Zakes Mda on Biko, Theatre of Resistance, and Protest



WHY?: This is a 2001 lecture titled "Biko's Children" given by Zakes Mda at the 2nd annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture.

Excerpt: [...] "I have written elsewhere that protest theatre made a statement of disapproval, but did not go beyond that. It addressed itself to the oppressor, with the view of appealing to his conscience. It was therefore a theatre of complaint, of weeping and of self-pity...Black Consciousness was a philosophy of resistance rather than of protest. With it came a new generation of theatre practitioners, the Matsemela Manakas and the Maishe Maponyas, who created work that went beyond protest. This new theatre of resistance no longer placed the onus on the oppressed to prove their humanity. It no longer attempted to appeal to the conscience of the oppressor. It addressed itself directly to the oppressed, with the view of mobilising the oppressed to fight against oppression." [...]

(SOURCE: Steve Biko Foundation) In Sesotho there is a saying that motjheka sediba ha a se nwe - he who digs a well does not drink from it. Only those who come after him will quench their thirst from its cool water. When the forebears formulated this adage they had Steve Bantu Biko in mind, even as he sat in the world of pre-creation waiting to be created. When he finally came he became a digger of wells from which he never drank since his life was cut short. As a drinker from the wells that he dug, I am honoured and humbled by the Steve Biko Foundation's invitation to deliver the Second Steve Biko Memorial Lecture.

Recently I was invited to an inspiring event that left me proud to be a South African in the heart of Soweto - the Youth Empowerment and Networking Imbizo. The young woman who organised the event, a powerful performance poet called Lebo Mashile, told me that the objective of the imbizo was to inspire young people through art, and to motivate them to greater heights of creativity through the successes of peer role models, with the view of creating a positive and productive youth community.

I had been for some time on the trail of dub poets who were signalling a new age of activism in their performances. The invitation was promising me performances by Tumi, Zee, Sammy, Lebo, Kano, Palesa, Makgabe, Miriam, Siphiwe, Mpho, Masello, Roots 200 and Delia - young men and women without surnames, who have been plying their consciousness-raising poetry in the various underground venues of Gauteng.

What was remarkable about this gathering was that it had not been decreed from above, perhaps by some youth commission, some government agency or even some non-governmental organisation that needed to justify its existence to some donor. At their own volition and expense young people came together to create community dialogue on issues that concerned them most. And this, I was told, happened quite often. The whole movement is not institutional. It is a cultural and political re-awakening of those who had been consigned to the ditches of a lost generation, who are now pulling themselves out, quite mercilessly, with the scruff of their necks.

The performances of the poets were interspersed with presentations from Black Rage, Loxion Kultcha and Blk Sonshine, initiatives by young people who had taken a creative concept and managed to implement it and make it financially viable in such fields as internet publishing, fashion range designing and production, and music.

The presentations were followed by a workshop that explored what the participants referred to as Universal Oppression. In the words of Lebo Mashile: "Most black people have the perception that oppression is something that is imposed from 'top' down. Oppression begins with the self-perception that one is unworthy, unlovable, stupid, ignorant, good for nothing. One cannot impose on another that which they know to be untrue about themselves. Once a false self-image is ingrained in the individual psyche, oppression works more like a ripple in a pool. It is the feeling of powerlessness that inspires us to oppress others. When I feel as though I have been robbed of power society has conditioned me to react by robbing others of their power, usually those that I deem less powerful than me. Thus the victim and oppressor are usually one and the same, but play different roles in different contexts."

This process of self-examination and self-criticism is achieved through drama because, according to the facilitator, drama and creativity are effective outlets for the exploration of issues in a space where people feel safe enough to expose their vulnerability. Lebo Mashile says the use of drama and the creative arts has been essential to all struggles all over the planet, including our own struggle here in South Africa. It will continue to be essential in the new struggle against the enemy of self.

