Monday, 24 September 2012

(This article is available on the Rhodes University SRC site and is a response to former SRC President, Eric Ofei’s previous article).
One of the greatest leaders that the African continent has ever produced, Thomas Isidore Sankara, once said:
A soldier without revolutionary theory is nothing but a potential murderer”.
This statement must be understood in its correct interpretation, taking into consideration not only the prevailing material conditions of the epoch during which Sankara led Burkina Faso, but also, using it to reflect upon the prevailing material conditions which define the constructs of Rhodes University as an institution of higher learning to which we all belong. As a Marxist-Leninist, Sankara understood too well the importance of revolutionary theory. Marxist-Leninists have always had an appreciation of the philosophies of historical and dialectical materialism which has informed their understanding of socio-economic conditions at different times and in different spaces, an understanding that to date, has not been proven fundamentally flawed even by the most respected proponents of liberal ideology. I want to dissect a problem with the Rhodes University SRC literature, using this reflection of Sankara’s to outline two critical issues: the question of the depoliticisation of the Rhodes University SRC as well as the question on whether or not SRC candidates must have some form of experience in student governance as a pre-requisite for being elected into the SRC institution. These two questions beg for critical analysis and it would be catastrophic for us to glibly dismiss them as we are doing currently.
Former SRC President, Eric Ofei, made an interesting statement yesterday in a response to an open letter directed at the Dean of Students. The statement by Eric, that: “The notion that experience is a prerequisite to being an effective member of the SRC is flawed” needs to be debated, for I believe that it is flawed in itself.
While it is true indeed that: “Prior experience does not a good SRC member make” as Eric states further in his article, there is a fatal flaw in the failure to qualify this statement with substantial evidence beyond the personal experience that he highlights. This is a statement that must be dissected and supported with the employment of relevant tools of analysis that go beyond subjective personal reflection because I believe that it sets a bad precedence for the future of the Rhodes University SRC institution by portraying it as a field of experiment rather than a factory that manufactures great future leaders with an astute intellectual calibre. The SRC institution does not exist in a vacuum. It is an integral component of a broader matrix of representatives in a site of struggle that is under the threat of liberal ideology that seeks to perpetuate and accelerate the class, race and gender contradictions that are a barrier to genuine reconciliation and the creation of a prosperous South Africa. The individuals who get elected into the SRC are not just the face of the university. They are the face of the future of this country and it is a future that must never be taken for granted.
The SRC institution, which acts as a body of opinion for the university and a representative of the student body, must, if it is to achieve the objectives that are outlined in the SRC Constitution which is in line with the Constitution of South Africa as is required, be a body of capacitated individuals who will carry forth the mandate given to it by the student body as well as contribute significantly to the broader objectives of the National Democratic Revolution as the cornerstone of policy analysis of the Republic of South Africa. The Rhodes SRC Constitution, like the Constitution of South Africa and the NDR itself, has the responsibility of creating a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic Rhodes University. This is a herculean task that needs the most dedicated and most capacitated crop of student leaders. It is not a task for just any student who feels like they want to be in the SRC, for reasons that are often mercenary.
Four particular portfolios in the SRC need to be understood if we are to comprehend why there is a need for experience from SRC candidates hoping to fill them:
·        The President
·        The Vice-President
·        The Secretary-General
·        The Activism and Transformation Councillor

One of the roles of the SRC President is to “Liaise with the University Authorities on matters relevant to the SRC, the student body and individual students”. This means that the SRC President will be the direct line between students and the university management and Council. As such, this individual must not only have an in-depth understanding of the university literature (Constitution, Resolutions etc.), but must have a thorough understanding of student governance. This understanding, unfortunately, is not one that is transmitted through hours of absorbing university literature. It is a product of an interactive process that one undergoes with students as the primary constituency of the SRC institution.
The same holds true for the Vice-President, for whom one of the roles that he/she must act in is to “Represent the president when required to do so”. For this reason, the candidate for Vice-President must also be an individual with the same requirements as ought to be fulfilled by the SRC President.
Secondly, the office of the Secretary in any institution or body is one of the most important there is, for it is the nucleus that hold together the institution. It is not an accident of history that in all existing political organisations and civil society movements, the Secretary is full-time in the office. I want to highlight just two roles of the Secretary that ought to stress just how necessary experience is for this portfolio. Firstly, the Secretary “Fulfils all external activities involving the SRC including: Contact with other educational institutions, Overall South African political and social developments…” [Emphasis mine]. Secondly, the Secretary is: “Responsible for maintaining contact with SAUS”.
The fulfilment of activities involving the “Overall South African political and social developments” is not a role that must be given to someone without an in-depth understanding of the political, geo-political and socio-economic landscape of South Africa. If it is, then it defeats the purpose of why this role was created in the first place. The importance of experience comes in the point that the Secretary is “Responsible for maintaining contact with SAUS”. The South African Union of Students (SAUS) is a very political umbrella of student bodies. SAUS “is pledged to facilitate a situation where all students are provided with equal opportunities, and embraces institutions of higher learning a statutory obligations to guarantee an environment free of racial, sexual, religious, cultural and physical discrimination” (see SAUS website on As such, it is an umbrella of student ACTIVISTS as opposed to mere academics and ideologues. For this reason, the SRC Secretary, who is tasked with engaging SAUS on student governance issues, must him/herself be an activist who is tried and tested through experience on the ground. It is unacceptable to conceive that any random student can fulfil this obligation simply on the basis of theoretical understanding of university literature which has not been tested through implementation and experience.
The Activism and Transformation Councillor must also, as a necessity, be an experienced individual who understands the labyrinthine constructs of South African politics as well as the nature of activism. There is a misconception amongst Rhodes University students that the work of a Transformation Councillor is purely academic and as such, that the best person for the portfolio is an individual who can analyse the university (and society) and diagnose its problems. In his “Theses on Feuerbach”, father of scientific Socialism, Karl Marx, puts it most aptly that: “Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. The point is, however, to change it”. That is the role of an Activism and Transformation Councillor: to CHANGE the institution, to fight against the pathologised race, gender and class antagonisms that exist, albeit subliminally. The individual who contests this portfolio (and i must point out that I will be doing so in the upcoming elections) must be tried and tested in the terrain of political or student activism. This individual must have some kind of experience in civil society movements, in the Non-Government Organisation sector, in volunteer work or in the student movement. The work of an activist -  and I speak with the experience of one who , for two years after completing her matric, went to work in various NGOs across the country – is not easy. It requires more than just revolutionary theory, especially at the level of SRC. At that level one cannot be a novice, because the constituency that he/she represents is an important strata that is going to be tomorrow’s leaders. Not with our country’s future can we take such a grave risk.

