The truth about South Africa: Interview with a rebel

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What is the Union of Black Journalists?

The first Union of Black Journalists came into existence in 1973 because Black journalists weren’t allowed into the white unions. We forced management recognition and obtained some improvements for Black workers.

In 1976, the Soweto students rose up in revolt. Violence began with the police, but the students retaliated with their bare hands and were met with machine gun bullets. Since only Blacks could get into Black areas, all the news suddenly came from a Black perspective. So the government began to adopt the attitude that the writers were inciting the children!

At this time, the UBJ published the first all-Black paper, The Bulletin. The authorities banned the second issue, so we formed a “front” organization called the Writers Association of South Africa, leaving out the words “Black” and “Journalists.” Then we published a paper under a Zulu name meaning “we won’t keep quiet.”

In 1977, the authorities banned every Black Consciousness organization in the country: the Black Peoples Convention, the Soweto Students Council, and the South African Students Movement, an organization of high school students which, at one. stage, was the entire vanguard of the Black leadership. .

Right after the ban, we met secretly in a church deep in the heart of Soweto, late at night. Representatives of all the Black Consciousness groups were present — sometimes adversity pulls you together. At this meeting, we decided to form one group of all the people advocating Black Consciousness. It now operates, mainly clandestinely, under the name AZAPO-Azanian Peoples Organization. We call our country Azania, not South Africa — that is the whites’ name for it.

How extensive is censorship?

The Censorship Board reviews all publications. If it finds them undesirable, they are banned and then it’s an offense to possess or distribute them. Anything to do with socialism or Black Consciousness is censored.

They’ve got a law called the Internal Security Act which permits detention even though you haven’t done anything, in order to prevent you from doing what you might have in your mind to do! It defines as “communistic activity” anything that could offend anyone. If you belong to Black Consciousness, that makes you a communist. And the number of repressive laws is growing.

All kinds of things are hushed up. One was the Bethel scandal, where farmers were killing Blacks and using them for fertilizer.

This was exposed by a Black journalist and now he’s dead.

It’s illegal to have a demonstration, or for more than two people to meet. On the white election day, 27 of our journalists unfurled our banners and marched on the Johannesburg police station where they torture people. We managed to march quite far: the station was actually in sight when they arrested us.

In the June 16 uprising in Soweto, the official death toll of Black kids was only 400. This isn’t true. Many reporters were detained at the time because they knew that at every police station they were digging big holes and just shoving in bodies. One reporter tried to get this information into print — they detained him and broke his neck. There is so much torture.

What role do women play?

South Africa is man-oriented and homophobic, more so among whites than Blacks. But Black women have played a dynamic role in the struggle.

Winnifred Kwagare was the first president of the Black Consciousness movement — the Black Peoples Convention.

Jubie mayet, treasurer of the Union of Black Journalists, virtually ran that organization and held down a full-time job — and she’s a widow with eight children. She was detained under the Internal Security Act as a “preventative measure” and banned from any contact with any aspect of newspapers of publishing for five years.

How do you see the Black Consciousness struggle developing?

Initially, there were two trends in the Black Consciousness movement. one stressed a need for power but economics played a role in it. The other called for an ideological and economic base — hopefully socialist. Today, the leadership is almost totally socialist. I suppose socialists have more resilience when the crunch comes. I think the most encouraging new development is that now we do have an ideological base for struggle.

We have Black art, Black ideology, Black consciousness and are connected completely with the workers’ struggles.

The direction of the freedom movement is now towards a fight between the socialists and the capitalists. And for the first time in history, this fight will also be along race lines. Blacks aren’t just going to ask whites for a better deal. We’re going to take it, because it’s ours. Before we ever saw white people, we led a socialist existence!

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