At this youth imbizo I could hear echoes of the voices of the youth of the early 1970s, when Steve Biko and other leaders of the time espoused the philosophy of political and economic liberation that would emanate from the psychological liberation of the oppressed black masses. Indeed I could see the young Matsemela Manaka of the 1970s in a poet from a Diepkloof based outfit called C4 Tupperware from Mars (Don't be put off by these names, they belie profound content). The movement may be reminiscent of the activism of the 1970s, but the poetry is fresh and new. Its form and content are of this age. It is mostly rhyming dub-influenced poetry that addresses the youths' disillusionment with post liberation politics and politicians who, they feel, have betrayed them. But most importantly, the resounding message is that of self-assertion, self-development and psychological liberation through positive cultural action.

We remember that one of the greatest contributions of Steve Biko's Black Consciousness movement was that of positioning culture at the centre of the liberation struggle, more than any other political movement had done before.

An early attempt to harness cultural action to the liberation struggle began and ended in the 1940s when prominent members of the ANC Youth League mooted plans for the establishment of an African Academy. Through the African Academy African artists in all spheres of the arts would unite and interpret the spirit of Africa. The Academy would also help African scholars break the dominance of white academics in African studies. The Programme of Action, a statement of policy authored by AP Mda, the president of the ANC Youth League, and adopted at the ANC annual conference on the 17th December 1949, stated that the theatre of struggle against white domination and for the attainment of political independence would not be confined to the political arena. The revolution would also be staged in the arenas of economics, education and culture. The document stressed the necessity of uniting the cultural with the educational and national struggle. And, of course, the establishment of a national academy of arts and sciences stood out as one of the key objectives.

With the advent of Black Consciousness a protest culture that pervaded black South African life was converted into a resistance culture. This was reflected clearly in the practice of theatre - in its production and enjoyment. Whereas the predominant mode of political theatre before this era was a theatre of protest, the Black Consciousness movement gave birth to a theatre of resistance. I have written elsewhere that protest theatre made a statement of disapproval, but did not go beyond that. It addressed itself to the oppressor, with the view of appealing to his conscience. It was therefore a theatre of complaint, of weeping and of self-pity. It did not offer any solution beyond the depiction of the inhumanity of the system on passive victims. Its most famous practitioner was Athol Fugard with his plays that depicted various aspects of segregation and racial discrimination in South Africa. When Gibson Kente finally turned his hand to a theatre that had some political content, his work was also of the protest theatre mode.

Black Consciousness was a philosophy of resistance rather than of protest. With it came a new generation of theatre practitioners, the Matsemela Manakas and the Maishe Maponyas, who created work that went beyond protest. This new theatre of resistance no longer placed the onus on the oppressed to prove their humanity. It no longer attempted to appeal to the conscience of the oppressor. It addressed itself directly to the oppressed, with the view of mobilising the oppressed to fight against oppression. Not only did this new militant theatre propagate messages of liberation; it agitated for action on the part of the oppressed to change their own situation. It was the theatre that was seen on professional stages. But it was also the theatre of street corners, of funerals, of weddings and of political rallies. Depending on the proficiency of its creators, it was a theatre of an artistry that lived beyond the occasion, but also it was a theatre of litanies and slogans.

We also remember that Steve Biko and his colleagues did not only take our culture from a protest mode to that of challenge and resistance, they were hands-on activists who established practical community development projects. These men and women went beyond moaning and whinging about the plight of the black people; they made their hands dirty with the soil of the land, building health delivery centres and running them, and facilitating the establishment of communal gardens in marginalized communities. In this way they aimed to inculcate values of self-reliance and self-development in addition to self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence.

In my view the young men and women without surnames are the true heirs of Biko even more than factious political formations that profess to be the guardians of his legacy. Not only have these young people taken practical steps to inject consciousness into their lives through their art, to use culture to create a critical awareness of their situation and to mobilise themselves to action; questions of self-esteem, self-reliance and self-development form the foundation of their philosophy. They have come to a conclusion that culture is the central tool for domination and must therefore be resisted by an alternative culture. Using the arts as a tool of analysing their society, they are re-writing the script of their lives in a manner that defies their imposed identity of a lost generation.

