Racism Under the Spotlight at Biko Lecture
Biko’s Quest for True Humanity: Racism and Corruption as Crimes against Humanity, was the title of the 2020 Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture hosted online by UKZN and the UMTAPO Centre.
Professor Towani Duchscher of the University of Calgary in Canada spoke on Tackling White Privilege: Moving from Non-Racist to Anti-Racist, saying to be anti-racist, one needed to ‘actively and publically dismantle’ the racism that pervades institutions. ‘It’s not about just quietly thinking that you are not racist - it’s confronting and dismantling white supremacy and working to decolonise our institutions.’
An educator, Duchscher said students were often ‘offered the world in a fragmented and hierarchical way’ and stressed the importance of ensuring that reading lists given to students were representative of Black authors and Black protagonists and asked the probing question: ‘Whose history is taught?’
Activist, writer and independent researcher for the Tri-continental Institute for Social Research Mr Brian Kamanzi was unable to be at the virtual gathering, but submitted a thought-provoking video titled: White Supremacy, Capitalism and Decolonisation.
Kamanzi said decolonisation was not a set of ideas defined by intellectuals or anyone in a university. ‘Decolonisation is strictly the process through which the impacts of colonialism are undermined and resisted in all the vast and varied ways in which it manifests,’ said Kamanzi. ‘To speak of White supremacy is to speak of colonialism.’
He said a tremendous amount of wealth was stolen from southern Africa from ‘the winelands in the Cape to the gold fields in the Rand to the sugarcane fields in old Natal.’
Kamanzi stressed the importance of changing attitudes and called for a focus on self-reliance efforts at a community level. ‘We need to rebuild confidence in one another and develop dreams of new revolutionary paths as Biko and his comrades once did.’
Mr Pule Monama, an advocate for social justice and a veteran of the Black Consciousness Movement, spoke on Corruption as a Crime against Humanity: Time for Action beyond the Rhetoric.
Monama said corruption was a crime against humanity and an act of criminality. ‘Our children die in pit latrines, our health workers perish as a result of poorly manufactured Personal Protective Equipment, our children are taught under trees and in open fields, patients die in our health facilities because of a lack of equipment or medicines, and our communities don’t have clean, running water,’ he said.
‘Corruption has become a pandemic in our society,’ he added. A founding member of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), Monama emphasised the importance of civic education in combatting corruption.
Human Rights attorney, Advocate Mojankunyane Gumbi examined Biko’s Quest for True Humanity: How far has the horizon shifted? Gumbi emphasised that racism exists on an institutional basis. ‘Apartheid was about excluding Blacks from the economy,’ she said.
Gumbi, the Chancellor of the University of Venda, advocated for mobilising wherever one was. ‘Educate, educate, educate!’ she said. ‘Don’t give up your space to anyone - occupy whatever space you find yourself in and teach.’
Facilitator and UMTAPO alumni Dr Sarifa Moola-Nernaes shared a heartfelt and hard-hitting poem she penned more than 20 years ago titled Corruption.
Executive Director (Acting) of UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division, Ms Normah Zondo said the discussion was timeous as many countries, including South Africa, were ‘grappling with matters of racism and corruption.’
She said Biko’s ‘political activism blossomed’ while he was a student at the former University of Natal’s Medical School and paid tribute to his ‘courage and leadership’ in the Black Consciousness Movement. ‘He played a role in galvanising the oppressed in fighting for access to science and mathematics education, which were denied to Black students at that time,’ said Zondo.
The memorial lecture was viewed in South Africa, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Guyana, Israel, France, Mexico and Norway.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer