The decision to form AZAPO was conceived whilst most of these activists were in detention. Such was the resilience of Black Consciousness that barely six months after the banning of all BC structures and formations in the country, those who had escaped the net got to work almost immediately and out of their efforts, was our organisation born. Among these was our present Secretary for Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
The Black Consciousness Movement had survived the vicious blows of the savagely repressive apartheid machine and came out charging.
The easy way out now would be to sit back and say how those on the saddle in the country now have failed the nascent nation. But wouldn’t it be much better if we looked at how and why we have failed to make a meaningful impact on the political landscape of the country?
Where have we gone wrong? Why has this powerful organisation, with all that it has gone through, performed so badly in three successive national elections: managing only one member of parliament on the three occasions, no member of any Provincial Legislature, less than thirty Proportional Representation Councillors in all local government elections throughout the country, with one ward councillor who joined other political thugs and stole our seat?
We have moved away from tradition. We lost contact with the masses that we purported to represent. We neglected the culture to groom leadership for easy succession. Wrong elements found their way into the AZAPO leadership and those that knew this, failed to alert the organisation. We had a leadership that had not internalised discipline and had very little politics in their heads. Some did have some politics but used this on their path to self aggrandisement. They all got away with political murder and they knew very well that nothing would be done to them – politically – to correct their wayward ways. These are the people who really hurt our organisation. They are the ones that did no work at all but could produce colourful reports at meetings and make everybody believe that they were active.
Political education was deliberately neglected and this was done so that they - some of these leaders - could not be challenged. There is no way that a cadre armed with political theory would have allowed some of these deviations to go unchallenged.
Political education sharpens cadres and makes them vigilant; to always call on leadership to account and correct deviations within. This is still one of our biggest problems today.
The masses were for a long time neglected. The spirit of establishing community projects was forsaken and in a country where most of our people are in dire need, we could have been useful to them and in the process established a lasting relationship with them.
The leadership that most of us knew and looked up to in the formative years of our Movement was selfless.
In the 1970’s the Secretary General of the Black People’s Convention or Permanent Organiser of SASO would walk all the way to SOWETO from the city centre because they did not have the 20 cents needed to travel back home but, they would be back in the office the following day and on time. That is devotion and loyalty to a course!
That is a very rare attribute these days. We, either in error or deliberately, sneaked into our organisation that which we opposed vehemently earlier, dependency.
We are not servicing our structures and formations as we should. And please let us not raise the issue of lack of money because the argument is not sustainable, if followed. This is so given the number of AZAPO members who earn royal salaries but are sadly trapped in petit bourgeoisie hang-ups and will do nothing to improve the financial standing of the organisation. In any case one doesn’t need loads of cash to organise in the locality.
In any case, if we organise ourselves locally, expenses would be minimal and the question of money would never arise. We are just simply complacent.
Where is the vibrant youth that this movement used to pride itself in? Why have we failed to train and nurture our youth for leadership roles? After all, they are the agents of change; our ears, eyes and feet. This is the single most omission that cries out for our urgent attention.
Let us watch out for blatant careerists and deviationists in our midst, point out their errors to them through regular sessions of Criticism and Self Criticism.
What has happened to that characteristic of our culture as a movement - work, work and more work? Have we abandoned that? Cdes, we have a responsibility that we can’t shed; and that is to finish the business that our founding pioneers set to achieve.
This lack of service has left us out of the political developments in our country. Let us take the many strikes that we have had this year. We were hardly visible. The people lacked political direction, hence the wanton and unnecessary destruction of facilities and structures that serve them, such as libraries, trains, schools, etc. We need to educate our masses to take ownership of what they have and respect that. Let us strive to re-establish that vital link, that interconnectedness, for the sake of our country.
Our country is going to the dogs, if they are not there already pissing all over it, through the many wrong things that are being done; and all this is met with a stony – or is it noisy – silence from us. A lot has passed and gone unchallenged. We have hundreds of us who could respond via articles to the press but no, that is not the case. We are nursing our comfort zones! What are we heard saying about corruption in this country that seems to have taken second place in our veins? What do we have to say about Trade Unionism and the Essential Services? What of the spiralling violence in the country?
Comrades, let us put each other through the paces and make this organisation what it should be. Let us cultivate each other and arm one another with tools of analysis and get back to the culture of serving our communities selflessly. Let us do away with the practice of visiting our communities when we need their votes, and be there with them and for them all the time.
We will never win the respect, confidence or trust of our people if we, like some comets, make an appearance once every five years hoping that we will get their votes. They are no fools!
If we don’t heed this, and democracy in our country fails, we shall be equally blameworthy and guilty of complicity in its erosion because we shall have done nothing to correct wrongs when we could, either by word or deed.
Let us reclaim our proud history and rightful place in the political space of our country. Otherwise that which Cde Biko saw on that distant horizon may never be realised, ever.
ONE AZANIA, ONE NATION.