The various excluded South African groups can re-write the script of their communities too if they embrace the ethos of self-development and self-reliance. Self-development is the kind of development that has not been imposed from above by so-called experts. It emanates from the community itself after the community has been equipped with the tools of critically analysing their society, engaging in a dialogue about their needs, and then adopting resolutions on what route to take to solve their problems. Only after this process is technical expertise from outside necessary. The reliance on the community's own mental and material resources - self-reliance, that is - engenders a sense of ownership of the development in question. This does not in any way imply the rejection of external resources, but these generally are used to supplement, enhance and enrich local resources. It does mean, however, the rejection of those external resources that are offered at the cost of the community's loss of self-respect and that impinge on the community's autonomy of choice of action. Self-reliance, of course, can only be achieved if the community has a critical awareness of its own creative assets. In many instances cultural action has been effective in realising this awareness.

It is clear, therefore, that self-development and self-reliance are products of popular participation. South Africa is yet to learn that there can be no transformation without popular participation. Hence we do not see any organised efforts to increase the people's control over their own institutions and resources. Popular participation in the transformation of South Africa has been rendered irrelevant by a government bent on centralising power at all levels. Even at the very village level people are represented in local government structures by officials who have been deployed from outside those communities, in many instances as a reward for services rendered the party. Local communities are regarded as spoils that must be shared at the table of expediency. I have visited many rural communities in the Free State and the Eastern Cape, and I have seen party officials at some district headquarters making decisions on behalf of villages they know nothing about. From a position of ignorance apparatchiks are supposed to drive community development.

No wonder many of our developmental efforts have failed. We operate under the false notion that the meaning of development is confined to economic growth and technological advancement. We forget that the quality of life of the people will only improve when individual members of the community have achieved greater control of their institutions, and therefore of their social, economic and political destiny.

There is no doubt that our government has made great strides in the war against poverty in this country, especially in the areas of housing and provision of clean water, electricity and phones. Even in the much-maligned education arena the South African child is much better off than he or she was ever before. And there has been a great improvement in the delivery of primary health care, while tertiary health services are floundering. Another great stride that I see is in the development of human resources. We are enjoying an unprecedented period of freedom, and a human rights culture is beginning to crystallize - even though ugly intolerance does occasionally rear its head. Amazing things have happened in this country in a very short space of time.

Yet still, children are dying of malnutrition in the Eastern Cape, a region with the highest mortality rate for women and children in the whole of South Africa. Dire poverty covers the beautiful landscape that is inhabited by walking ghosts with sunken eyes. These are the excluded people of South Africa, and they are a clear indication that the government's strategy for rural development, if ever there is one, has failed. And its failure lies at the door of the politics of deployment and redeployment, where government officials and elected representatives are not accountable to the people but to party bosses.

One senses strong disillusionment with politicians among young South Africans, only seven years after the euphoria of 1994. And here I am not talking of the white youth who believe affirmative action has rendered their future meaningless in this country. I am talking of young black South Africans in the rural areas and marginalized urban ghettoes, who see, rightly or wrongly, only bleakness in their future and blame politicians for betraying them. You hear it in their songs and in their poetry - works of art that are irreverent and have the potency of crushing political egos.

This is a good sign. It augers well for the future of South Africa because post-colonial Africa (or neo-colonial Africa, if you like) has not been known for its vigilance against the excesses of its political leaders. Soon after independence the youth were incorporated into the organs of a monolith whose function was to advance the cult of the personality of the political leader. He became the Chosen One, the Anointed One, and even the Saviour. Megalomania began to gel, and political leaders became infallible. This was accompanied by the complicity of African intellectuals in the deification of these nationalist leaders. The fate of the African peoples was sealed in the hands of corrupt buffoons who wreaked no opposition. Even trade unions became mere labour desks of the ruling parties.

