Veteran journalist Mathatha Tsedu regaled his audience with his numerous anectodes about his career in journalism that spanned four decades in Polokwane last Saturday.

The occasion was a Limpopo reception party for the media veteran after announcing his retirement and his plans to spend his time on a farm in the Vhembe district. The veteran has come home to rest.


The Black Consciousness heavyweights were there – Mosibudi Mangena, Strike Thokoane, Mmutle Phasha, Pat Moyaha, Windsor Maraba, Khathu Mamaila, Don Nkadimeng, Kholo Mashabela and others. Former Azapo president Mosibudi Mangena took the audience down memory lane about the rise of Black Consciousness in South Africa and its contribution to the liberation struggle. He expresed his indebtedness to Tsedu for taking care of him and his family, especially after the return of exiles to South Africa.

Khathu Mamaila, of Media 24, explained to the audience how Tsedu turned his life around by training him in journalism, politicising him and getting him to join the Azanian Liberation Army. He said that “Tsedu could have become a minister or CEO of the SABC but chose the humble of serving the people via journalism. He is a true revolutionary who played his party.”

The post formalities session was more revealing to me as I spent time with Tsedu and his comrades till late in the evening, of course, oiled by the bedevilled waters of immortality. With Tsedu the centre of attention, the adherents of Black Consciousness reflected on their previous successes and current failures. As is now common cause, Black Consciousness made its strategic and costly blunder after the unbanning of people’s organisations by the last apartheid president FW De Klerk in 1990 by refusing to be part of the negotiation process known as CODESA. The BC movement boycotted the negotiations and marginalised itself by making radical and unreasonable demands for negotiated settlement.

Years later Azapo contested elections and won a few seats in parliament until its complete decimation in the last elections. Chilling with these BC ideologues, it occurred to me that South Africa is a poorer place because of the failure of BC to take its rightful place in society and government. These guys are as sharp as they are articulate. Mangena was a capable deputy minister of Education and minister of Science and Technology. To lose him for some of the mediocrity that is populating parliament and the cabinet is sad indeed. Imagine if Tsedu was a COO of the SABC instead of the clown that is deployed there. South Africa would be a better place to live in.

Now, here is the crux of the matter: Black Consciousness has been such a pathetic failure I think, like the UDF, it must declare victory and go home. Azapo is a nonentity in the South African political firmament. It only exists among a small group of uninterested leaders who are busy with other things. What BC and AZAPO lack is basic organisational ability. I asked where the AZAPO offices were in Limpopo and I got no answer. When did you last see an AZAPO rally? Like the ANC, but worse, the BC movement has splintered into several factions each with its own variation of Black Consciousness.

Besides Tsedu’s achievements in the media world, the BC movement has nothing to show except to participate in annual Biko Lives talk shows in an unorganised manner. Even the event to honour Tsedu had the hallmark of a decaying and dysfunctional BC movement. With no proper organising committee, no resources, no ability to mobilise allies and no serious media blitz, the function was not much of a success. Tsedu should have been honoured like a king in Limpopo if the organisers  had done their work. He deserves far better than was delivered by bhis comrades in terms of honouring him for his contribution to society. I do not believe that the Limpopo Province would not have liked to be associated with the achievements of Tsedu. The leaders of this movement are tired and uninterested ideologues. They seem to b e happy to meet at social level and analyse the South African situation without dirtying their hands and campaigning like other parties.

Despite all the negatives alluded to, spending an evening with what Pat Moyaha calls “Black Consciousness Core” was an enriching experience. The intellectual vigour, the continued belief in the correctness of Black Consciousness, and the brilliant articulation of issues does not cease to amaze me.  Such a potent and talented political force should have claimed its place in the political landscape in parliament and society. Imagine the political contribution of this force if it had the numbers in parliament that are commanded by the EFF or DA?

Biko must be turning in his grave. I rest my case.

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