SA youth leaders call for change
By Dave Watt
Although some change has come to South Africa, "the fundamental demands of the people have not been met," said Brian Thami Hlongwa, a leader of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO), at a lecture Tuesday evening in 34-101.
The lecture, sponsored by the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid, was part of a 12-city fundraising and outreach tour, intended to build relationships between American youth and student groups and their counterparts in South Africa.
The Cambridge and Boston City Councils passed resolutions welcoming Hlongwa, who is the SAYCO vice president for the Transvaal region, and Mpho Lekgoro, the SAYCO national media information officer.
The South African Youth Congress, with two million members of all races, organizes youth opposition to apartheid in South Africa, and has close ties to the African National Congress.
Hlongwa's talk focused on the ANC's demands in its negotiations with the South African government, and the causes of continued black-on-black violence, while Lekgoro offered a justification for divestment and continued sanctions against South Africa.
Both Hlongwa (pronounced Sh-HONG-wa) and Lekgoro (pronounced lay-HOR-o) were jailed for a time in South Africa because of their anti-apartheid activities during the late 1980s. While on a hunger strike in jail last year, Lekgoro and three others escaped from a hospital to the West German embassy. In February, the South African government said it would release prisoners accused of "purely political" crimes.
However, Hlongwa rejected the notion that recent liberalizations in South Africa amount to a genuine change in the lives of blacks. "They talk about change, but there is no change," he said. "They talk about peace, but it is doubletalk: They are waging war against our people," he added.
Hlongwa suggested that the government is behind the recent bloody conflicts between the ANC and Inkatha, a predominantly Zulu organization.
Hlongwa called for the formation of an interim government in South Africa while a new constitution is drafted, and demanded the release of the remaining political prisoners and detainees in South Africa, which the ANC claims number over 3000 even now. These include SAYCO's general secretary, Rapu Molekane.
Hlongwa also criticized media coverage of the recent violence in Natal Province, which has left over 4000 blacks dead. He suggested that the South African government is responsible for manufacturing the conflict. It is inaccurate, he said, to view the black-on-black violence as a tribal conflict between Xhosa members of the ANC and the Zulus of the Inkatha movement.
"Inkatha cannot continue to exist without violence," he claimed. He said most of those killed in Natal were neither members of the ANC nor Inkatha, but ordinary citizens. "Those who control the media," he said, have labeled the conflict as tribal.
He argued further that the South African government must be encouraging the violence. "Black people see the enemy clearly: the apartheid government," he said. "Inkatha alone has no capacity to sustain the violence."
He stopped short of accusing the government of supplying arms to Inkatha, but did say that the government has made little effort to bring to trial those involved in promoting black-on-black violence. "The hand will not grab itself and throw itself into prison," he said.
Lekgoro next presented an analysis of the economic forces which permit the South African government to remain in power, and made the economic case for continued divestment.
Industry in South Africa is weak, he claimed, propped up by foreign investment. Foreign companies benefit from their presence in South Africa because of its cheap labor, he asserted.
Since people, as distinct from corporations, in the United States do not benefit from capital invested in South Africa, and since the people of South Africa want freedom, he argued that foreign corporations should be forced to pull out of South Africa. "We can govern ourselves," he said, "but the Pretoria government has economic muscle. All who love peace should do all in our power to destroy this [economic] power base."
The sympathetic audience of about 75 people gave long ovations to both speakers.