Thus Africa was burdened with the Mobutu Sese Sekos and the Kamuzu Bandas, who ganged into an old boys' club that used the Organisation of African Unity to safeguard their position through its non-interference clause. Today we see the results of that cult of the personality and the deification of political leaders in the person of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. We also see the old boys club mentality in the manner his brother-leaders from the SADC countries have grouped around him and played down his excesses, not only against white farmers, but against black Zimbabweans, for it is black Zimbabweans who have been the greatest casualties of his insanities.

Perhaps I should hang my colours to the mast in as far as Zimbabwe is concerned, especially because there is a tendency in this country for black people to be reluctant to criticise Mugabe because that would place them on the same side as Tony Leon.

As a writer I have a close affinity to Zimbabwean writers, the Chenjerai Hoves and Yvonne Veras, whose work has greatly influenced mine. I have seen writers and other artists contributing in the liberation struggle by rallying people around the cause. I have seen their work celebrating a new Zimbabwe and a great future that everyone thought awaited Zimbabweans. I have seen the cult of the personality emerging around Mugabe, and I myself contributed in its creation, for, as a staunch pan-Africanist, Mugabe was my hero. I have seen the complicity of the trade union movement in that country. It was only much later that the Zimbabwean trade union movement woke up to the excesses of the ruling alite and assumed an independent voice. I have seen the usual complicity of the intellectuals. I remember Eddison Zvogbo, a senior cabinet minister in the Mugabe government and a poet of sorts, becoming a doyen of the denizens of the university staff club in Harare where intellectuals would ply him with whisky while he plied them with socialist rhetoric. At the same time he was accumulating hotels and farms for himself.

A culture of unbridled accumulation established itself in that country soon after independence in 1980. It spread and seeped deep into the walls of the halls of power in proportion to the increasing volume of socialist rhetoric emanating from every aperture of the ruling elite. It is only partly true that Mugabe was unable to address the land question because he was hamstrung by "sunset clauses" in the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement that set the stage for Zimbabwean independence. During the twenty years of the "sunset clauses" Mugabe was able to dish out farms to his cronies and colleagues in an elaborate patronage system.

It is a fact that the white farmers in Zimbabwe have always obstructed land reform. But Mugabe's government had the option to exercise its power to introduce and enforce reforms through legal and constitutional means. If his had been a government worth its salt at all, it would have effectively dealt with that little problem. Mugabe failed his people. He failed to redress the inequities of colonialism in the twenty-one years he has been in power. Then he decides to render his country ungovernable to save his skin, sacrificing his country and its economy for short-term gains. A self-destructive ruse for the retention of power! In the meantime the people of Soweto have their electrical power cut off when they default on payment while Eskom continues to feed endless supplies of current to a defaulting Zimbabwean government. The poor people of South Africa find themselves subsiding the excesses of a dictator.

The very intellectuals who helped create Mugabe's cult of the personality are at the receiving end of those excesses. Writers who used to sing the songs of that revolution are now under constant surveillance from the Central Intelligence Organisation. Those who speak out are given a thorough hiding by the members of the youth organisation of the ruling party and by the so-called war veterans. No one is ever charged for such gross violations of human rights.

In South Africa we are beginning to see the emergence of a similar culture of unbridled accumulation. Unlike the ruling elites of Zimbabwe who garnished their accumulation with socialist rhetoric, our ruling elites have discarded any pretensions to socialism. Instead they have adopted a new slogan: "Accumulation cannot be democratised." We hear this repeated at their cocktail parties and at every self-congratulatory gathering. We see a culture of conspicuous consumption and instant gratification giving birth to wholesale corruption. We also see the arrogance of power gradually turning into racial arrogance: black people are not supposed to criticise black people, otherwise they are playing into the hands of racist whites who do no think blacks can run this country without taking it down the sewers.