The insinuation that the SRC must make allowance for novices to contest in elections as well as lead students is troubling, because it fails to locate the SRC institution in the broader politics of the society that it belongs to. (I will elaborate in my next point why the refusal to locate our SRC in the broader politics of the country is a problematic position). Understanding the prevailing material conditions in our education system and in the socio-economic constructs of our immediate society, it is clear that there is a great task that lies ahead for our SRC candidates. This is not a task that must be left in the hands of people who have had no prior involvement in the terrain of activism.
I will be brief on this point, but I want to state categorically that I am HIGHLY OPPOSSED to the statement by Eric that:
I think that in future any student at Rhodes that utters the words “party aligned candidates” or anything in that realm should be shot on sight. There are a myriad of reason why the party aligned candidate system is not a good idea and has not worked at Rhodes. The minute you have parties involved you no longer have individuals. It is party politics which are in play. The view of the party are expressed and not the view of the individuals candidates. Additionally having parties’ means creating clear and distinct division in the student body…
This statement is a vivid economisation of truth that must be arrested at its infancy. Firstly, it is problematic that the metaphor: “any student at Rhodes that utters the words “party aligned candidates” or anything in that realm should be shot on sight” is used in this contest, because it has elements of creating a hostile situation for students who are aligned to student organisations. Eric uses the term “party” incorrectly, as though it means the same thing as “movement” or “organisation”. I want to elaborate on this assertion by using an example that corroborates my view.
The South African Students Congress (SASCO), is a student organisation which is a component of the Mass Democratic Movement, which was a product of revolutionary struggle in our country. Founded in 1991, SASCO is not a political party and contrary to popular view, it is not a student wing of the ruling African National Congress. The ANC Youth League is a youth wing of the ANC, the ANC Women’s League is a women’s wing of the ANC. But SASCO is not a wing of the ANC. Rather, it is an independent component of the MDM and part of the Progressive Youth Alliance which includes the ANCYL as well as the Young Communist League of South Africa, both which are themselves party aligned. The ANC is not the mother-body of SASCO in the way that the Democratic Alliance, for example, is the mother-body of the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation. The policies that SASCO advocates for are those that are in-line with the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution and the Freedom Charter, which are not just for the ANC, but inform policies of the South African government in its entirety (which does not exclude opposition parties and minority parties). So for Rhodes students who are members of SASCO (and other political formations) to be categorised as being “party aligned” when their organisation is a component of the MDM and not a student wing of any political party, is unfair and politically unprincipled, for it perpetuates an untruth that has already found a home in the minds of young people who are politically unconscious. SASCO candidates are not a threat to the SRC of the institution and must never be treated as such. This unprincipled stance by Rhodes University must be annihilated.
The debate must continue…
*Malaika Mahlatsi is a first year Bachelor of Social Science (Geography) student

At the SRC Grazzle last night, I opened my presentation by informing the student body of Rhodes University that as a candidate for the Activism and Transformation Councillor, I promise them nothing. At the end of my presentation, loud applause ensued, but some students were left perplexed and stunned that a candidate who ought to impress them with answers and solutions to problems would stand before them and boldly declare that she had no answers to give them and no solutions to offer. Time made no allowance for the in-depth qualification of the position I was articulating and as such, I have written this article for the SRC page and am on the process of shooting a video outlining and qualifying the sentiments that I expressed last night.
Last night, I asserted in my presentation that there are race, class and gender contradictions that exist at our university which, for the creation of a prosperous institution, beg for critical analysis. This means that there is a need for the student body of Rhodes University to engage in an honest introspection about the constructs of the institution that will lead   to the removal of self-imposed myths and limitations that have come to be accepted as natural. The student body of our institution cannot afford to remain imprisoned by notions that undermine the potential of the university to produce thought leaders   of an astute intellectual and social calibre. It is with this understanding, which is in line with the mission of the SRC to “be a student-oriented, approachable institution which fosters a conducive, developmental environment in and outside the academic sphere…”, that the nurturing of thought-leaders who have the responsibility of shaping the future of the African continent becomes relevant. But what are thought leaders? Are they born that way or are they made?
A thought leader is “a futurist or person who has innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable, distilled insights”. This means then, that Rhodes University has the responsibility to produce such individuals; men and women who, outside of their academic excellence, are going to be agents of positive change to the society to which they belong. It is here that I want to emphasise that thought leaders are not born, but made. They are a product of their primary and secondary socialisation as well as a product of their own choices which can only arise from a consciousness determined by their material conditions. This means that thought leaders are not merely theorists and ideologues who have the skill and ability to analyse society and diagnose its problems, but individuals who have been tested in the terrain of experience. After all, leadership is born out of the understanding of those who will be affected by it. Because a leader is a creation and a product of the prevailing material conditions of his environment, his/her consciousness is determined by the knowledge of the constructs that define his/her society. These are the people that Rhodes vows to produce, for its motto itself says that the university is “Where leaders learn”.
My campaign is founded on this premise; that Rhodes is a factory where leaders are made. As such, the student body must at all times, be placed on a terrain where it is the one that determines the politics of the day. There is a need for us to annihilate the defeating reality that places students as spectators of a game in which they must be players. I will not, and it is a conscious decision that is informed by years of working in the NGO sector, both as an intern and as a volunteer, allow myself to be placed in a situation where I decide the fates of the masses of our people (in this context our students) without their active contribution to the determination of those decisions. The benefit of working in numerous NGOs, from the Alternative Information and Development Agency in Cape Town to Khanya College in Johannesburg, is that one learns to appreciate the importance of involving people in the politics that define their own lives. On numerous occasions, we had gone out into townships with brilliant speeches prepared and ready-made solutions to what we believed were the biggest problems of the working-class people, only to be rejected by those same people. This happened because our people, illiterate and poor though they may be, are not stupid. They understand their own conditions better than we do and thus, they must be the ones who tell their stories and propose remedies to their situations. The same is applicable to Rhodes University students, who have an advantage over the general populace in that we are not illiterate. Students are the ones who experience the unjust nature of the race, class and gender contradictions which I indicated last night that are still existing in the institution. They live with this reality every day. As such, the only way that these issues can be resolved in such a way that students come out true victors in the end, is to create a platform where they engage on these issues. I vowed to create this platform and that is the closest thing to a promise I made. I want students of Rhodes University to sit at the driver’s seat of the Activism and Transformation portfolio which I am running for. Students have the responsibility to shape their own discourse and just as they decide who must represent them, so too must they decide what must be represented in terms of the campaigns that the Activism and Transformation portfolio takes up.
Here, people might be wondering if the I am proposing that the Activism and Transformation office be an all systems go office, where any idea a student raises will be supported and taken to its logical conclusion. I want to emphasise that this is not the case at all, for under no circumstances will disorder and total anarchy be masked as the measure of true democracy in the institution. What will happen is that students will be allowed to raise issues that relate to their problems with the institution and management, as they relate to the race, class and gender questions. A platform will be created in the same way as the Grazzle, where there will be a public debate that will comprise of the students themselves, the Activism and Transformation councillor and where necessary, a representative from the management and other relevant stakeholders such as the community of Grahamstown. From such platforms and debates, it can be determined what the topical issues are, by the decision of the majority. In this way, students will be empowered and feel that they are truly being represented by the SRC, that the SRC is serving them as opposed to them serving the decisions that are determined by the SRC itself. I believe that an idea, no matter how great it may be, is useless if it is not a product of those who are the motive force that will benefit from its implementation.
Once again I will state that the epoch of rule-by-noise politics need to come to an end. Students cannot and must never agree to be governed through rhetoric and unrealistic promises to deliver on the improbable. The epoch where the SRC acts as a decision-making body as opposed to a decision-implementing body needs to come to an end. Students must reject being reduced to a mere voting fodder that is only ever seriously engaged at the SRC Grazzle when we as candidates want their votes, only to be remembered the following year for the same reasons. Students must be engaged on every issue. Students must lead with the SRC and more importantly, students must rebel against the imposition of ideas that are birthed without their input. Our SRC institution must become a festival of ideas where ALL students participate and are active. As a powerful Zambian proverb says:
“When you run alone you run fast. But when you run together, you run far”.
We must reject the individualisation of power and understand that nothing is for us without us.

