BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENT-UNITED (BCM-U)
“WE ARE MADE OF FIBRE THAT COULD CHANGE THINGS”: A TRIBUTE TO THE AZANIAN MARTYR MTHULI KA SHEZI
There are those who in the course of the revolutionary struggle sacrifice their energy, time, ideas and ultimately their lives for the course of liberation. It is common knowledge that life is in the blood, thus, those whose blood is shed is in essence a life that is sacrificed for a greater revolutionary course of liberation. Certainly, we can say this of Mthuli Ka Shezi, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mapetla Mohapi and Steve Biko just to list a few. At the same time those that survive the route of passing over to the other side through violent savagery meted out by the oppressor count themselves purely lucky with the conscious knowledge that they too, if the circumstances were the same, could have shed blood for the revolution for a liberated socialist Azania. Mthuli Ka Shezi was born in 1947, he studied at the University of Zululand where he was among the early founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement, he was a member of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and subsequently elected in 1972 as the deputy president of the Black People’s Convention (BPC). In 1970 he was elected Vice president of the National Catholic Federation of Students. From 1970-1971 he served as Student Representative Council (SRC) president. He was a political activist and a playwright who wrote the infamous play, Shanti, a play that clearly expressed the views of the Black Consciousness philosophy. This play was among the first plays written by a student to be banned by the Nationalist Party regime because of its deep political insight and critique to white racism.
Comrade Shezi, is described by his comrades as a cadre with a “gigantic mind, deeply religious” and one who’s demeanour commanded authority to the extent that the authorities at university feared him, especially since he was known as an emotionally committed president of the SRC who took students’ problems seriously. One important story in the life of Mthuli Ka Shezi is retold by Deborah Matshoba who pointed out that after the expulsion of Onkgopotse Tiro on graduation day in 1972, comrade Mthuli was among the first to galvanise support for the reinstatement of Tiro at university, organizing SASO as well as other students who belonged to different organisations. It reported that he asserted the following “Tiro has been expelled! This and that has happened at Turfloop. So, solidarity, they’re calling for solidarity.” In another place responding to the trickery of the administrators that wanted to quell the flames caused by the Turfloop Testimony, which made the students pledge solidarity across universities, comrade Mthuli held the belief that more could be done, as a result Mthuli left the university without being expelled. It is reported that upon his departure, comrade Mthuli Ka Shezi said: “Guys, me and my conscience—Tiro is my fellow SRC president.” The Secretary General of SASO, Barney Pityana in 1973 wrote in Shezi’s obituary that Shezi found student politics as frustrating and stated that “students were not made of the fibre that could change things”. He deregistered his BA degree in English and History, citing “my mother will be very disappointed”, however, “she will have to understand that I am devoted to the struggle”. This is a character of a revolutionary leader, one who grasps in principle and praxis the need for solidarity and sacrifice of the oppressed against their oppressors and one who will go out of his way to further the Azanian revolution. Comrade Mthuli Ka Shezi is known for his work in building branches of BPC in Hammanskraal and the Transvaal. As well as in organizing workers as the appointed Field Officer of the Black Worker Project. He was a cultural activist who used the arts to conscientize the Azanian masses to get with the program of the revolution as led by the Black Consciousness Movement. Certainly, those who attended Alexandra High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s attest to the indelible impact left by this Tower. A Tower who today still commands respect from those who are continuing to use the arts as a site of struggle and conscientization. The apartheid regime understood very well the impact of the arts in the struggle for liberation and the aesthetical and psychological impact it played in changing perception. This view is further affirmed by the fact that after the Soweto Uprising June 16, 1976, Jimmy Kruger presented the poetry, plays and some of the cultural works done by Black Consciousness (BC) on live television citing these works as responsible for the unrest. So, the importance of the arts cannot be understated and when stating those facts, we behold comrade Mthuli Ka Shezi and his comrades’ footprints on the sand marching to revolutionary victory.
Mthuli Ka Shezi as a black consciousness adherent did not waver to defend black people because black consciousness at heart is black agency. This is seen in the very act of defending the dignity of our people especially on the 16th of December 1972 at Germiston Station where black agency stood up against the humiliation of black women who were daily “drenched with a hose pipe” by the white “baas”. Biko had explained the difference between being black and non-white: “Any man who calls a white man “Baas”, any man who serves in the police force or Security Branch is ipso facto a non-white. Black people— real black people—are those who can manage to hold their heads.” Indeed, comrade Shezi displayed this attitude. Certainly, Shanti “I am black/ Black like my mother, Black like the sufferers, Black like the continent” affirmed his position. After that event, the system took its gloves off when dealing with the Black Consciousness Movement and Mthuli Ka Shezi, the brave one was a marked man and was pushed by the same officer onto a moving train, the full force of the wheelset conjoint by the axle and the consistency of motion and speed crushed and tore fragile flesh causing deep wounds, gashing out blood from the body of this revolutionary. Mthuli Ka Shezi is the first martyr of the Black Consciousness Movement. That is why we must remember Mthuli Ka Shezi because true leadership is not about the self and Mthuli Ka Shezi had reached the climax in revolutionary resolve and for him there was no point of return because black consciousness challenged the status quo overtly, a telling tale to now docile so-called revolutionary organisations that do not attack the system of white racism not merely its random slurs and global capitalism that catapulted by dehumanisation and land dispossession in the Black World. Join the Black Consciousness Movement-United (BCM-U) in the 50th commemoration of Mthuli Ka Shezi and in rededicating ourselves to the view that ‘we are made of the fibre that can change things.’ This commemoration is a national event that will have reflection as well as art performances to truly commemorate this artistic revolutionary.
The Black Consciousness Movement United (BCM United) in conjunction with the community, artists, poets and other liberation movements will observe this milestone with a Commemorative Event at his township in Thembisa. The 50th Anniversary Commemorative Event will be held as follows:
Date: Friday, 16 December 2022
Venue: Methodist Church THEMBISA, 516 Milkyway Street, Mashemong Section
Time: 12h00 – 16h00
ONE AZANIA! ONE NATION! BLACK POWER!
BY Hlulani Mabasa (BCM-U President)
PUBLISHED BY PUBLICIST SECRETARY: CDE ZOLANI MABUSELA
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 0782322254