This antipathy to public debate about our strengths and weaknesses is a symptom of our lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. We seem to forget that we are in power now. We should get on with running the country unapologetically instead of whining and whinging about how much of an unfair deal we are getting from our racist compatriots, from foreign investors and from the media. Yes, most of our media have replaced scepticism with cynicism when it comes to the government. But from where I am standing this is a lesser evil than the media that I saw eulogising the nationalist leaders in newly independent Africa, glossing over their weaknesses, and reflecting on their looting of the coffers of the state as due rewards for sacrifices made in the fight for liberation. This continued unabated until we reached a stage where news became news only if it had something to do with the president's speech or with a cabinet minister opening a new conference centre.

The constant looking over our collective shoulder in fear of racist judgment of our conduct and performance has stifled the self-examination and self-criticism that is essential for community development. Bur fortunately, as I have indicated, the young people of South Africa do not subscribe to this antipathy. A young playwright, Xoli Norman, has written a powerful play titled Hallelujah! It has been enjoying a season of full houses at the Market Theatre. The play addresses, among other issues, black people's self-hatred, which manifests itself in their interactions among themselves and with black people from other parts of the continent. After one performance a black journalist commented, "This playwright is exposing us to the whites. What he is saying in his play is true, but must not be said in a public forum because it reinforces racist notions about blacks." It was therefore gratifying to hear a young member of the audience respond, "But Steve Biko said we need self-criticism in order to liberate ourselves. Black Consciousness was conceived with the view of getting rid of the very self-hatred that Norman writes about."

The strength of our political development in South Africa lies in the fact that we did not develop a cult of the personality. As much as some of our honoured freedom fighters would have liked to be reincarnated into parliamentary political life as demigods, we refused to let that happen - although we almost canonised a living Nelson Mandela into sainthood. It is to his credit that he publicly revolted against deification. It is also to the credit of his generation of freedom fighters who continue to lead humble lives devoid of the vulgarities demonstrated by our new national elites. But the age of humility is passing. We have seen Govan Mbeki depart. Walter and Albertina Sisulu and a very few others remain the bearers of this humility. In no time we shall be confronted head-on by the age of arrogance. The signs are there already.

Some of the signs lie in the politics of deployment and redeployment that I mentioned earlier. My concern is in its effect at the very grassroots level in the rural areas of South Africa. Its effect at national level has been discussed extensively. I myself have written on a number of highly qualified black South Africans who have opted to leave the country because the jobs for which they were qualified were given to political cronies and family members of the ruling elites who had zero qualifications in those fields, but who received huge salaries while their jobs were done by highly paid consultants. That trend continues today. Recently a young highly talented black woman went back to exile in Canada after discovering that affirmative action in practice does not really affirm black South Africans but black ruling party faithfuls. Another talented young black South African, Majakathata Mokoena, wrote that the economy of South Africa had the potential to be the strongest in the southern hemisphere, and could support jobs for many people is southern Africa. But it is lagging behind because of what he calls crony capitalism. He writes that

Crony capitalism is based on who one knows in the political body rather than on those who are well disposed to entrepreneurship and new business formation. That includes people who have gone to school to study business and other technocratic qualifications so that they can contribute positively to the growth of the country's economy. Now all these people's efforts are wasted while economically inept people are put in positions they barely understand. That is why there are so many failures in the new SA, despite the country's potential.

With weak opposition parties that are only able to proffer right-wing and reactionary solutions to the problems of this country, and that are unable to deal with the government's arrogance of power, the trade union movement is a source of hope for many South Africans. The feeling is that even though it is part of the ruling alliance it has not lost its independent voice. But in my book the trade union leaders in this country have not acquitted themselves with any measure of brilliance or even integrity. They have used the workers as stepping-stones for the accumulation of untold personal wealth. They have ridden on the backs of the workers to the corridors of political power. After they had attained it they soon forgot about their constituents. It was therefore difficult to take Zwelinzima Vavi seriously when he declared on SABC television on 30th August 2001, "We have no ambition of becoming fulltime politicians. We have no wish of going to parliament."