Malaika Mahlatsi
1st year BSS (Geography)
Candidate for Activism and Transformation

What is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of Black Consciousness such that Blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.” – Steve Biko, I WRITE WHAT I LIKE
Rhodes University is revered as one of the most academically excellent institutions of higher learning not only in South Afrika, but in the Afrikan continent as a whole. It is regarded as a factory wherein future leaders of this glorious continent are manufactured. Those who reside outside its walls view it as a yardstick by which great universities are measured and most of those who reside within its walls are in a permanent mode of defence for its traditions and culture. But there are those within these walls, the silenced voices, who have a different opinion about the institution but can never speak out for fear of victimisation by the institution’s management and rejection by the student body. These students and workers nestled within the walls of this institution have experienced first-hand, the brutal nature of the extent to which subliminal racism and stratification on the basis of class can go. But very few dare to rise and be counted amongst the brave and while the reasons for their silence and refusal to fight are admissible, the ramifications are fatal, for in refusing to be counted amongst those who fight for genuine transformation, we are setting up a time-bomb which will explode in the faces of our children and their grandchildren who will someday inherit this institution from us.
Many will be uncomfortable as they read this article, not only because it provides an alternative and dissenting view to that which has been internalised and defined by the institution’s literature, but because it is human nature to reject that which is foreign. And in Rhodes University, engaging on issues of race and class is foreign. In this institution of ours, you are more likely to be marginalised for breaking ground on issues that few want to discuss than you are for anything else. In our institution, we find comfort in burying our heads in the sand and pretending that there are no race and class antagonisms that exist. We seek solace in an ignorant ideal of superficial racial harmony, because that solace shields us from the brutal truth that we do not want to confront, a truth that we would rather ignore for fear that it will expose us all for what we truly are. Yes, we seek comfort in the existence within ignorance, because if we opt for this existence, we move further and further away from directly confronting the questions that deep in our hearts, we know must be confronted. And we know this because we do not exist in a vacuum. We are part of a society that finds itself engulfed by these antagonisms and try as we may to treat Rhodes University like a castle in the air, it is inevitable that we will someday stand before an uncomfortable truth and answer to our own conscience. That truth is that subliminal though it may be, there is racism in this institution and there is an ostracisation of students from a working-class background by both the management of the university and the student population. I want to quote a recent incident that corroborates this somewhat controversial assertion (not disregarding the understanding that in Rhodes University, anything that relates to race is controversial by default).
The example regards the scathing attacks on mostly Black students, attacks that have found expression on the SRC Facebook page. Over the past three weeks, perhaps because of the SRC period, the Rhodes SRC group has been a very volatile platform of engagement where at least 2000 students converge to discuss matters that concern the institution and its activities. While most of the discussions have been about general matters, there have also been very critical debates that have been instigated by students the likes of Mthobisi Buthelezi which have often dealt with issues of racism, classism and sexism. Many students engaged on these debates and a quick perusal will indicate to you that most of them were White. The responses and the contributions that these students made to the discussions were not only appalling in their total disregard for ideological and intellectual depth, but they were also decorated greatly in pathologised racism and White supremacy. On the 22nd of September 2012, in a discussion about Black Economic Empowerment, a capitalist model of wealth redistribution designed by the South Afrikan government to redress the inequalities of the apartheid regime by giving previously disadvantaged groups - mainly Black people - economic privileges previously not available to them, a White student said, and I quote:
“But by taking it away from the people who created it won't benefit the country in my mind (I stand to be corrected). Would we rather not want to integrate the black people into the 'white monopoly' over just trying to remove it or over take it, colours can change with mixing after all?"
This comment was made in response to a comment that BEE seeks to share the country’s wealth amongst the people, Black and White, equally. Most people will find a way to intellectualise this comment, but few will dare to dissect it and expose it for the White supremacist thinking that it actually expresses. Firstly, this comment insinuates that White people “created” the wealth that they inherited from the apartheid legacy. Such a fallacious insinuation must not be dismissed by those whose principles favour truth over popularity. And the truth is that White people did NOT “create” wealth, they stole it. They found everything in the motherland; the land on which they build their industries and the minerals with which they trade. Many native people had to die fighting against this brutal dispossession. And to claim that the solution to inequality is to “integrate Black people into White monopoly capital” is as racist and White supremacist as it can get, for it implies that the only destiny for the Black man is White. That is to say, it implies that Black people are consumers and Whites are producers. It implies that the former are incapable of creating and as such, must be integrated into a system whose very nucleus is confined within their historical oppression and subjugation. The tragedy in this student’s thinking is not only the thinking itself, but rather, that through various engagements that have taken place on the SRC platform, there is evidence that suggests that he is one of very many. Though not on the subject of BEE, many such related debates have been entered into where many White students have exerted and exposed their White arrogance and ethnocentric mentalities that seek to define the experiences of Black people and measure the worthiness of the Black world using a White ruler. Interestingly and unfortunately, there have also been a few Black students who have been vehicles on which this White supremacist ideology is driven. These students have continuously defended ideas that are antagonistic towards a Black consciousness perspective in favour of liberalism. I understand their positions, for they are a product of a particular socialisation which still remains foreign to the reality of the nervousness of natives’ conditions. But I do not sympathise with ignorance about the truth, nor do I have the moral inclination to tolerate liberalism. A liberal, Black or White, is but an obstacle to authentic social cohesion and a secret advocate of the status quo.
The vigour with which students who say anything that is not comfortable for the Rhodes students are ganged up on by so-called progressive liberals can also not be left unchallenged. There have been very many “progressive liberals” who have come onto the threads of these discussions simply to exert their arrogance, which has more often than not been misguided, for very few of the counter-arguments raised have been rich with ideological and philosophical depth. What we see instead is intellectualised liberal rhetoric, an advanced detachment of fermented philistinism.
I must add that this example alone does not speak for the majority of Rhodes University students, for in our totality, we amount to just over 6500 while on the SRC Forum there are exactly 2000 of us. But it is a cause for concern when even within that 2000, we find many whose views are shaped by this arrogance. It is problematic that a university that is supposed to produce a new generation of thought-leaders is so pregnant with economisation of truth, that leaders of tomorrow are ignorant of the yesterday that has shaped a today from which tomorrow must be built. A university where debate is turned into a platform for the expression of White arrogance and White supremacy is no progressive university. It is a sanctuary for liberals, conservatives, right-wingers, neo-Nazists and fascists. It is a prison for the Black Conscious students, the Afrikanists, the Socialists, the Communists and all those who are an anti-thesis to all constructs of oppressive, ethnocentric and intolerant ideology. The time when students who subscribe to BC ideology are not criminalised is now. If students of Rhodes University and indeed the institution’s management are going to refuse to allow us to be the ones who write the Black narrative without the consent or the approval of the White world as is the case, then Rhodes University is refusing to create a festival of ideas. It is instead creating platform for a battleground of ideas. But whether our ideas are converged in a festival or a battleground, the fact is, our voices will be heard and White supremacist attitudes will be challenged.
I pause…for now.

**Malaika is a member of the South African Students Congress but writes in her own capacity. The views are not that of the organisation.

Malaika Mahlatsi
1st year BSS (Geography)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Freedom is always, and exclusively, freedom for the one who thinks differently.” Rosa Luxemburg

A child was born in Koboko in 1925. He would later change the narrative of the Afrikan continent and shape a brutal chapter of its history. He grew up in a village dominated by the Kakwa ethnic minority in the dusty streets of Uganda, receiving very little education, but determined to make his mark in the fight for the liberation of the Afrikan continent that was still under extreme colonial rule (the genuineness of that objective is still a debatable issue). In 1946 he joined the King's African Rifles, (KAR), Britain's colonial African troops. As a soldier in the KAR, this man served in Uganda, Burma, Somalia and in Kenya during the British suppression of the Mau Mau. The Mau Mau movement was Kenya's militant resistance against British colonial rule which began in 1946 as a movement agitating for the return of African land and political rights. So in essence, this man was fighting against the rebellion of peasants and low-paid labourers. He was fighting for the suppression of the exploited and colonised majority of Kenya. For his efforts, the man was promoted to being a Commander of the Ugandan army and in1971, he staged a coup against the president of his country and would, for the next 8 years, rule Uganda with an iron fist and bury it behind a cruel iron curtain. What is significant about this man’s journey, in the context of this article, is not so much how he ruled his country or even how he compromised the struggle of the Mau Mau and other liberation fighters on the Afrikan continent through his association and loyalty to the British throne. What is significant about this man, for the purpose of this article, is how he came into power and why the people of Uganda, knowing very well his role in the King’s African Rifles, would allow themselves to be subjected to his leadership. The debate can be launched on the premise that shortly after his ascension to power, the man rid himself of British influence in favour of an alliance with the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, at the time seen as the anti-thesis to Western ideology. But the question of whether this man was himself a Socialist would need to be asked. The answer is no. The man was a Nationalist.

