confront the perpetrators of evil by creating a unified liberation movement.Therefore, they killed him before he could heal them. They killed him before he seized power from them using the group dynamics.Fortunately, you can’t kill ideas. Ideas do not die. And I Write What I Like contains the ideas, the seeds that Biko planted, and they are still germinating and bearing youths full of revolutionary fervour.These are youths who are in search of the society Biko envisioned where there would be a reorganising of the “whole economic pattern and economic policies within this country” and probably within Africa, South America, Asia and the West.This book contains Biko’s ideas that encourage the Black man and woman to have confidence in themselves and their abilities.This book is above all about revolutionary conviction and faith in the cause and outcome, revolutionary conviction, revolutionary faith in what you are doing, and the conviction that victory belongs to us and that struggle is our only solution.Biko lives! some say. His ideas are still alive. That’s why Biko, an embodiment of revolutionary ideas and self sacrifice is alive.Young people thirsty for dignity, thirsty for courage, thirsty for Biko’s ideas and for the vitality he symobolised in South Africa and across the continent  seek out to drink from the invigorating source represented by our revolutionary spiritual father.His ideas inspire us and are inscribed in our hearts and minds. His ideas live in each of us in the daily struggle we wage and this is why this book remains relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1978.I Write What I Like is a masterpiece of  liberation and political philosophy focusing on Biko’s strengths bolstered by his love of writing.He combines his love of the craft of writing and what he is passionate about – freedom and liberation and politics – and produces a historical document that will be read for generations to come.And it will continue to inspire writers, bloggers, musicians, artists, scholars and activists and many others too numerous too mention.Biko understands that “The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” and he puts pen to paper to decolonise the mind and shatter the shackles that bind the Black man and woman’s mind.I Write What I Like is an enduring tribute to the depth and range of Steve Biko’s thoughts and ideas. His selfless reflections, thoughts, resilience, wit, wisdom and lasting faith in a humanely shared planet will influence Black Consciousness scholars, disciples and converts journey into the future, to create a better future where we can show the world a more human face.This book is a collector’s item and a book you should at least read once in a lifetime. It is a worthwhile investment and every cent or penny you spend on it is worth it. I recommend it.You can check out a PDF version of I Write What I Like at this link http://abahlali.org/files/Biko.pdf. However, I prefer the real book because there is nothing like holding it in your hands and engaging directly with itI leave you with a quote from Steve Biko which best sums up his vision in this book and a phrase that appeared on the first page of the Daily Dispatch  with a large colour portrait of Steve and the phrase on either side of it read:“We salute a hero of the nation.”[“Sikahlela indoda yamadoda.”]“We have set on a quest for a true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood. In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face.”15 Comments“The wealth of our country must be enjoyed by the people of the country.” Tribute To Steve Bantu BikoOn 12 September 37 years ago, Steve Biko’s life came to a premature end. His brief but beneficial life was snuffed out as casually and callously as a person extinguishing a candle flame between their fingers.He was a light that lit the path of the youth across Africa to help them overcome obstacles in their way. In living what he preached, he showed them what they could be, and taught them they were just as fine as they were. His message was clear: Be proud of yourself! Rely on yourself for your liberation.He instilled them with a new confidence and they shed their sense of inferiority. He ignited a fire in the youth that continues to burn today. In his stride, he left indelible footprints, no other man has been able to fill now or follow ever since.And it is from his thought tracks that I have extracted thirty-seven gems Steve Biko left with us. One for each year of the thirty-seven years since his premature depature.All of the quotes below stem from the same source, i.e., his collection of writing or articles, collectively entitled I Write What I Like.Some of the quotes are pretty familiar but some are not. However, they are all as relevant today as they were back then. They are applicable to many situations in the present, and not only in South Africa, but the rest of the African Continent and the Diaspora.May his words continue to inspire you as they inspire us, Biko’s humble students of “Black Consciousness”.1] “We have in us the will to live through these trying times; over the years we have attained moral superiority over the white man; we shall watch as time destroys his paper castles and know that these little pranks were but frantic efforts of frightened little people to convince each other that they can control the minds and bodies of indigenous people of Africa indefinitely.”2] “The separation of the black intelligentsia from the rest of the black society is a disadvantage to black people as a whole.”3] “The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look but the great gift still has to come from Africa – giving the world a more human face.”4] “I think what we need in our society is the power to innovate – we have the very system from which we can expand, from which we can innovate, to say this is what we believe, accept or not accept.”“The black man has no ill-intentions for the white man. The black man is only incensed at the white man to the extent that he wants to entrench himself in a position of power to exploit the black man.”Steve Bantu Biko5] “Our originality and imagination have been dulled to the point where it takes a supreme effort to act logically even in order to follow one’s belief and convictions.”6] “You are either dead or alive and when you are dead you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicizing thing.”7] “For me as a black person it is extremely painful to see a man who could easily have been my leader being so misused by the cruel and exploitative white world.”8] “We have felt and observed in the past the existence of a great vacuum in our literary world and newspapers. So many things are said so often to us, about us, but seldom by us. This has created a dependency mood amongst us which has given rise to the present tendency to look at ourselves in terms of how we are interpreted by the white press.”9] “One must quickly add the moral of the story is not that we must therefore castigate white society and its newspapers. Any group of people who identity as a unit through shared interests and aspirations need to protect those interests they share. The white press is therefore regarded as doing a good service when it sensitises its own community to the “dangers” of Black Power… the real moral of the story can only be that we blacks must on our own develop those agencies that we need, and not look up to unsympathetic and often hostile quarters to offer these to us.”10] “Blacks have had enough experiences of racism not to wish to turn the tables. While it may be relevant now to speak of black in relation to white, we must not make this our preoccupation, for it can be a negative exercise. As we proceed further towards the achievement of our goals, let us talk more about ourselves and our struggle and less about whites.”