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"It is certainly not our task to build up the future in advance and to settle all problems for all time, but it is just as certainly our task to criticise the existing world ruthlessly. I mean ruthlessly in the sense that we must not be afraid of our own conclusions and equally unafraid of coming into conflict with the prevailing powers."
Karl Marx, 1844


Published date: 11 September 1992

The cold-blooded massacre of at least 28 people at Bisho on 7 September has left a deep scar on the conscience of the nation. The massacre at Bisho is one of those events in the history of any struggle which become the yardstick for separating democrats from all forms of reaction. Events like the massacre at Bisho, by their very brutality and unambiguity, assume the role of unmasking even those who for a long time pretend to be “friends of the people”. Events like these also serve to clarify even to the politically blind and naive, that between the interests of ordinary people on the one hand, and those of the exploiting and oppressing ruling classes on the other, there is no middle road. In the background of the Bisho massacre, the attempt of the Democratic Party – that party of the rich and arrogant – to play God and ‘apportion blame equally’ reveals how little this party has to do with democracy. The massacre at Bisho cannot, and will not, go down as just another episode in the history of our struggle. Sooner or later, the significance of the massacre will impress itself on the further course of our struggle.

What is the political significance of the massacre at Bisho?

The Political Significance of the Bisho events

The Bisho events have come in the wake of a number of significant developments in the history of our struggle since February 2 1990. The most important of these developments are the following:

(i) The deadlock at CODESA II and the Boipatong massacre
The refusal of the De Klerk regime to agree to majority rule was revealed when the negotiations broke down at CODESA II in May this year. At first our leadership was indecisive about the implications of the deadlock at CODESA II. This indecision could be seen in the fact that immediately after CODESA II there was talk of CODESA III and continuation of constitutional negotiations without a serious assessment of what had happened at CODESA II. The first turn in the situation came with the discussions and decisions of the ANC Policy conference in May 1992. Not only did the conference take stock of what had happened at CODESA II, but it also began correcting some of the serious political concessions made at CODESA II like the proposal for the decision-making in the Constituent Assembly to be based on 70% and 75% of the votes. The massacre of more than 40 people on June 17 in Boipatong completed this process of taking stock of CODESA II and it also opened up a new phase in our struggle since February 2 1990.

The fundamental lesson taught by the deadlock at CODESA and the Boipatong events was that the deadlock was not over percentages. These events taught that the gulf that separates the De Klerk government and the democratic aspirations of the majority cannot be overcome by words, but only by relentless struggle on the part of the people.

(ii) The De Klerk agenda is revealed
The deadlock at CODESA and the Boipatong events also played the role of clearly revealing the agenda of the De Klerk regime. Although to many it had been clear that the De Klerk regime had set out to weaken the ANC by a campaign of violence and propaganda, the significance of this was not reflected in the way our movement approached issues. One of the factors which obscured the De Klerk agenda was the confidence our leadership had in De Klerk. For a long time the blame for the violence was put on “third forces”, ministers in the government and other officials, ‘ill-disciplined’ police in other words, everyone except De Klerk himself. What the deadlock of CODESA and Boipatong events did was to destroy this mistaken view. For all those who still had confidence in De Klerk, from the royal reception he received at Boipatong on June 20, the views of the mass of those who suffered from De Klerk’s death squads were loud and clear: De Klerk is the leader and organiser of the counter-revolution.

(iii) The turn to the masses
As we have said, the CODESA deadlock and the Boipatong events marked a new phase in the development of our struggle. The most important feature of this new phase was a turn to the masses. From February 2 up to Boipatong, the masses had increasingly been excluded from determining the fate of the country. Increasingly, negotiations went underground as more and more issues were taken up in “confidential” discussions, “working groups” and so on. One of the important results of the two events was to begin a turn towards the masses. It began to be clear that only relentless struggle by the masses themselves can bring transformation to our rebuilding of our activist country.

(iv) The masses regain confidence; organisations are rebuilt
One of the major political gains of the turn to the masses is the increase in the self-confidence of the masses. The reception De Klerk received at Boipatong showed that the masses are no longer prepared to suffer silently. It showed a newly found preparedness to struggle Throughout our country, in the townships, in the villages, in the factories, mines and shops, in buses and taxis, we can hear and see the masses’ confidence in their to change their own conditions. For those who doubted whether this self-confidence existed, the stayaway of 3 and 4 August settled the question decisively. After all, the masses’ preparedness to struggle is only tested in struggle!

