ANC Can't Claim Sole Credit for Liberation - Black Journalists Played a Big Role

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Simphiwe Sesanti

TODAY marks 33 years since the apartheid regime banned 17 black organisations and two black-oriented newspapers.

The apartheid regime closed down the newspapers and detained black journalists working for them because the journalists of the 1970s, under the influence of Bantu Biko's Black Consciousness, had declared that they were blacks first and journalists second. This meant that these journalists had taken a conscious decision to identify themselves with the oppressed black people of South Africa. They committed their writings to expose apartheid.

The little freedom that we have today came about as a result of the contribution by journalists, among others. Revolutionary black journalists suffered ridicule and scorn from some white and "non-white" journalists who opined that journalists had to be neutral observers and recorders of the unfolding events. Black journalists paid with their tears, sweat and blood to secure this freedom.

So, when the ANC spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu says the press freedom journalists enjoy today was fought for by the ANC - making it sound as though press freedom was a gift from the messianic ANC - he is distorting the history of this country's liberation struggle. The ANC is only one of the fighting forces that brought liberation to this country - not the only one.

During the days of apartheid, veteran journalist Allister Sparks tells us in his book, Beyond The Miracle, that despite the smallness of their numbers, black journalists not only played an important role in expanding news coverage, but also "brought new perspectives to |newsrooms".

What this means is that black journalists interpreted issues from the reality of black people's experiences. Is there a continued need for this? My unequivocal answer is in the affirmative. Powerlessness, poverty, landlessness, despair and social disintegration continue to have a black face. Many of our youths, the future of the black nation, have no sense of purpose and direction - evidenced by violent protests in black townships where the young vent their frustration by going to the extent of destroying libraries, an essential resource.

There are no institutions set up to inspire the black youth. Even initiation schools meant to mould responsible, loving and caring men are falling apart, with chance-takers amputating our young men's organs. Instead of identifying the root cause of these problems, black intellectuals take the easy route, calling for the stopping of these rituals.

Herein is required the intervention of conscious black journalists - to embark on the difficult path of examining the failures of black institutions and misuse of African culture, so as to carve a new path for the future of black people.

Without a culture, Africans are nothing. That is why the call by President Jacob Zuma to have a national dialogue about our values is very important. …