Idi Amin was a man with a golden tongue, who swept his fanatical followers to frenzy. When Amin was paraded around the streets of Uganda shortly after the violent over-throw of his predecessor, Milton Obote, the jubilation of the masses could be felt through the crispy air all across the rolling mountains of Uganda. This senseless jubilation remains a mystery to scholars of Afrikan history, for Obote was no dictator and in fact, his Socialist orientation and his relentless fight against the British administration ought to have made him the favourite of the peasants and the poor, the majority of the people of Uganda. But it was not to be so. An appreciation of history has taught us that more often than not, the people err in choice of leadership as a result of propaganda and a lack of strong political consciousness, only to awaken later and rectify the error of their ways and choices. Nonetheless, when Amin was presented to the people of Uganda, they were engulfed by euphoria, believing in the Promised Land that he had painted for them when he was trying to win their support and loyalty.

After 8 years of a leadership that had been characterised by violence and intolerance, the people of Uganda could no longer ignore the glaring reality of a collapsed economy and infrastructure. They began to rebel against Amin. Many of his ministers and political advisors fled Uganda and many of those who remained soon became dissatisfied with Amin’s leadership. His army staged a mutiny and many prominent Ugandan people exiled in Tanzania and other neighbouring states. Amin, tortured by paranoia, accused Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere of attempting to stage a coup against him and as a result, declared war on Tanzania. This was to be his last attempt at regaining power. In 1979, Nyerere mobilised the Tanzania People's Defense Force and counterattacked. He was assisted by several groups of Ugandan exiles who had united as the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Amin's army, significantly smaller despite the assistance of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadhafi’s own national army, was forced to retreat and surrender. As a result of the failed attempt at regaining power, Amin was forced to flee to exile in Saudi Arabia. Upon learning of Amin’s fate, the people of Uganda were once again dancing on the streets, jubilant at the fall of the giant. The appointment of Amin’s successor Yusufu Lule, was received with the exact attitude that Amin’s had been received.  The same euphoria, the same expectations, the same pride was channeled towards the celebrations. A year later, Obote returned to lead the people of Uganda. Once again, the same euphoria, the same expectations and the same joy was expressed for a man whom Amin had overthrown, the same man on whose coffin they had danced when Amin promised them a better life. One journalist wrote an article with a headline that has always captured my attention:


This prophetic line would prove itself Machiavellian when, upon his return, Obote would evolve into a figure no different to his predecessor. His second rule was characterised by repression and oppression. His attacks on civilians and the militarisation of Uganda would result in a civil war known as the Ugandan Bush War, which lasted for 5 grueling years.


Almost 33 years after the demise of Amin in Uganda, a similar situation is playing itself out in the south of the Afrikan continent, in a country revered for its democracy and ability to rise above the brutality of repression. The people of South Afrika, like the people of Uganda, are cheering as the democracy that they fought for dies. And like the people of Uganda, the oblivion to the ramifications of this cheering is very pronounced, albeit extremely dangerous.  The educated and the illiterate, the politically conscious and the depoliticised, are all victims of propaganda so severe that if it is not arrested at its infancy, has the potential to lead this country’s democracy to the dustbins of history.

A year ago, the most unfortunate thing happened in South Afrika, which would not only shift the paradigm of South Afrikan politics, but would also re-write the narrative of the oppressed native majority of this country. A leader of the youth wing of Afrika’s oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) was expelled from the movement and forced to cease his role as the national president of the ANC Youth League. For reasons known (and unknown) to the populace of this country, Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC for unfortunate utterances that he had made about the Botswana government that enjoys a historical relationship with the former National Liberation Movement.

The fact that is not told to the masses of South Afrikan people is that the three main opposition parties in Botswana, the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), openly supported Malema’s call for opposition party cooperation to democratically remove the Botswana Democratic Party, led by president Ian Khama, from power. The national Chairperson of the BMD, Nehemiah Modubule, had this to say about Malema’s statement:

It is instructive that Mr Malema’s statement follows that of the CSIS. Our analysis of the situation is that the international community is now embracing the need and inevitability of a change of government. Finally the imminent mortality of the BDP government has attracted international attention.” (The Botswana Gazette, Wednesday 3rd August 2011)

 Comrade Modubule was referring to a report of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), commissioned by the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM) which had stated that the combined opposition (BNF, BMD and BCP) will take power from the ruling party. However, this is a discussion for another day. Nonetheless, the ANC National Disciplinary Committee expelled Malema for “bring the organisation into disrepute” amongst other things, as well as suspended the national Spokesperson of the YL, comrade Floyd Shivambu and the Secretary General, comrade Sindiso Magaqa. There were those within and outside the ANCYL who celebrated the demise of Malema, for he had been seen by many as an autocratic leader who had dealt the same fate to former leaders of the YL. They argued that Malema’s intolerance for opposition and dissent characterised his leadership and that he was polarising the country. Some sections of the population, both within and outside the ANCYL, felt differently about the verdict. They argued that while indeed Malema had crossed the line, a political solution was needed to address the matter and that expulsion was an extreme and harsh way of dealing with a situation that could have been resolved by other means. Some, like the author of this article, felt that it was necessary for the survival of the ANC that no leader is allowed to get away with undermining the ANC as Malema had done at times, but that his role as a leader of young people and his contributions to our struggles remains relevant. This view that we hold is informed by the posture of the ANCYL under his leadership.

Under the leadership of Julius Malema, the ANCYL was able to accomplish a feat that no other organisation, the ANC included, had been able to accomplish in the current dispensation. It was able to awaken the political consciousness of the oppressed native majority, to return the retina to the eyes of a people who had succumbed to a state of defeatism. The reality of the situation – and it is a reality that is conveniently ignored by many of our people – is that while South Afrika is a politically democratic country, the economy of this country is still constructed as it was during the apartheid regime. The bulk majority of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of a minority and the most fundamental resource, land, has also not been returned to the country’s native population, or even been redistributed equally at best. What the political break-through of 1994 achieved, significant though it may be, remains insufficient for as long as structural inequalities continue to exist. Dr Pallo Jordan, a former National Executive Committee member of the ANC put it most aptly when he said:

Privilege has been de-racialised, but poverty has a race. It is Black.” ( 2008, Behind the Rainbow Nation)

It is for this reason, amongst other things, that some of us feel that Malema, who had dedicated his leadership to the politicisation of the native majority in particular, is very relevant to the current political milieu of our country.

Part of the reason why South Afrika finds itself unable to tackle the contradictions that are a result of the apartheid legacy is that we are perpetually pathologising the conditions of the oppressed and removing them from their socio-economic roots. As a result, we fall victim to the neo-liberal idea that racism and classism are peripheral issues that will only be resolved through “development” as opposed to the in-depth interrogation of our history in a quest to create strategies for a more sustainable and equal South Afrika. Sadly, the people who celebrate Malema’s demise fail to take this into consideration. More than that, they fail to recognise that setting a precedence where voices of dissent are dealt with this harshly by the ruling party is a recipe for disaster for the youth of South Afrika which, for the struggle of economic freedom that lies ahead, has the responsibility and the duty to be militant in actions and radical in views. Unfortunately, the same youth that is expected to inherit the country from its current leaders, who have shown utter disregard for dissent on a number of occasions, is the youth that cheers to the sounds of the murder of democracy.