Another casualty of the way our movement conducted politics after February 2 was our organisations. Despite lip service to building organisation, very little was done in this regard. Attendance of activities of our formations was getting worse and worse, and some structures collapsed completely. Organisation, however, is not simply meetings and structures. An organisation is, in a fundamental way, assessed on the basis of whether it maintains, trains and gives a vision to its activists its cadres. Our greatest failure in the period before Boipatong was that we failed to maintain the layer of activists which we gained out of the 1985 insurrection and the Defiance Campaign in 1989. We failed to recruit and a new layer of activists. We failed to train our activists in organisational methods, to give them political education. Most importantly, we failed to provide our activists with a clear vision that links all aspects of our struggle to the concrete situation and to our ultimate goal. We precipitated a “crisis of vision” in the mass movement. Our activists, caught between our own failings and a campaign of assassination by De Klerk’s butchers, became demoralised and dropped out.

The intransigence of the regime at CODESA and those fateful events of the morning of June 17, together with the turn to the masses, has provided the motivation for the layer.

(v) Debates over strategy come to the fore
An important feature of the politics of the mass movement between February 2 and Boipatong was the absence of any debate over strategy and tactics in our struggle. Except for the very general and vague idea that “negotiation is a terrain of struggle”, no discussions over strategy took place in the mass movement. Here and there some comrades raised the need “to go back to the bush” but these views were cries of despair at the way the movement was going rather than developed strategical views. The reason for this lack of strategical discussions is that many in the leading structures of our movement believed that the road to freedom was short, smooth and speedy; they also believed that it passed through De Klerk’s office. The deadlock and Boipatong have begun to dispel this view, or at least to show how shortsighted it is. It has now become clear that the road to South African freedom will be long, hard and maybe even slow. It is clear that it passes through the masses in our townships, villages and factories. It is also becoming increasingly clear that between De Klerk’s office and our townships there is no middle road.

The turn to the masses, the dreadlock and Boipatong have reopened debates over the way forward to freedom. Militants are aware of the debates over “boats, taps and way, of insurrectionary perspectives and other perspectives about the nature and path of the revolution in South Africa. This debate, despite being as yet not as wide-ranging as it should be, is nevertheless an important political gain for our movement. If nursed and developed, this debate holds the prospects of contributing significantly methods, to give them political to the resolution of the “crisis of vision”.

(vi) Living standards under attack
Overshadowing all these political developments is a battle for survival in our villages and townships. Retrenchments, high food prices, large scale unemployment, subsidy cuts, privatisation and deregulation are just some of the problems facing workers and their families. Over and above all this, the threat of large-scale starvation and migration is becoming more and more immediate as the drought continues to bite.
But the attack on living standards is not a natural disaster. It is a product of capitalism and apartheid, of unilateral restructuring both at the level of the economy as a whole, and at the level of the factory. In other words, the attack on living standards lies at the heart of the agenda of De Klerk and the capitalist bosses.

It is within the context of these developments that we must assess the political significance of the events at Bisho.

(a) The Bisho events confirm the fact that De Klerk (and his hangers-on) is the people’s enemy number one. Bisho confirms the lessons of Boipatong.

The Bisho events, however, go further than just confirm the lessons of Boipatong.

(b) The Bisho events have taken the process of exposing the De Klerk agenda further. Up to now the issue of federalism and the reason why the National Party wants to impose it on the democratic movement has not been clear to regime and indeed the entire ruling class and its ideologies is trying to ensure that it can maintain fiefdoms or spheres of influence for its surrogates like Gqozo, Mangope, and others. We can see that and anti-democratic cliques want to use the dirty and disgraceful work of apartheid its sowing of divisions based on language and to entrench their rule. They are hoping that decades of British and National Party rule, decades of sowing divisions of all kinds, can now be written into the country’s constitution under the guise of federalism.

(c) The Bisho events also expose the fact that without power to force De Klerk and his Tin Pot dictators to respect agreements, the process of negotiations becomes a platform on which De Klerk his image of being a democrat without being committed to democracy. Gqozo, we must recall, initially agreed to principle”, then he withdrew his agreement. Gqozo is a signatory to the Peace Accord, which has endorsed a code of conduct for security forces. At Bisho Gqozo just threw out that code events thus the fact that freedom in South Africa will certainly not flow out of the barrel of a pen.

(d) Probably the most important lesson of the Bisho events is that it has revealed the need to accelerate the debates over strategy and tactics in our struggle. We said earlier that the turn to the masses in the wake of Boipatong led to debates over strategy. But this debate is only just beginning. Almost side by side with the debate there has emerged a view, which is really a continuation of the faith in De Klerk. Whereas in the pre-Boipatong period the dominant view in the leading structures of our movement was that De Klerk can be trusted to “deliver” democracy, the dominant view now seems to be that with a little push in fact with a few marches we can “force” De Klerk to become trustworthy again, to “negotiate” in good faith.”

Despite calls to mass action, therefore, the belief that the road to South African freedom passes through De office still exists and shows itself in the approach to mass action. It is quite clear that Gqozo will not be removed by “peacefully” occupying Bisho. The Butcher Bisho, and the Puppet Master in Pretoria, do not know the meaning of the word “peace”. Only the especially seeing that he has promised more massacres.