But facts speak a different language. The government has been able to silence trade union opposition by offering union leaders fat posts in the national and provincial governments, and by deploying them to the corporate world, where they implement the very policies they had been screaming against. Of course, one day the posts will get exhausted, and we shall see a trade union movement leadership that genuinely looks after the interests of the workers without using them for a cheap ride to self-aggrandisement. Perhaps Vavi's declaration is a signal that that is beginning to happen.

The effects of the politics of deployment and redeployment on rural development have not been discussed. I have indicated that the failure of the government's rural development strategies lie in the lack of participation of the communities concerned in mapping out their own development. Plans are conceived by experts from outside the community, without the community's involvement in identifying their problems and in working out solutions from their own perspective. The rural poor are never involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the projects. The notion of development is this country is that the centre must "deliver" development to the periphery, which must remain a passive beneficiary of whatever services and materials delivered. The people's role as makers of history is negated. This concept of "delivery" has created and reinforced a dependency mentality on the people. Hence people now expect their lot to improve without any agency on their part. They have been socialised into that kind of thinking.

Empirical studies have shown that participation of local communities and their organisations has improved performance in many urban and rural poverty alleviation projects. But South Africa cannot achieve any level of participation with its penchant for the centralisation of power, where everyone is subject to what the centre decrees.

In my experience in the rural areas local government representatives who have been imposed on the villages, and therefore are not accountable to the villagers but to party bosses, have stifled those development initiatives by members of the community in which the local government representatives did not have a stake. In some villages a project must first be approved by party structures before it can be put before government and non-governmental structures. There is no longer a distinction in the village between a party and a government structure.

Our movement away from a people-centred government to a government by deployment breeds the arrogance of power. The arrogance of power goes hand-in-glove with corruption. But rural development is not only thwarted by corruption at the local level. The biggest constraint to development is corruption at the centre where funding from our taxes and from the donor community is controlled. Ineptitude and inefficiency also play their part. We have heard of the six executive directors of the National Development Agency who pay themselves R450 000 each while the agency fails to disburse funds to struggling poverty alleviation projects.

An example of a community development project that has suffered because of the unsavoury practices of the national elites the Lower Telle Beekeepers Collective. This was established two years ago by members of a village community in the Herschel district of the Eastern Cape after going through a process of critically examining their situation. Village men used to work in the mines, and women used to trek to the Free State farms for seasonal employment at harvest time. But retrenchments, both in the mines and at the farms, have taken their toll. The vast majority of the people of Lower Telle are unemployed. The village is located on a rocky mountain and only small strips at the banks of the river are suitable for agriculture. But the mountains are rich in aloes whose flowers produce nectar and pollen that is natural food for bees. The people then decided to form a beekeeping collective - a development project that would rely on their own mental and material resources, using raw material that exists in abundance in their community. But to achieve this they needed technical expertise and financial resources from outside the community. Their application for assistance, which included training in beekeeping and initial stock, was approved by a development foundation of a big parastatal. But before any assistance could be disbursed the ugly head of corruption reared its head. All funding was suspended by the foundation while it undertook a forensic audit because the foundation's chief executive had either mismanaged or embezzled some funds. Once again the rural poor had to swim in the quagmire of their poverty while the national elites stuffed themselves like pigs from their ill-gotten spoils. It took almost two years for the problem to be resolved, and for forty families in some remote mountain village to realise their dream of establishing their own business from which they could feed their families and send their children to school.

Because I want to make certain proposal to the audience that is gathered here tonight I must add that I have been intimately involved with the Lower Telle Beekeepers Collective from its inception. I was a catalyst or a facilitator in the community's process of critically analysing their problems and in working out solutions from their perspective. I even took a beekeeping course in order to participate meaningfully in their activities.