The expulsion of Malema and suspension of Shivambu and Magaqa cause a ripple effect of anger amongst some young people who believe in the importance of having a militant leadership to drive the agenda of economic emancipation. The result of this was the articulation of views across mediums of communication. ANC NEC members the likes of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela made their opinions known by the public. I have always argued, and I continue to do so, that the actions of mama Winnie are an expression of ill-discipline for a person who occupies the privileged position that she occupies. However, it is important that even within the rot of ill-discipline, we salvage the important message that she was conveying, that the censorship of the leadership of the YL is a calamity that none dare support, for it eats away at the very heart of the South Afrikan struggle that claimed the lives of many of our people: the struggle for democracy and an end to injustice and tyranny.

One of the things that emerged from the Malema expulsion and the suspension of other YL leaders is a group called the Friends of the Youth League (FYL), which was initially started as a group where dejected (for lack of a better word) members of the YL converged to discuss the politics of their organisation. However, very shortly thereafter, the FYL evolved into a group open to the public which shifted its aim from discussing the outcomes of the ANCYL NEC disciplinary hearing to discussing general politics of the Mass Democratic Movement and other topical issues that affect the society. It must be emphasised that there is nothing wrong with both the FYL’s evolution and the nature of politics that it discusses. The reasons are simply this:

·        Every formation, political or otherwise, undergoes a process of evolution where its initial objective is negated in favour of another. An example is the ANC itself. There is no truth to the belief that the ANC began as a National Liberation Movement. When we engage the literature of the ANC from 1912 to at least 1920, it is evident that the objective of the ANC was to ensure that the native majority benefits from the colonial system and that the Black intelligentsia is accorded the same privilege that the settler elite is accorded, on the basis that both are “civilised”. The ANC would only later evolve from that civil rights movement posture and orientation to being a militant movement that is aimed at the abolition of the colonial system. Equally, there are many Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) that began with the aim of achieving a certain objective and would later change their posture and even orientation. One of them is Khanya College, which I had the privilege of working for. Founded in 1986 as an alternative education provider for student activists who were being marginalised by institutions of higher learning that were still very racist in nature, Khanya would later provide political education for trade unions and civil society movements and today, is involved in various struggles including the environmental issues. It is for this reason that judging the FYL for what it began as, rather than what it has since evolved into, is senseless and to a great extent, opportunistic.

·        The politics that are discussed by the FYL are politics that every citizen of this country is discussing. The reality of the situation is that the ANC is the leader of the MDM and the ruling party in this country. It therefore sets the agenda for what becomes the national political discourse. There is nothing unusual, or even suspicious, in the FYL as a social platform, engaging on discussions that may be related to the ANC. All of us, in one way or another, respond to the ANC’s agenda, directly or indirectly. Even trade unions, NGOs and civil society in general has its political discourse set by the politics of the ANC-led alliance. The fight against e-tolls that was so courageously waged by COSATU and civil society movements was set by the ANC. The fight by Section 21 and Equal Education with the Limpopo textbook saga was set by the ANC. Every topic that is taking place in this country, whether directly or indirectly, is informed by the actions or the inactions of the ANC. The isolation of the FYL is thus suspicious and troubling, because it not only exposes the hypocrisy of our population and leadership, but also sets off an alarm that signals danger for dissent, and danger for dissent means danger for democracy.

It is for these two reasons that the scathing attacks that have been coming on the way of the FYL are dangerous for our democracy and the well-being of this country. They expose a lot of dangers in the heart of our society, among them opportunism and political intolerance. It is very disturbing that national figures the likes of Young Communist League national Secretary, Buti Manamela, have gone on record and in public, demonising the FYL and portraying it as some monster that is going to devour the ANC. But he is not alone. Many have followed in this dangerous line, including several government officials and most disturbingly, young people who are heirs to the decisions that are made by the elders within the ANC. There is an attempt to silence and destroy the FYL and the method of operation is spreading fear about its intentions and using the most ruthless propaganda techniques to paint it as something that it is not. And as an avid follower of the group and a close friend and comrade with its founders, I will tell you what the FYL is not.

·        FYL is not an opposition to the ANC as is being projected. It does not have any constitutional mandate or policies or anything else that characterises political formations. It is simply a social group where young people converge to discuss politics.

·        FYL is not about Julius Malema despite his expulsion having inspired its formation. It is about the expression of the views of young people.

·        FYL is not a parallel structure of the ANCYL. This belief that it is seeks to spread fear about the FYL which is not justified. Many of us who are FYL members are not, have never been and have no desire to become members of the YL. We are, however, citizens of the Republic of South Afrika who share similar views and who have an appreciation for political debates. We are members of that group for the same reason that some people are members of the Orlando Pirates Fan Club. There is nothing sinister about our association with the group and attempts to project that false reality will not be taken lightly.

·        FYL is not anti-ANC. There are members of FYL who are die-hard supporters of the ANC and who make it a point to defend the ANC where they believe it is being judged unfairly. Their views are as welcome as those that some of us express which are not in favour of the ANC. In almost a year of following the group, I have never encountered a mob attack on anyone who did not agree with the views raised at any point, regarding any particular discussion.

With this understanding of what the FYL is not, why is there such a vigorous hostility towards it? This is a question that has not been answered by anyone. All that has been said is purely fabricated propaganda that is aimed at isolating people who don’t agree with those who stand to benefit from the demonization of this mere social group. To liken the FYL to the Congress of the People (COPE) as was done by Manamela and as is being insinuated by other leaders and general population is to divorce truth from falsification. There is absolutely NO SIMILARITY between the FYL and COPE.  And when government officials and prominent activists sell that lie to people, we must be afraid, for as former president of the United Snakes of AmeriKKKa, Harry Truman once said:

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

A country with such a young democracy cannot place itself in a position where its revolutionary gains are reversed to benefit nefarious agendas set by people who have no interests in serving the people. And a people who are on the receiving end of the brutality of those leaders have no business defending the image of those leaders. The truth of the matter is that nothing that the FYL and all other social groups and political movements say about the ANC is a fabrication. When citizens of South Afrika converge on Facebook or any other platform to vent out about the ANC, there is nothing wrong with that. If the ANC and its leaders want to stop people from doing that, it should deliver to the people and in that way, cease criticism levelled at it. To want to isolate and censor people for expressing what is true is the height of tyranny. But worse still, for representatives of the oppressed to mobilise their constituency around a lie to serve the interests of the actual antagonists is a cruel injustice to society and the height of undermining our collective intelligence.  We cannot sit back and watch as we are lied to and censored without any justification. Singling out FYL as a “danger to the ANC” for having unfavourable views about the current ANC leadership when there are hundreds of social groups that have the same views as the FYL should indicate to us that there is a serious attempt to persecute the group and its members. Silencing the FYL is unprincipled, unconstitutional, undemocratic, unfair, unwarranted, unethical and downright unacceptable.

Those demonising the FYL must be aware that when you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar.  You're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.

Malaika Wa Azania

Daughter of the soil

Cell phone: 076 538 1557 or 079 421 3415


Friday, 27 July 2012


Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned.”

Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General


A few years ago something happened that changed the way I viewed the world. A woman whom I knew was raped in my township of Meadowlands zone 8 in Soweto. Although she was older than me and thus, we were never really acquainted, I had seen her around the neighbourhood frequently and knew her only by sight. I also knew that she was openly lesbian. She was raped by a group of men who wanted to “cure” her of her homosexuality. This woman, whom I had never seen committing any acts of crime or doing anything that could be considered harmful to the community, was brutally violated by a group of men who also lived in our neighbourhood. After they had committed the savage act, they proceeded to assault her, leaving her lying in a pool of her own blood, where she was discovered later by members of the community, who found her unconscious.