“Organizational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be.” Steve Bantu Biko11] “Organisational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be.”12] “The whole community development program is in fact directed also at alleviating poverty, which is a form of physical oppression, and by physical liberation we also imply liberation from those actual living conditions which are oppressive.”13] “If people want to be our friends they must act as friends, with deeds.”14] “The struggle concept which is struggle from liberation of yourself, from anything threatening you, is continuous throughout history. At different times it is picked by different people in different methods. Okay, but the struggle is what we attach ourselves to.”15] “When people are starving, unemployed and exploited, food, work and social security are higher priorities for them than individual liberty.”16] “The Russians don’t stick fast afterward. Their record in Africa is one of material aid, then disengaging or being ousted. On the other hand Western aid against colonialism has several times led to Western economic imperialism. Look, I’m not starry eyed about the Russians, and I reject their basic ideology – it’s just that their brand of intervention has been more beneficial in Africa. Of course it is to suit their own cynical ends – but it is of more practical assistance than the oratory of Andy Young. The Andy Young’s are nice guys, but their approach is doing us no damn good.”17] “One should not waste time here dealing with manifestations of material want of the black people. A vast literature has been written on the problem. Possibly a little should be said about spiritual poverty.”18] “No doubt, therefore, part of the approach envisaged in bringing about”Black Consciousness” has to be directed to the past, to seek to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it heroes who form the core of the African background.”19] “A people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine. Their emotions cannot be easily controlled and channelled in a recognizable direction. They always live in the shadow of a more successful society.”20] “To expect justice from them at any stage is to be naive.”21] “In laying out a strategy we often have to take cognizance of the enemy’s strength and as far as I can assess all of us who want to fight within the System are completely underestimating the influence the System has on us.”22] “One need not try to establish the truth of the claim that black people in South Africa have to struggle for survival. It presents itself in ever so many facets of our lives.  Township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood. There will be a situation of absolute want in which black will kill black to survive. This is the basis of vandalism, rape and plunder that goes on while the real sources of evil – white society – are suntanning on exclusive beaches or relaxing in their bourgeois homes.”23] “People must not give up to the hardship of life. People must develop a hope. People must develop some form of security to be together to look at their problems, and people must, in this way build up their humanity. This is the point about Black Consciousness.”24] “The wealth of our country must be enjoyed by the people of the country. Foreign investors come and exploit the wealth of the country with more advanced technological means than those we have in South Africa to siphon off profits which rightfully belong here, and these go to profit societies other than our own societies.”25] “When there is violence there is messiness. Violence brings too many residues of hate in the reconstruction period. Apart from its obvious horrors, it creates too many post-revolutionary problems. If at all possible, we want the revolution to be peaceful and reconciliatory.”26] “I think there is no running away from the fact that now in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any form of political freedom which does not touch on the proper distribution of wealth will be meaningless.”27] “It seems sometimes that it is a crime for non-white students to think for themselves. The idea of everything being done for the blacks is an old one and all liberals take pride in it; but once the black students want to do things for themselves suddenly they are regarded as becoming “militant”.28] “What we want is not black visibility but real black participation.”29] “The fact that we have differences of approach should not cloud the issue. We have a responsibilty not only to ourselves but also to the society from which we spring. No one will ever take up the challenge until we, of our own accord, accept the inevitable fact that ultimately the leadership of the non-white peoples in this country rests with us.”30] “It was felt that a time had come when blacks had to formulate their own thinking, unpolluted by ideas emanating from a group with lots at stake in the status quo.”31] “I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.”32] “Material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills.”33] “Ground for a revolution is always fertile in the presence of absolute destitution.”34] “Black Consciousness” seeks to show black people the value of their own standards and outlook. It urges black people to judge themselves according to these standards and not to be fooled by white society who are white-washed themselves and made white standards the yardstick by which even black people judge each other.”35] “Black people must recognise the various institutions of apartheid for what they are – gags intended to get black people fighting separately for certain “freedoms” and “gains” which were prescribed for them long ago. We must refuse to accept it as inevitable that the only political action the blacks may take is through these institutions.”36] “Granted that it may be more attractive and even safer to join the system, we must still recognise that in doing so we are well on the way towards selling our souls.”37] “Thus in its entirety the African Culture spells us out as people particularly close to nature. As Kaunda puts it, our people may be unlettered and their physical horizons may be limited yet “they inhabit a larger world than the sophisticated Westerner who has magnified his physical senses through inverted gadgets at the price all too often of cutting out the dimension of the spritiual.” This close proximity to Nature enables the emotional component  in us to be so much richer in that it makes it possible for us, without any apparent difficulty to feel for people and to easily identify with them in any emotional situation arising out of suffering.”Feel free to share and let us remember Steve’s words in everything we do to uplift the race and persent a more human face to the world. Let us emulate him in his selfless sacrifice for freedom.Watch for my review of Steve Biko’s collection of writings, I Write What I Like, coming soon. Pray, I do it justice. One Love.A scholar of Black Consciousness studying Steve Bantu Biko’s philosophy.5 CommentsFiled under Famous QoutesTagged as America, Black Consciousness, I Write What I Like, nonfiction, Russia, South Africa, Steve Bantu Biko





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