(e) The national anger and energy that will flow from the reaction of the people to Bisho events will further lead to the rebuilding of our organisations as more people enter political life. The intensification of mass action will further enhance self-confidence of the masses, and thus will in turn provide a favourable context for the emergence of new activists and the consolidation of these layers.

(f) At the level of negotiations, the Bisho events have posed some issues more sharply, and allow the democratic movement to correct some of the errors committed in the course of the “give and take” at CODESA. There is the question of the agreement around reincorporation of the homelands into South Africa. At CODESA the agreement reached by Working Group 4 was so vague that, according to the Business Day “it was rescued from closer, scrutiny -which it would not have survived by the primary deadlock over constitution The Bisho events, by bringing the issue of homelands into sharp focus and at the top of provides the democratic movement with the opportunity to address this question again. There is also the issue of free political activity, as well as of political prisoners. Over and above all these issues, there is the issue of violence against the oppressed.

The political significance of the Bisho events lies in the fact that it consolidates and further develops the lessons of the Boipatong events. Bisho marks a qualitatively new phase in the development of our struggle since February 2 1990.

The Bisho events and the situation in the Ciskei/Border region

In order for our movement to develop a programme and strategy that can our aim of removing Gqozo from power, we need to go beyond a broad discussion of the significance of the Bisho events in the current South African context. Our strategies and tactics must reflect the specific and concrete developments of the region, and also relate this to South Africa in general.

The present situation in the Ciskei – and the Bisho events in the of a chain of developments which began with a coup led by the Brigadier Oupa Gqozo. At the beginning it appeared that this coup against Sebe was no different to the coup in the Transkei and even the one in Venda. In fact, in the first few weeks of the new administration Gqozo also appeared to share sympathies with the democratic movement. When Gqozo first addressed the masses under the ANC and SACP flags, he committed himself to re-incorporation and to allow free political activity. But the overthrow of Sebe from above, i.e by Oupa Gqozo, was only one side of the picture. The other side of the picture was the growing resistance to the Sebe government from the people in the townships and villages.

During 1989 and before, there had been increasing resistance in the rural areas of the Ciskei. People in these areas were defiantly burning their Ciskei National Independence Party (CNIP – Sebe’s party) cards. Resistance also took place in the urban areas and in fact progressive organisations were planning a march on Bisho on 5 March 1990. Side by side with the deepening increasing dissatisfaction within the civil service and in the army. This dissatisfaction was a response to Sebe’s corrupt, inefficient and arbitrary rule.

The coming together of the popular resistance and the dissatisfaction within the civil service and the army led to the coup, and more importantly, to the semi-insurrectionary situation that followed the announcement of the coup. As the people celebrated in the streets and also burned businesses belonging to Sebe’s supporters, soldiers were reported to have stood by watching and doing nothing.

Since the movement that led to the rise of Oupa Gqoza came from below and from above, the people quickly utilised the space that emerged from the fall of Sebe. We saw the mushrooming of trade union organisation in the factories and shops, the mushrooming of popularly elected committees in the countryside, ANC branches all over the homeland. It was this deep and based movement of popular organisation that co-existed side by side with Gqozo’s military regime. Ciskei at that moment had the elements of insurrectionary situation. There was a confident and highly combative working class; there was a wavering civil service bureaucracy and the armed forces were dissatisfied.

It was the pressure of these circumstances that forced Gqozo to sound progressive – i.e. until the situation had and the danger defused. At such critical juncture a political and strategical question presented itself: Who must form the basis of the emerging power? What will be the role of the masses in it? How will the organs of struggle which emerged in the course of the struggle relate to the new power?

In those conditions of Ciskei in March 1990, our movement committed a serious political and strategical error. The questions we posed above were not answered with any clarity, in fact they were not really posed. What our movement proceeded to do was to unwittingly give Gqozo the time to consolidate the armed forces and the civil service. We did not immediately radically redefine the structures of power in a way that would have accelerated the coming over of the civil service and the armed forces to the side of the people. But what was the source of the failure to pose the fundamental questions and answer them in a revolutionary manner? The key source of this error is what we have already referred to: the leading structures of our movement believed (and still do) that power can be transferred by striking deals with elites, with from the old order. The idea, first tried out in the out in the mid-1980s that the organs of struggle forged by the people in the course of battle (for example, street and village committees) are at the same time organs of wielding power, organs that take control of various aspects of social and economic life in the township, -this idea was absent from the perspectives of our movement when we confronted the insurrectionary situation in the Ciskei.

As we have indicated, this error allowed Gqozo to consolidate the army and the bureaucracy. He did this under the cover of the legitimacy provided by the democratic movement. But, of course, this co-existence would not last. The rupture had to come, and it came.