It was not so much the act that shocked me, though that in it would have shocked anyone into paralysis. What hit me hard was the reaction of the zone 8 Meadowlands community to this inhuman act. Most people down-played the ruthless actions of the rapists and to a great extent, legitimised them. It was whispered in corners – by elders of the community – that the woman had “asked for it” because her actions were “undermining” men, with whom she was allegedly attempting to be equal. Some even went as far as to insinuate that indeed, the rape would “remind” her that she is a woman and thus, “cleanse” her of the disease that was afflicting her. The disease, according to them, was homosexuality. Apparently, it was a disease for two women to love each other. Apparently, loving another woman rated in the same level as having tumours in your cervix or leucocytes.


I was reminded of this story by another, more tragic one which took place only a few weeks ago in our beloved country. A young man from Kuruman in the Northern Cape province, Thapelo Makutle suffered a fate more diabolical. His body was found under a blanket with his throat cut and tongue removed and parts of his genitals had been cut off and placed in his mouth. According to reports, Makutle was killed over an argument as to whether he was transsexual or gay. By definition, a transsexual is a “person born with the physical characteristics of one sex who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex”. This is different to a gay person in that gay people, also known as homosexuals, are persons who are attracted to people of their same sex. This means men who are sexually attracted to other men and women to other women.

Another story that came back to my mind, which for almost a year I have refused to accept could have happened in our beloved country, is the one of yet another young Black girl whose life was brutally brought to an end for her sexual orientation. Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian, was found lying in an alley in Kwa-Thema (Gauteng province) at about on the 24th of April 2011. Noxolo’s head was completely deformed. Both of her eyes were removed out of the sockets. Her head underwent so much blunt trauma that her brain matter had spilt out onto the ground. Her jaw was butchered so severely that her teeth were found scattered all around her dead body. Her face, once resembling an ebony sculptured beauty was crushed beyond recognition. Witnesses said that an empty beer bottle and a used condom were shoved up inside her genitals. Parts of the rest of her body had been stabbed with broken glass and when some of it was seen protruding from her dead flesh. A large pavement brick that is believed to have been used to crash her head was found by her side, covered in her blood.

Zoliswa Nkonyana was a 19 year old lesbian living in the Western Cape. One night while she was walking home from a local tavern in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, six men beat her to death with a golf club because she of nothing other than the fact that she was lesbian. Her father, who knew and accepted his daughter’s sexuality, witnessed her being killed. But in a township where to stand up against injustice is to sign your own death wish, he was too afraid for his own life to stop the killing of his own flesh and blood.

In 2008, yet another Black lesbian was viciously murdered in the same area where Noxolo had met her death. On a cold April morning, the body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Afrika's acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park located in Kwa-Thema. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. She too, like Noxolo, was found lying in a pool of her own blood. Simelane was an activist and equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema. When asked why they had beaten her up so viciously, the men who attacked her said that she was “fighting us back like a man”.

Madoe Mafubedu was a 16 year old who was repeatedly raped and stabbed until she died.

On a Sunday morning, the 7th of July 2007, two other Black women lost their lives in this war against lesbians. Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were found murdered next to a dumpsite in Meadowlands, the township where I was born and raised. Sigasa was found with her hands tied with her underpants and her ankles tied with her shoelaces, with three bullet holes in her head and three in her collarbone. According to some reports, they were tortured before being executed by the cruel murderers.

Other openly lesbian women who suffered the same brutality a few years ago in the Western Cape province include Luleka Makiwane. Makiwane was viciously raped by her cousin a few years before she died. She was a virgin. She contracted Cryptococci meningitis, a result of her HIV infection and died of AIDS in 2005 as a result of that rape.

In the Eastern Cape, yet another case of corrective rape that ought to have been engraved in our collective minds happened. A 24 year old lesbian named Nomsa Bizana was gang raped by five men at a party in Mthatha. Nomsa had been lured to the party by a “friend” who it later turned out had plotted with the five men to rape her friend as a way of “curing” her of homosexuality. Like the other women I have mentioned, Nomsa died. She died of complications as a direct result of the heinous assault.

There have also been many survivors, if they may even be called that, for how does anyone be called a survivor when their humanness has been killed? There is no such thing as a rape survivor; there is only a raped man and a raped woman. And one can even argue that rape is worse than murder, because with rape, even as you die inside, you still have to go through the motions of being alive.

A few months ago, a 13 year old girl was violently raped in the township of Atteridgeville in Pretoria, for coming out about her sexuality. A Cape Town Black lesbian, Millicent Gaika (pictured), also suffered the same fate. Returning from a night with her friends, the woman was raped for a gruelling five hours by a man who kept saying to her: “I know you are a lesbian. You are not a man, you think you are, but I am going to show you, you are a woman. I am going to make you pregnant…” But it was not the first time that Millicent was subjected to this brutality. In 2002, she had been gang-raped by four men for the same reasons.

The stories that I have quoted, shocking though they may be, are only the tip of an iceberg. There are many others like this. Black lesbians are being raped in our townships on a daily basis and we continue to debate and discuss every other issue except this one. It is herculean a task to even raise this matter because most people, even comrades who are supposed to have undergone a process of mental decolonisation and emancipation, are dismissive of the question of homosexuality and like the men who violate these women, believe that homosexuality. Unlike these monsters who take this a step further by “curing” lesbians, male comrades opt to simply turn a blind eye to this cruel injustice, refusing to label it for what it really is: a hate crime.


Our country is facing many challenges that are born out of the legacy of colonialism and of apartheid. These problems are all products of the three great contradictions of class, race and the gender questions. While the majority of our people are victims of the first two, the latter is one that is designed to afflict mainly Black women (in particular those in rural areas and those who are lesbians). There is no argument that gay men, transvestites and other members of the populace are also victims of this issue. However, the reality of the situation is that those most at risk are Black women. Black lesbian women are thus the most wretched of the earth, for they suffer the triple oppression of classism, racism and sexism, but on the latter, the brutality is more pronounced.

The native majority of our country was dispossessed of its land and resources by a settler minority that appropriated itself ownership and control of our people’s sources of wealth (minerals and land). This resulted in the birth of apartheid, which, though only made a formal policy in 1948, had long been practised by the settler minority. The segregation, dehumanisation and killing of natives became characteristics of this policy. In 1994 this narrative closed its chapter when the country became a democratic republic. There is no debating that constructs of apartheid continue to be present; because for as long as the bulk of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of a few, the structural inequalities persist. So Black women, on top of being heirs to the throne of these inequalities and subjects of subjugation as a result of their pigmentation, are also heirs to the thorny throne of humiliation, more so if they are lesbians. Shocking though it may sound, the government of the Republic of South Africa is doing very little to address the humiliation that is experienced by lesbians.

The response from the government to the cases reported by homosexual women and the cases where these women have been killed is appalling to say the least. Only 1 in every 4 of the reported cases goes to court and even then, just over 4% of the cases result in the conviction of the perpetrator. Mathematically, that means more than 92% of the perpetrators of the rapes and murders go free. (A study conducted by Action Aid and published in March 2009 reported that between 1998 and 2003, at least 31 cases of corrective rape were reported. Of these 31, only 1 resulted in a conviction). The report goes on to say:

It’s also worth noting that the law on hate crime is narrowly interpreted by the courts as only applying on the basis of race and gender. If they take it into account at all, judges will only consider sexual orientation as an aggravating factor when sentencing. They will not take it into account as part of the evidence. What this means practically is that the National Prosecuting Authority and the police do not record hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or collect evidence on this aspect of the case. Few or no resources are put into tackling this kind of crime.” (HATE CRIMES, THE RISE OF CORRECTIVE RAPE IN SOUTH AFRICA)

 It cannot be correct that as a society we do not bring this issue into our discourse. Those of us, who claim to be agents of positive change and those who want to gear their energies towards the development of South Afrika and indeed, the Afrikan continent, have a responsibility to force this discussion into our national discourse so that the stigmatisation of Black lesbians in our communities ceases to find expression. As students who have the privilege of being pioneers of a better South Afrika, the task of massifying these debates and debunking myths that are designed to oppress lies in our hands.

