Going Back in Order to Go Forward

By Somila Tiwani

“We have entered the month of young people, the only month where young people are given a platform to express their frustrations without suppressions”, says Bonginkosi Shongwe, the Branch Secretary of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) at Nelson Mandela University. The EFFSC-led Student Representative Council (SRC) conducted an online political lecture on 1 June 2022, where NMU SRC president, Pontsho Hlongwane was the facilitator.

‘Going back in order to go forward: lessons from the past to correctly shape the future’, was the programme’s theme while the purpose was to discover what lessons we can take from the past to fully understand how we got to where we are now and how we should address the socio-economic challenges that we face as the youth.

This is part of the SRC’s pledge to reintroduce politics to our campuses and the country in general, as there has been a significant decline in student activism. We are challenged to make sense of black consciousness and its impact on the student movement, thus we must begin by honouring Steve Biko, the father of black consciousness.

“Steve Biko says that being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”, Hlongwane states. He further elaborates that black consciousness is a medication that aims to infuse a renewed sense of pride in the black community, within themselves and their contribution to life. It is a philosophy that advocated that black South Africans should get rid of the inferiority complex and their psychological freedom through self-reliance, self-assertiveness and black pride. Black consciousness inspires black people to unite in order to achieve their own emancipation.

According to the SRC president, all the people who influenced Steve Biko had one thing in common, the primary contradiction of the 21st century is that of race and all other issues were secondary. They argued that we’re black first and we’re members of society, we cannot be entirely free until the black race is free.

Further, “South Africa does not belong to black people, it’s still in the hands of the capitalist. Those who have economic power are the ones who are in control of the country.”

“The reason why we don’t have free education in SA is because we can never have free education in a capitalist society, but that does not mean that the struggle for free education must wait.”

Black consciousness remains relevant to the student movement. “As young people we ought to sharpen our tools of analyses to actually understand the fundamental problems we face as black students in universities and be able to confront them head on,” concluded Hlongwane.

Photo credit: sahistory

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