14 October 2021 Volume :9 Issue :44

Steve Biko Lecture - Time for Azania, Let’s Fix Ourselves

Steve Biko Lecture - Time for Azania, Let’s Fix Ourselves
From left: Dr Mosibudi Mangena, Ms Beulah Thumbadoo, Professor Julian Kunnie and Mr Lawrence Monyahi.

This year’s Steve Biko lecture, hosted by UKZN in a webinar, was titled: Time for Azania, Let’s Fix Ourselves.

The lecture is held annually to honour and commemorate the life of struggle hero Steve Biko who died in police custody on 12 September, 1977.

The title of the lecture was styled and part borrowed from a book titled: We Can Fix Ourselves by Dr Mosibudi Mangena, a former Minister of Science and Technology.

Mangena, who was a speaker at the lecture, thanked UKZN, the Umtapo Centre venue, and the panelists for making the event possible. He spoke about sensitivities in South Africa as a result of the trauma caused by the apartheid era, saying the country continued to resort to violence as a result of the increase of inequality and fast fading hopes for a stabilised democracy. ‘What is the use of the best constitution in the world if we are oppressed by crime,’ he questioned, going on to refer to continuing inequality in the Land Reform Programme over the past 27 years, as well as shocking levels of poverty in Black communities.

To launch proceedings, Acting Director of University Relations: Corporate Relations’ Ms Hazel Langa, welcomed everyone saying it was now 44 years since Biko’s passing and South Africa continued to be all the poorer for his death, starved as it was of the struggle icon’s great intellect and philosophies. Langa mentioned how Biko’s death had crippled the Black Consciousness Movement.

‘Steve Biko, a student at UKZN’s Medical School in the 1970s, is remembered by us as a proud representative and participant in the fight against oppression,’ she said. ‘It was here at UKZN that his political activism blossomed and under his leadership Black students decided to form an exclusively Black organisation to advance the cause of the oppressed in South Africa - the South African Student Organization (SASO). Biko was elected the first president of the movement.’

Ms Ntsako Mkhabela - theatre writer, producer and the Youth and Community Development Manager at the Johannesburg Theatre - said the Steve Biko Lecture was an annual event - not a once off, rather an ongoing series addressing Black consciousness and the upliftment of the youth.

Mkhabela introduced Life Coach and Ashoka International Board Member, Ms Beulah Thumbadoo, who spoke about Azania- the name used for South Africa by indigenous Black liberationists. On the subject of healing as a country, she said: ‘One of the very first steps of healing is to not be in denial.’ She referred to the “27 club” which consists of actors, musicians and artists who have died at the age of 27 as a result of extreme lifestyles, posing the question: ‘What are we going to do about that going forward?’

Author and activist Professor Julian Kunnie of the University of Arizona in the United States unpacked the true meaning of Black consciousness and what the philosophy aimed to achieve. Kunnie said a greater institutionalisation of indigenous African languages was needed in school systems and the workplace, and spoke about reaching true Africanism. ‘Biko echoed that there would be no race classification in a liberated Azania, no minority or majority groupings just Azanian people,’ he said and such a race less society was impossible under capitalism.

Social justice activist and Cooperative Movement Leader Mr Lawrence Monyahi, who has worked at the UMTAPO Centre for more than 10 years, expressed how the Centre was founded as a result of past violence in KwaZulu-Natal and in South Africa. The Centre’s slogan was: Free the Mind, Free the Land with its work involving the creation of an anti-racial society through peace, human rights and anti-racism education.

Speakers for the youth included Mr Sibabalwe Stimele - a Rhodes University Law student who discussed Black consciousness in the youth and the effect it had on them - and masters student at the University of Zululand Mr Shawn Mavundla, and Ms Pertunia Vhuthu of the University of Venda.

The lecture is available on YouTube here.

Words: Langa Mathe

Photograph: Supplied

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