BLF Deregistered: What Now, Blacks?
"The African people have been told time and again that they are babies, that they are an inferior race, that they cannot achieve anything worthwhile by themselves or without a white man as their "trustee" or "leader." This insidious suggestion has poisoned their minds and has resulted in a pathological state of mind. Consequently, the African has lost or is losing the sterling qualities of self-respect, self-confidence and self-reliance. Even in the political world, it is being suggested that Africans cannot organise themselves or make any progress without white ‘leaders’. Now I stand for the revolt against this psychological enslavement of my people. I strive for the eradication of this "Ja-Baas" mentality, which for centuries has been systematically and subtly implanted into the minds of the Africans.'-Muziwakhe Lembede
Please allow me to start with a brief story that bears some resemblance to the BLF case. 22 years ago (1997), I was part of the branch leadership of AZAPO’s tertiary students wing (AZASCO) at the then Peninsula Technikon Bellville campus (now Cape University of Technology).
For about two years (before 1997), at this particular campus, AZASCO was denied recognition by the Student Representative Council (SRC). The reasoning of the SRC was that the AZASCO Constitution was ‘racist’. When we asked how so? The SRC's response was "...because your constitution excluded white students from being members."
The view of the SRC was based on its (mis) interpretation of the membership clause in Section 6 of AZASCO’s Constitution, which read as follows:
“I. MEMBERSHIP SHALL BE OPEN TO ALL BLACK STUDENTS PROVIDED:
(i). They accept AZASCO’s ideology, constitution, principles, policy and programme,
(ii). They are willing to join and work actively in an organ of AZASCO they be assigned to,
(iii). They diligently and unconditionally carry out the resolution and decision of AZASCO and whatever tasks and duties they may be given,
(iv). They consciously observe the discipline of AZASCO,
(v). They commit themselves to the livelihood and development of AZASCO through financial and material support from time to time.”
For the period that AZASCO was denied recognition by the SRC, we had to use the rooms (at res) of our members as offices. At some point, the room of the late Tower, Tebogo Mohajane at MGR (M16), was the AZASCO.
I remember how the management of the institution and other student structures were forced to slide the letters written to AZASCO, under Tebogo’s door. Furthermore, If AZASCO needed to run any programme or hold a meeting, we were forced to go and ‘beg’ for resources from the student development office.
Because of its position, the SRC effectively denied AZASCO access to student facilities. This was happening in spite of the fact that, at an inter personal level, the individual SRC members (the majority of them SASCO members), were generally decent and very friendly individuals.
For an organisation that believes in Black Pride and regards all Black students as its members, all of this was very humiliating for us as AZASCO and it made us very angry because we hated the fact that we were on the receiving end of repression and humiliation by our kind (Black people).
After a protracted battle with the SRC (which was gradually showing signs of exploding into a full blown physical confrontation), we eventually won the battle as AZASCO and in September, 1998, by unanimous resolution of the SRC General Council, we gained formal recognition by the SRC.
Towers Mnu Mendo Ramncwana, Mnu Chris Swepu and Mnu Nelvis Qekekama, know this painful story very well. What is the point of this story? Those of us who spent a considerable time of our activist life in the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), know what it feels like to be persecuted for your beliefs.
There is therefore a sense in which we can relate to what the membership and leadership of BLF is going through at this moment. One of the reasons for our capacity to relate with the BLF experience arises from the fact that, just like the AZASCO of our time, BLF is inspired by Bantu Biko’s interpretation of Black Consciousness and has also adopted Biko’s definition of ‘Black’, as articulated in the policy manifesto of the South African Student’s Organisation (SASO).
Now let us come to the BLF matter. Earlier this year, the Equality Court made a very bizarre but unsurprising ruling when it declared that BLF’s "land or death" slogan constitutes “hate speech”. BLF was ordered to among others, remove "the contentious slogan" from its website, as well as its regalia and other public platforms and publicly apologise to the South African public (something akin to the humiliation AZASCO was subjected to 22 years ago).
Then the Human Rights Commission referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal charges. Then on Tuesday, (this week) the Electoral Court ruled for BLF to be deregistered as a political party. There has a been a variety of reactions to the latest court decision against BLF, including celebrations by some Black people, which in my view, is petty, shallow, ill-informed and deeply disturbing in my view.
This week's decision by the Electoral Court comes against the background of a barrage of onslaughts against BLF by among others anti-black and white supremacist groups like Solidarity/ Afriforum, Freedom Plus and of course, state instruments like the courts and Human Rights Commission.
What are the implications of all this? Firstly, you may have noticed how anti-Black groups like AfriForum/Solidarity, Freedom Front Plus or the DA, readily form a common front when they have to deal with groups like BLF, any Black group or individual that unapologetically advances a pro-black position.
As part of their standard operating procedure, these anti-Black groups don't care about things like party political affiliation or ideological posture, if you're a Black person or Black organisation and you threaten (in their view), the interests of the Europeans in South AfriKKKa- they will fight you by any means at their disposal.
Secondly, it is to be poor students of political history for Black people to expect the current South AfriKKKan constitution (and its subsidiary laws and institutions), to consciously promote, endorse or defend Black people and their distinct aspirations. The current South AfriKKKan constitution was not conceived with Black people or their aspirations in mind.
