VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


40th Anniversary of the Sowetan Uprising and Africans still suffer dispossession

Max O.
Soweto, June 16 1976 was one of the most momentous uprisings in the history of the anti-apartheid struggle. The streets of this township were stained with students' blood, a tragedy that is deeply etched in the minds of dispossessed Africans.

Students from surrounding Sowetan schools protested in the streets of Soweto in reaction to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools. 20,000 black students marched from their schools to Orlando Stadium to vent opposition that their learning be conducted in the oppressors language.

The protest was organised by the Soweto Students' Representative Council Action Committee and backed by the influential Black Consciousness Movement. The Soweto protest became famous around the world and synonymous with opposition to apartheid South Africa.

The apartheid police brutality was fierce in crushing the Sowetan student's protest. The number of 176 protestors killed by police is generally given, however the number of 700 would be closer to the mark. The Sowetan Student's protest of 16th June is now commemorated as a public holiday in South Africa.

The ANC government sells out its own people
Unfortunately the struggles of those times is officially dissipated and the day is inscribed with the insipid name of, "Youth Day". The black students of 1976 were not asking for civil rights but demanding liberation of their country and rejection of white colonial rule when they sang out 'Azania' (land of the African People).

The African National Congress (ANC), then and now, only ever promoted a limited agenda of civil rights and ignored the struggle of returning stolen land back to African People. Before the ANC became the government of South Africa in 1994, it did a deal with the local white elite, foreign imperialist powers and multinational corporations to maintain and enforce their dominance of the land and economy.

Now 40 years after the famous uprising of Soweto and supposed black majority rule, black Africans have little to show for their struggles and sacrifices. Their plight has not improved but rather deteriorated since Mandela and the ANC took on government back in 1994.

Blacks in South Africa still suffer appalling living conditions of no running water, electricity, decent sanitation, no return of land and in contrast they see a small black bourgeoisie cosying up to a white-imperialist dominated economy. The ANC government's political treachery saw them in 2012 command black police to gun down the striking Marikana miners in support of the Lonmin Corporation.

44 African mineworkers were murdered at Marikana, marking it as a watershed of betrayal in the history of the ANC, Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). By 2013 political upheaval in South Africa ensued with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), lead by Julius Malema, breaking away from the Jacob Zuma led ANC.

Opportunism of the Economic Freedom Fighters
However the EFF have been more puff than substance and is really just a vehicle for Julius Malema's personal political ambitions. Publicly the EFF denounces the ANC for their pro-business position, selling out black people of South Africa to capitalism as cheap labour, proposing to expropriate stolen land, calling for the nationalisation of the mining and banking sectors.

Things came to ahead politically within the EFF when Malema in April, 2015 met with the white agricultural capitalist class in Paarl and Stellenbosch. Invited to their forum "Gesprek" (Afrikaans for conversations) he reassured the rich white farmers that their land holdings were secure and allayed their fears on the issue of “expropriation of land without compensation”.

Malema stated, to the delight of these white farmers, that as long “as it’s a productive farm, we don’t have to interfere with the production on that piece of land” and opportunistically pointed out that there would only be expropriation and occupation of “non-productive land". He thus guaranteed to these white land thieves that "their" land is safe from blacks who would only occupy unused and unproductive land; in other words the best land would stay with the whites and blacks would only take what was left over.

This sell out was all too much for sections of the EFF who were unwilling to accept the abrogation of 'expropriation of stolen African land' policy in the party's platform. By August, 2015 activists who were expelled from the EFF established the Black First Land First (BLF) movement. Its most notable leader, Andile Mgxitama after being expelled from the EFF, described it as a "watered-down version of the African National Congress".

Emergence of the Black First Land First movement
BLF was officially launch in Soweto, 14 May 2016 declaring its ideology as Black Consciousness, Pan-Africanism and Sankarist, completely rejecting the ANC's Freedom Charter, 'South Africa belongs to all who live in it, both black and white'. After more than 350 years of land dispossession and more than 22 years of cowardice by the ANC, there is a resurgence of the Pan-Africanist agenda of Robert Sobukwe (the land must be returned to the indigenous custodians) amongst black South Africans. For blacks the 'Rainbow Nation' has proved a bitter illusion that only benefited the white un-settlers and their black lackeys.

The need for black people to think and act for their own liberation, as articulated by the Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, is essential because their freedom struggle cannot be outsourced to others; a problem of the past where whites had too much influence within the black liberation movement.

The BLF employs within its black agenda the Sankaraist leadership approach. Thomas Sankara (21/12/1949 - 15/10/1987) was a Burkinabe military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987, until he was overthrown in a coup. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as Africa's Che Guevara.

The BLF sees the Sankarist leadership ethos, both in belief and practice, following and honouring the revolutionary legacy of Thomas Sankara, as a crucial measure to counter corruption. To this end their black agenda promotes a servant leadership that is accountable, democratic, responsive leadership that puts black people first.

The movement has busily been promoting land occupations of white owned land by blacks throughout the country. A strategy that aims to return stolen land back to Africans faces a huge task.

Out of the 54 million people in South Africa 35 000 white families, including white businesses, own more than 80% of the land. Since 1994, the ANC government has bought 8% of the land from whites at the cost of about R50 billion.

The ANC's buy-back, using the willing seller-willing buyer method, is a futile approach to the black landless problem. Since 1994 more than 1 million black people have been forcibly removed from white farms. Farm workers, who are always black, are essentially slaves in South Africa.

The uprising in Soweto 40 years ago left an indelible mark, as did Sharpeville 16 years before and Marikana 36 years after, upon black South Africans. These three historic tragic massacres have taught black Africans that their freedom will only be found once they have control of their land.

The launch of the Black First Land First  movement is reminiscent of Pan Africanist Congress beginnings in 1959 and the evolvement of Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s, where on both occasions it was seen as crucial to breakaway from reformist strategies that deliver nothing to the dispossessed. The BLF has flagged its willingness to unite with the Pan Africanist Congress - PAC and the Azanian Peoples Organisation - AZAPO (the current Black Consciousness organisation) to forge an Azanian Front that can mobilise blacks to overcome their dispossession and win back their country.

The class divide in South Africa reflects the race divide and the race divide is materially expressed in the land divide, where 80% of the population or 43.2 million people are virtually landless. This is an explosive matter that no 'Rainbow Nation' veneer can ever hope to contain nor control, for the dispossessed cannot be suppressed for ever.