 I conclude this paper with a quote from a great revolutionary, former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, who said:

“The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the Revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition for its victory. The main objective of the Revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potentialities of human beings... This is the context within which women`s emancipation arises”

Malaika Wa Azania

Student number: g12m1506

1st year BSS (Geological Sciences)

Member of the South African Students Congress (SASCO)

Cell phone number: 076 538 1557 or 079 421 4315

Thursday, 19 July 2012


"A soldier without revolutionary theory is nothing but a potential murderer." - Thomas Isidore Sankara (former leader of Burkina Faso)


The African National Congress (ANC) is celebrating its centenary this year. The ANC, which was launched on the 8th of January 1912 in Bloemfontein in the Free State province, has been the ruling party since South Afrika had its first democratic elections eighteen years ago. The formation of the ANC in 1912 was by no means an accident of history. It was a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle of the oppressed people of South Afrika which had began with the birth of colonialism in the Afrikan continent. It was a logical development of a history defined by centuries of colonial imposition and constitutionalised segragation of the native majority.

On the 31st of May 1910, the South Afrikan Act of Union was ratified by the South Afrikan Parliament after it had been passed by the British House of Commons the year before. This Act was based on a Colour Bar Clause, which basically excluded Black people from being eligible to become members of Parliament and thus, consolidated White hegemony within the system. This Act had significant ramifications for the natives of this land, because it meant that the South Afrikan Parliament would have no Black representative in whatever decisions it would make on the future of this country and thus, there would be no Black voice to legally and constitutionally address problems affecting the natives. But even prior to the ratification of the SA Act of Union, the natives of this land had already been suffering brutality in the hands of the settler minority, as witnessed prior to the events that would lead to the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 and less than half a century later, the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906. All these events in history created conditions and grounds for the formation of an organised convergence of the oppressed and colonised natives of South Afrika and it was on the 8th of January 1912 that a logical conclusion was arrived at: the formation of a movement that would seek to represent all Black people in a quest to defeat constructs of their oppression.

Since the formation of the ANC in 1912, our country has undergone various stages and phases of struggle and as a result, while the ANC has not changed its orientation in terms of its aims and objectives, its posture has taken on a different shape and form in order to enable it to respond to the different stages and phases of the struggle itself. A brief illustration of this can be highlighted in terms of what posture the ANC has taken since the three most important turning points in our struggle against colonial oppression: the 1950s, the 1960s and the late 1980s.

During the 1940s, the ANC had assumed a posture largely influenced by a philosophy of resistance similar to Gandhiism. This philosophy of non-violence and passive resistance, was embraced by those within and outside the ANC who held a belief that it was possible to negotiate for the rights of the oppressed with the system. But others within and outside the ANC, in particular the Communists, were not in support of this particular method of struggle as they argued (and correctly so, as history would later prove) that this method would bear no fruit. Proving true the concerns of this latter faction, the Afrikan continent found itself swept with a tidal wave of political activity in the 1940s, a wave which would, a decade later, result in the independence of Ghana (the first Afrikan country to gain independence), of Tunisia and of numerous other countries. This wave was driven by young people, many of them active in trade unions which had grown exponentially over the years, who were militant and radical both in thought and in deed. Thus, in 1944 in the city of Johannesburg, the ANC Youth League was formed, led by the fiercely militant and dynamic Anton Mziwakhe Lembede as president. As a result of the formation of the ANCYL, the ANC's resistance philosophy was forced to change, to adapt to the radicalism of its youth component, which was clearly highlighted through its Program of Action as adopted in 1949, which, following the YL's motto of "Afrika's Cause Must Triumph", raised a stinging point aimed at the White minority who, a year previously in 1948, had made apartheid a formal policy, that:
"We believe that the national liberation of Afrikans will be achieved by Afrikans themselves. We reject foreign leadership of Afrika..."
This defined the first turning point of our struggle; the politicisation of youth, guided by principles of pan Afrikanism.

In the 1950s, the ANC as the most notable liberation movement in the country, continued in its quest to reason with the gatekeepers of the oppressive system of apartheid, going as far as to, in the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955, call for the unity of all races and the equal distribution of the land and all resources that were in the hands of the White settler minority (this had been as a result of the 1913 Land Act, through which the White minority was appropriated 90 percent of land while the native majority was forced to share the remaining 10 percent).
This semi passive posture of the ANC was spun on its axis in the 1960 when the Nationalist government put a straw on the camel that would finally break the camel's back. This straw was the Sharpeville/Langa massacre, an event that would result in the deaths of innocent people and the arrests of many key leaders of various political organisations, including the Pan Afrikanist Congress of Azania which was under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe. With many leaders arrested and the brutality of the state having reached boiling point, all political organisations and national liberation movements, including the ANC, were forced to go underground. But that marked not the end, but the beginning of the struggle, for in 1960, first the PAC's armed wing, Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) and then later in 1961 the ANC's uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), entered into an armed struggle with the Nationalist government that would last for almost 30 years. This marked a serious and perhaps the most important turning point in our liberation struggle.

The last major turning point that shaped the ANC's posture, philosophically and otherwise, happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after the abandonment of the armed struggle in favour of negotiations. When the ANC realised the impracticality of continuing with the armed struggle (and many who have not studied the history of the world during this particular period of the late 1980s will have no appreciation of the fact that continuing an armed struggle was not sustainable), taking into consideration the serious ramifications of the collapse of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics in 1989, it opted for a negotiated settlement with the hope that it could realise the objectives set out in the Freedom Charter that it had been adopted in 1955 prior to the armed struggle. This proved possible when, in 1994, the ANC emerged victorious when the Republic of South Afrika had its first democratic elections. With two-thirds majority win, the ANC looked set to finally bring to a logical conclusion its historical mission of uniting Afrikans and obliterating constructs of White hegemony and oppression.


The ANC is today, a 100 years old, making it the oldest liberation movement in the Afrikan continent. But what is it that has sustained the ANC beyond the liberation struggle era, where its relevance was most pronounced? What is it that has made the ANC emerge out of an abyss that claimed the lives of other political formations and national liberation movements such as the PAC and the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO), which had been just as instrumental in the fight against apartheid and whose ideological outlook remains relevant and most necessary?
This is where the Facebook debate enters.

While other former national liberation movements in South Afrika and indeed in the entire Afrikan continent have been thrown into the dustbins of history, the ANC has remained alive. And while it cannot be argued that the ANC itself is currently finding itself in a very difficult position wherein its own relevance has come under harsh scrutiny, we must note and appreciate that the factors that have led to the deterioration of the ANC are informed more by the actions of its leadership more than by the extrinsic material conditions that are prevailing on the Afrikan continent; conditions related to the posture of politics, the current challenges as it relates to the geopolitical and socio-economical milieu. It is not these ideological issues that are informing the slow death of the ANC but rather, issues relating to maladministration, misappropriation of resources, tenderpreneurism, careerism and all other components of corruption. As such, it is not the relevance of the ANC that we ought to question, but the effectiveness of it under these conditions which are of its own creation.

The ANC is sustained by two things: its history and its versatility. By this I mean that the ANC is kept alive by the glorious legacy of its history and its uncontested barometer of won struggles. It cannot be denied, even by the most reactionary of people, that the ANC has made a lot of revolutionary gains in its years of struggle. But this alone cannot be the only thing keeping the ANC alive, because if it was, other liberation movements, in particular the PAC that is identified with some of the most important victories of our struggle and even seen to be the best and most capable embodiment of the Afrikan agenda, would not be in the comatose state that they find themselves in. The second thing that sustains the ANC is its versatility, its ability to adapt to whatever prevailing material conditions it finds itself in. In a debate I had with my father, comrade and loyal member of the ANC, Mike Maile, at home one evening in 2011, I asked him why inspite of its state of decay, internally and otherwise, the ANC still enjoys so much support. His response was very powerful:
"Malaika, the ANC has perfected something that all other former national liberation movements are failing to master, and that is the ability to read the material conditions in a way that will enable them to respond in the most appropriate manner..."
In simple terms, the ANC is able to read the prevailing material conditions correctly and thus, is able to respond to them accordingly. It does not immerse itself in dogmatic approach to any issue, be it the issue of electioneering, of mobilising, of organising or anything else. This is why the ANC remains in touch with the people: it speaks to their issues in a language that they understand.

