Tuesday evening saw the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) host a talk at Arts Major. The discussion was titled “Marx, Fanon & Biko: Touchstones in a Time of Crisis”, and the discussants included Dr Nigel Gibson, Dr Aubrey Mokoape, Richard Pithouse and UPM founder Ayanda Kota.
Gibson is one of the leading experts on Fanon globally, Mokoape is a former leader of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa and Pithouse is a lecturer in the Rhodes University Politics Department.
Professor Barney Pityana was scheduled to attend but was unable to due to last minute changes.
Kota explained to the attendants that the discussion was a necessity as it was not only held to commemorate the 36th year since Stephen Bantu Biko’s death but it was also a time to reflect on how little has changed in post-apartheid South African society since Biko’s death.
Gibson, Mokoape and Pithouse all discussed the role of the state and the ruling elite in impeding fundamental change to the existing structures of governance along with the dynamics of political, economic and social interactions in post-apartheid South Africa.
Mokoape said, “We need to stop the rapacious, self-serving, thieving, lazy and unremorseful elite from ruining this country.”
Mokoape said this by remembering the events of Marikana, which happened over a year ago. “Marikana is merely a prelude of what is yet to happen in this country because long as the status quo is kept the same in this country, the poor will continue to demand change that will be met with state violence”, he added.
Pithouse and Gibson were also urged the attendants to take the fundamental ideas of Biko, Fanon and Marx and not just imitate these principles, but to apply them to the contemporary South African situation.
Kota translated the speeches of Gibson, Mokoape and Pithouse into isiXhosa in order to foster an equal environment for the attendants of the discussion, who were primarily UPM members, and were thus able to contribute to the discussion in a language they felt most comfortable in expressing themselves through.
Gibson argued that fundamental change in South Africa’s post-apartheid condition did not necessarily have to come through party-affiliated politics and he said that, “Biko, Fanon and Marx were all revolutionary humanists. They wanted to release the human potential”.
From this, Gibson, Mokoape and Pithouse all argued that change in South Africa could only come about with the revival of individual and collective consciousness for the people of the country.
Words by Amanda Xulu