I began this talk with Biko's children - the young men and women from marginalized communities who are using the arts to understand the nature of oppression (which includes the sources of poverty) and to liberate themselves from it. These youths are striving to put content back into their art and their lives. It is the duty of our society to support them in the generation of alternative values. It was therefore wonderful to learn that in June the Steve Biko Foundation launched the Expression of Identity Programme, a youth arts programme that encourages the adoption and reinforcement of the values I am discussing here. The Foundation has worked with some of the poets I have mentioned, and a group of them is taking a pilgrimage to King Williams Town for a youth heritage festival from September 22 to 24.

I end this lecture by throwing a challenge to our black professionals in the public and private sectors in all the cities of South Africa to continue the legacy of Steve Biko. We have seen how Steve Biko and his colleagues did not dwell on high-flown philosophies that had no practical relevance to the lives of the people. They took practical steps to transform society at the very grassroots level. They conceived and established community development projects. We can continue the Biko legacy by doing the same. Black professionals can adopt a village and act as catalysts or facilitators for its development, in the same manner that I did with my ancestral village of Lower Telle.

Black people in South Africa have a link with some village. Even those who are fourth generation city dwellers, as you will find in townships like Soweto, have a village where their great-grandfather's umbilical chord was buried. Go back to that village and facilitate community dialogue on the issues that concern the villagers. Help the villagers to establish collectives and co-operative societies that use appropriate technology to exploit the raw materials that are found in any community. And this, of course, includes the raw talent of the youth in the arts and other facets of life. Be a catalyst for a people-centred development. This has no financial implications on you, except perhaps the cost of going there. And it will only take one weekend a month to achieve something that will save thousands of babies from dying of malnutrition. After a few months, when the project can stand on its own, you won't be needed anymore, except perhaps as an honorary adviser. After training in basic business methods the villagers can run their projects themselves. There are many non-governmental organisations that specialise in this kind of training.

Rural development is the key to many of our problems, including that of the children who die of malnutrition in the Eastern Cape. But this would also contribute in the reduction of crime and grime in the cities.

My challenge is further directed to black empowerment companies to establish foundations of the ilk of Eskom Development Foundation to fund the individual projects of this Adopt-a-Village Campaign. It is very unfortunate that black empowerment companies are perceived to be reluctant to plough back into the community. The young people of the imbizo expressed the same sentiments. Lebo Mashile said about their attempts to fight poverty, "There is nothing noble about poverty. But young people with ideas do not get any assistance from black empowerment corporations. The people in these corporations have climbed up and reached the top. Now they kick the ladder."

We know that the main reason black empowerment corporations have fallen short of their responsibility to the black community is that in many of these corporations the leadership is that of a new South Africa while the content remains that of old South Africa. This is clearly illustrated by a big corporation with a strong black empowerment component that refused to sponsor a television programme meant to cultivate a culture of reading particularly in black communities in support of Kader Asmal's Masifunde Sonke Campaign, but which is now sponsoring an idiotic programme called Big Brother on M-Net. Today there is no book review programme on South African television and Big Brother thrives, thanks partly to black empowerment.

Of course the corporation will say it is in business and is more interested in the mileage that it will get from Big Brother. But there is such a thing as social responsibility.

My emphasis is on black empowerment companies to fund the Adopt-a-Village Campaign because they have a special duty to do so, but in reality it is the task of the South African corporate world as a whole to fund such endeavours and to make Biko's children realise their potential.

An investment in Biko's children is an investment in the future of South Africa, for they will not desert this country. It is their heritage. The Biko Foundation has launched development programmes in Ginsberg Township, much along the lines of the Adopt-a-Village Campaign that I am proposing here. The question I want to ask the foundation: would they willing to spearhead the Adopt-a-Village Campaign nationwide?(source)

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