LEST WE FORGET: JUNE 16 1976 AND THE BETHAL TRIAL

Kgosana Philip

Sons and daughters of the soil, let me acknowledge with thanks your kind invitation to address this august gathering of pan africanists.

To the Pan Africanist Youth of today

It is now 35 years since the Soweto Youth Uprising hit the land of Azania, the world and ushered in a new phase in the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed masses of Azania. The focus of the uprising as we know was to challenge the racist forces of apartheid and colonialism and to call to a halt the attempt to enslave the mind of the African youth.

Lest we forget, it is important to set the record straight because we are aware that there is a concerted effort to distort the history of our struggle at every opportunity particularly since 1994. So much so an informed mind will think that the Soweto youth uprising was triggered by the brutal death of the young hector Peterson at the hands of the racist police whereas the fact is that youth resistance against Bantu Education and the apartheid state had been simmering long before 1976.

The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) had been building strength on the campuses of our universities for years since 1967 with a straight confrontation between the black students and the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). The mergence of SASO and its revolutionary stance on campuses shook the pillars of apartheid and it was clear that there was no going back for the black youths. The black power salute was visible both in the rural and urban areas as black consciousness surfaced with anger and frustration in the 1970’s.

At the core of the youth message was a call for black self reliance and self assertion as Steve Biko declared in February of 1970 when he said “blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing”. A deep sense of inferiority, inculcated through the system of Bantu education and reinforced by white arrogance had to be erased and replaced with pride in black values. There was no longer a place for the fear of the whites or the racist government. Self pity had no place in our youths. Instead the answer was liberation through revolution and that was the situation on the eve of the uprising in 1976.

Clandestine meetings between Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko were held in May 1975 where the Prof assured Biko of full support for the youth revolution which was impending. Zeph Mothopeng and other PAC cadres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and other parts of Azania geared themselves to establish a united force during Christmas of 1975, culminating in the Mafikeng Manifesto of 31 May 1976.

The role of Zeph Mothopeng

We know that between June 16 1976 and 30 September 1976 more than 900 students were shot and killed across the country; that many students left the country to join various organizations in exile; and that Soweto uprising was a major milestone in the history of our struggle.

The first recorded information features a speech by Uncle Zeph in May 1974 at wilgespruit (roodeport) to a youth congress. In May 1975 a meeting took place between Uncle Zeph and Prof Sobukwe where they looked at the unity talks with BCM leaders. Zeph and several PAC leaders had been under surveillance since 1963 after their release from jail following the 1960 anti pass campaign.

In 1977 uncle Zeph and 17 others were charged for terrorism in the bethal regional court. It was alleged that at a meeting in May 1976 Uncle Zeph said that plans where being made for riots in which school children would stone and burn school buildings leading to a country wide revolution. Uncle Zeph was central to the charge as Accused Number 1. He was not allowed to make a statement at the commencement of the trial and he refused to plead. He was convicted and spent 15 years on Robben Island.

What of the PAC Youth today?

Allow me to revisit some of the basic principles and policies and inquire how they youth fit in:

– Our objective is to unite and rally the African people under the banner of African nationalism and pan africanism;

– Our motto Africa for the Africans, Africans for humanity and humanity for god – provides our world view; and

– We stand for total respect for Africa womanhood.

In the light of the above what is the position of the PAC on the killing and molesting our African brothers and sisters who live in our country from other parts of Africa, in so called Xenophobia violence – Answer: I don’t know!

Where does the PAC stand on the land question? Do we reject or support Mugabe position and stands he has adopted over the past decade or so? – Answer: I don’t know!

Africa for the Africans: do we stand by what we say or are we simply sloganeering? – Answer: I don’t know!

Have we as a party shown our unreserved respect for African motherhood? – Answer: I don’t know!

I want to support that in as much as Sobukwe could lead the PAC at the age of 35 years; there is no reason why the leadership of PAYCO in 2011 cannot assume leadership of the party.

I suggest that PAYCO should come up with a monthly publication which will be a forum for articulation of PAC positions on the issues of the day rather than leave the masses and admires of the PAC in the dark.

We have no business relying on today’s popular media. They will not publish what we say because they consider us a one percent party. If we introduce our own publication the readership will be there and nobody will take our views lightly.

We must also accept that today’s political game is the game around the ballot box. That game has become a science we dare not engage in it part time.

Finally I assure you that PAC will never die. You and I will die but not the PAC.

Izwelethu!

By Atta Phillip Kgosana

(On the occasion of the commemoration of June 16 1976 Soweto Uprising and the Bethal Trial, June 16 2011, hosted by the Pan Africanist Youth Congress (PAYCO) of Azania at Ourad Saal, City of Tshwane)