The late 1960’s student leaders like Steve Bantu Biko and Onkgopotse Tiro looked up to Sobukwe, and to some extent, Mandela as their leaders. Biko met Sobukwe and another PAC leader, Zeph Mothopeng was invited by the Black Consciousness-oriented South African Student Organisation in 1975 to address a SASO gathering on Imperialist Penetration in African Universities. A year later on June 16 and 17 Soweto and other townships erupted. A year later Biko was killed in detention and all BC groups and newspapers like The World, Sowetan’s predecessor were banned. Four months later Sobukwe died. In 1978 a BC organisation, Azapo emerged. It dominated the scene and kept the home’s fire burning until the emergence in 1983 of violence prone ANC-aligned United Democratic Front which violently supplanted Azapo.
There was a shabby and shoddy reporting by the media of the violence perpetrated on Azapo members. This violence was reminiscent of the Soviet style pogroms. South African author Riaan Malan succinctly captures this war of attrition on Azapo in his book My Traitor’s Heart.
As 1990 drew close, there was a dramatic shift in media focus. There was an orchestrated campaign to shift media attention away from Sobukwe and the PAC as well as BCM and its leaders and elevate Mandela and the ANC. Sobukwe, Biko, Tiro and Mothopeng were relegated to the back banner and there is a concerted attempt to consign them to the dust bin of history. The powers that be want to permanently expunge them from our collective memory in order to deny posterity knowledge of their significant contribution in our struggle for liberation. The contribution of all these heroes and martyrs must remain etched indelibly in our collective psyche forever.
By Sam Ditshego