Its major mandate was to legitimise a monumental project of white political fraud (with Black collusion) that happened during the early 80s and was crowned with the early 90s Convention for A Democratic South Africa (CODESA). Essentially an abortion of the Black liberation project.
So BLF is correct in its assertion that constitution is anti-Black. And it is for this reason that when BLF (or any Black person or Black group implicates the constitution in the crisis of Black powerlessness, in particular landlessness), naturally, BLF will be viciously attacked by the white power structure and Black instruments.
Why is this the case? The Constitution is the ultimate 'legal' guarantor for the position on illegitimate privilege and power that the European invaders occupied in the white criminal-settler colony referred to as South AfriKKKa.
Thirdly, at a superficial level, this onslaught through the courts may appear like it is directed at BLF or its leaders, but in truth, this onslaught is actually directed at us (the natives of this land). In the manner that they are dealing with BLF the message that the European invaders want to send to the Black world is this: if you dare do or say things that are meant to advance Black people and we (the European invaders), view them as a threat to our interests, you must know that will come for you and crush you with all of our might.
So whatever our perceptions of BLF or its leaders, the truth is that, they are being attacked because they are perceived as saying things that don't accord with the deceptive post 1994 political serenity.
Fourthly, these court rulings in favour of anti-Black groups are not simply legal victories. They are deeply political victories. At one level they are a demonstration of how the European invaders are able to use their legal instruments (which we continue to worship) to further their domination and humiliation of us the natives, in the land of our ancestors.
At another level, these legal victories are also evidence of the fact that the white power structure in South AfriKKKa has consciously and unapologetically decided to openly consolidate itself (politically), and fight back as an organised force, at all levels. Something that Black political movements continue to fail at or understand.
Sixth, beyond all the superficial white liberal legal twaddle and the soporific media debates, the situation that BLF finds itself in today (knowingly or unknowingly), is actually a re-enactment of the colossal fight that was so gallantly waged by the founding leadership of the ANC Youth League, under the great Muziwakhe Lembede.
Having noticed the hegemonic hold that white liberal thought had over the ANC and its political direction, the ANCYL of Lembede took a conscious decision to wage a counter war. As part of this war, the ANCYL of Lembede emphatically declared in its founding manifesto that:
"The white race...has arrogated to itself the ownership of the land and invested itself with the authority and right to regard South Africa as a white man's country. This has meant that the African who owned the land before the advent of whites, has been deprived of all security which may guarantee him an independent pursuit of destiny or ensure his leading a free and unhampered life…We believe that the national liberation of Africans will be achieved by Africans themselves. We reject foreign leadership of Africa"
Today, 72 years after the death of Lembede, the issues of land, nativity and liberation remain unresolved and because there are those who would prefer that these issues be forgotten or ignored- movements like BLF must be attacked or silenced (especially when they make statements like 'the constitution is anti-black").
For BLF to make this statement is to bring into serious question the entirety of the Kempton Park settlement (the birth of the current constitution) and those who are credited as it authors.
So whether we realise it or not, the onslaught against BLF is not just calculated to reassert the dominance of the European invaders over us (the natives). This onslaught is also aimed at ensuring that we the natives, remain trapped in a state of white induced terror, which manifests itself in Black assuming a docile posture that is calculating to ensure that, in whatever we say or do, we must make sure that we don't offend the delicate feelings of white people.
This is the ultimate aim of all this: for all Black people in South AfriKKKa to continue living like terrorised beggars, in the land of their ancestors. What kind of response does all of this require? I honestly don't think I have readily available wisdom on this question, but I do think that, under ideal circumstances, at this very moment, movements like PAC, AZAPO, BCMU, EFF would be jointly condemning the Electoral Court's decision against BLF and together, they would be showing Black people what this and other similar decisions mean for us as Black people.
The sad reality however is that, these movements have not made a meaningful effort to find each other and build a united black front, as some of wish they could. In my view, all the movements that purport to be pan Afrikanist, Black conscious, Afrocentirc in their orientation must seriously think about having an urgent and exclusive meeting to collectively make sense of all that is happening to BLF (and other Black movements) and what the response of the Black world should be to all this.
As things stand, there is no coherent Black agenda around which Black political movements can coalesce. And this is why even though anti-black groups like AfriForum are far younger movements like the PAC or AZAPO- they are still able to undermine the efforts of Black people at attaining such things as land repossession.
On numerous occasions some of us have made a call for pan Afrikanist/Black consciousness/Afrocentric movements to unshackle themselves from egocentric politics and what Mwalimu Mphutlane wa Bofelo aptly refers to as 'party nationalism. And that they should find each other and put a sincere effort into developing something that can be referred to as a Black radical agenda.
In fact, there is a sense in which the deregistration of BLF may be the proverbial blessing in disguise that may force BLF and the movements I have mentioned to work with urgency towards the formation of a united Black front.
Black people in South AfriKKKa are desperately in need of broad Black political instrument that will enable them to fight back as a group (in all spheres of people activity). If we continue to prioritise our political cubicles over our destiny as a group, then we must also prepare ourselves for more centuries of domination and humiliation by the murderers and rapists of our ancestors.