Understanding this history of the ANC's response to different material conditions historically and presently is important, because it informs my argument that Facebook can be used to strengthen a political organisation and student movement in a way that will ensure its sustainability and renewed relevance.


While social media in its entirety has the potential to assist political organisations and student movements to achieve certain objectives that inform their existence, I want to focus mainly on Facebook, which is one of the biggest social network utilities in South Afrika and in the rest of the world. According to Digital Statistics SA, there are currently no less than 10.7 million active Facebook accounts in South Afrika. According to the most recent census as conducted by the South Afrikan government late last year, there are approximately 52 million people living in South Afrika. That means 20.6 percent of the population, only 4.4 percent short of a whole quarter, is active on Facebook. (I've not included other social networks such as Twitter, MySpace and others that also enjoy a large active user number). This figure is not to be taken for granted, because if you want to break it down into geographical measurements, it means that all the users of Facebook in South Afrika can replace the population of Cuba, which stands at 11.2 million according to latest statistics released by the Department of State Web Site of the United Snakes of AmeriKKKa.

Yet, despite this great number of people being on Facebook, we have not seen much progressive programmes or mass actions being sparked as a result of its usage, and this begs the question of: Why can a country as historically conservative as Tunisia have an uprising in which people were mobilised and organised on Facebook and yet a country as historically militant as South Afrika fail to do the same since both countries are faced with the same challenges of lack of service delivery, unemployment, corruption in government and a food other forms of oppressions?

The answer to this question lies, perhaps, in the phases of struggle in which both these countries find themselves. Tunisia is a country whose history and politics (recent and otherwise) is characterised by decades of dictatorship, censorship and voyeurism. Currently, its biggest struggle is to decentralise power and resources. South Afrika, on the other hand, is a country whose politics are characterised by corruption, careerism, patronage and political clientellism. Its greatest challenge currently is to break free from chains of economic bondage, hence its objective in the new dispensation is to obtain economic freedom. As a result of these different phases of a struggle, the players in the two different phases will differ. In South Afrika, the roleplayers that are driving (or sinking) the struggle are careerists, opportunists and proponents of corruption. For such people to continue existing and occupying spaces of power, they need to resort to what I call depoliticised politics, which are politics that lack political substance but are sustained by personalisation. This personalisation involves character assassination, slander, grandstanding and all other methods that are designed to weaken dissent. As a result, the political language is itself slanderous, malicious and lacking in substance. All this is then expressed on all platforms of communication; from congresses where commissions have ceased to be important, to press statements that represent factional agendas and of course, to social networks where the populace converges to communicate. It is for this reason that Facebook is used for all things nefarious; things that do not build, but destroy organisations.

We have witnessed, particularly in the recent past, how Facebook has become the greatest vehicle for the promotion of ill-discipline and destructive factionalism in many political parties and particularly in student movements, all of which I've followed over the last 2 years for my own personal reasons. It was through this observation that one noticed that these political formations use Facebook to:

1) Insult fellow comrades

Facebook is used by comrades to settle scores and to spew vitriol at one another when dissent arises even on the most trivial of views. When comrades don't agree on issues, insulting one another has become the most used method of retaliation. Debate has been obliterated from discourse.

2) Spread malicious rumours about fellow comrades that could be damaging to their reputations

Facebook has been used to tarnish the images of many comrades by their fellow comrades with whom a common struggle objective is shared. It has become a norm for comrades to decampaign one another by fabricating false stories and spreading them where they know they'll impact, on Facebook.

3) Create groups where even the most reserved of members of an organisation can be brave enough to say all sorts of destructive things about an organisation; things that they would not say in organisational gatherings such as AGMs, BGMs or congresses

4) Strengthen factions
Facebook has been used as ammunition reserved for factional wars. Comrades converge on the social network to plot the downfall of other comrades that is informed by nothing but personal vendettas and squabbles that are not informed by ideology.

5) Breach security

It has become normal for comrades to post status updates about internal matters of an organisation while inside a congress or meeting venue. This one is a cancer that WILL destroy many organisations. Comrades have gotten into a dangerous habbit of updating statuses about even the most confidential of organisational matters. You'll find people updating details about closed sessions of a congress on Facebook. Many of us who are not members of those organisation are made aware of financial reports of organisations, of details about NEC meetings and of internal challenges existing within organisations that only leadership ought to know. And the efficiency and speed in which such information is nationalised is certainly very frightening.
If certain NEC members fight in what is meant to be a private NEC meeting, the whole world know it within a few minutes because some member within the NEC will have decided to update about such a matter and thus, undermine the organisation and its leaders.


It is not inherent that Facebook or social media will be used for the issues that have been outlined above. With its potential power, it can be used to redirect energies to more progressive and positive things that will build and strengthen the organisation.
Below are ten positive usages of Facebook that if applied, can go a long way in strengthening political organisations and student movements:

1) Create groups where all members of an organisation converge to discuss their organisational matters

2) Create pages to announce upcoming events

3) Create reminders about important events of organisations so that members do not forget to attend

4) Share notes of political literature with comrades of your organisation so that you capacitate one another and thus, build a strong think-tank for the organisation

5) Avail press statements to members of the organisation and the public

6) Hold discussions and debates with members of your organisation about topical issues and important news of the day and in that way, sharpen each other's views

7) Publicise campaigns that your organisation has taken up and in that way, mobilise the support of the common masses

8) Network. There are many influential people on Facebook, from politicians to business people. You can connect with them and then grow a strong professional relationship outside Facebook. You'll then be better placed to get funding or other kinds of assistance from these people.

9) Investigate potential responses. For example: if an organisation wants to launch a campaign and it's not sure how its members and the general public will react, it can start a debate around the matter without letting the public in on its tactic. From the response it can make strategic decisions that are likely to enjoy support or abandon those that are likely to be received with hostility

10) Lobby


While it can be used effectively to communicate and to drive positive agendas, Facebook must never be mistaken as a sole tool for mobilisation and organising. It remains one part of a greater chromatin network that political organisations and student movements need to use in order to sustain their politics and maintain their relevance. There is no other solution to making a change than to going where it matters most: on the ground. It is there where all the ideas that are produced can be tested, and there where the people are.

Social media or networks must be exploited by political organisations and student movements to massify their voice. But to rely on Facebook without going down to the ground, to rely on Facebook without engaging in mass protests, in pickets, in physical political schools and in contact debate, is not the solution. We must learn from the Tunisians to use social media to network and to do some minor mobilisation, which we must then use to go out into our spaces and organise the people, without whom there can be no uprising, no revolts and no revolution.


Just as the ANC is able to read material conditions correctly and respond to them accordingly, those who understand the power and importance of social media will respond with renewed positivity so that they strengthen their organisations rather than continue to fragment them as we witness today. If political parties and student movements don't attend to this issue of the misuse of Facebook urgently, they run the risk of sending their organisations into the dustbin of history.

Aluta continua!
Meli, F. 1988. "HISTORY OF THE ANC: SOUTH AFRICA BELONGS TO US". Southern Afrika: Zimbabwe Publishing House

Malaika Wa Azania
Minister of Land Affairs 2033

Cellphone number: 076 538 1557 or 079 421 4315

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