Even while Gqozo was being forced to allow organisational space for the democratic movement, he was already trying to roll back the gains. When he felt confident enough to take the offensive, there began the long series of confrontations between Gqozo and the democracy movement which culminated in the Bisho events of 7 September 1992.

There is however one other critical element which must inform our strategical and political outlook in our struggle against Gqozo. Although Gqozo was able to his base in the army and civil service for a time, he was unable to any base outside these institutions. As Gqozo himself has said: “I’m running this whole place as a military unit … it is a government of the people, for the people. But definitely not by the people”. Gqozo thus knows that he has no base outside the narrow corridors of military and civil service headquarters. But even here, his support (if we can call it that) has a specific quality. It is based on mercenaries, seconded officers from the SADF and spies. In other words, what binds the army and the civil service together is fear: fear of reprisals from Gqozo and his Pretoria masters; and fear of possible reprisals from a victorious people. The army and the civil service are indeed fragile institutions. For just as the civil servants and soldiers pretended to be happy under Sebe, so they will also continue to pretend to be happy under Gqozo.

To say these institutions are fragile is not to say that it will be easy to break them. Fear of the Gqozo clique when combined with fear for the people can be a powerful cement. But an army cannot maintain its cohesion simply on the basis of fear. Its cohesion is an important product of its interaction with society – and specifically with the social strata it serves. But we have said that even Gqozo lays no claim to any popular support. It is this lack of popular support of any kind that forms the small hole that will burst the dam.

We have therefore in the Ciskei a potentially insurrectionary situation: A combative working class and rural population which is combative and prepared to make sacrifices; a regime which has not a shred of moral standing among the people of the people of Ciskei, of the entire South Africa, and of the world; an army and civil bound together by fear and mercenaries; And lastly, the Bisho events – a crisis of profound and national dimensions.

Before we can formulate a political and action programme for the overthrow of Gqozo, there one addressed. The question is a product of the following circumstances.

On the one hand, we have that a potentially insurrectionary situation exists in the Ciskei. On the other hand, Ciskei is but one of the area/regions of South Africa. The first question which must of course concern us is our assessment of the situation in the rest of South Africa.

What is clear is that although we have seen a reawakening of the masses, the strength of this reawakening is uneven and much more deepening of organisation and development of a cadre needs to happen. More-over, in South Africa the armed forces and the civil service are far from fragile. The armed forces and the civil service in South Africa enjoy, at the moment, a healthy relationship with the classes it is serving. What this means is that no insurrectionary situation exists in South Africa as a whole. This leads us to a second question.

We have a situation in which a partial-geographically limited-insurrectionary situation relationship exists. What is the relationship between insurrectionary prospects in Ciskei and in the rest country? In other words, given this disjuncture between conditions in one region and the rest of the country, what would be the role and prospects of a partial insurrection?

First, the role of a Ciskeian insurrection. In order for us to appreciate the role of a “partial rupture” like the Ciskeian uprising, we need to briefly outline our understanding of the dynamics of the revolutionary process in South Africa. Like all revolutions, the South African revolution will not develop as one “big bang”. But more particularly because of the entrenched character of the ruling class in South Africa, and the uneven development of the mass movement, the revolutionary process will develop unevenly and breakthroughs will happen at different times and at different places. Clearly, this uneven development of the revolutionary process allows the ruling class to redeploy forces to areas where it is most under pressure, and as such this gives the ruling class an advantage in these battles. What this means is that as long as the various partial uprisings remain isolated in time and place, they tend to be defeated.

But does such a prospect of defeat mean that the masses must avoid these partial uprisings? Most certainly not! But the question is not really whether the masses should avoid these uprisings or not. To say this would be equal to saying because the state is strong, people should not struggle at all. The real question is this: How does the leadership of our movement ensure that we emerge out of these partial uprisings with a rich reservoir of experience, with a strong layer of cadre, with the masses’ resolve to struggle unbroken? Such is the question. For whereas we know that these partial uprisings cannot succeed unless they are generalised to the rest of the country and indeed to the world, we also know that without these partial uprisings and their educative value, without their role of steeling the masses and the cadre, without chipping away at the fortresses of the ruling class -no countrywide insurrection is possible. In this understanding lies the historical, political and strategical significance of 1976, of 1985 and of countless other partial uprisings. The question is thus not whether we avoid these partial uprisings or not (they will happen in any event – who planned 1976?), the real question is how we can lead them in a manner that makes them part of a general battle plan that moves from the little strike, to the partial uprising and to the conquest of power by the masses.

Secondly, what of the prospects for an uprising in the Ciskei? We have dealt with the general prospects of partial uprisings. But what about a Ciskeian uprising? As we have shown, a favourable alignment of forces for an insurrection exists in the Ciskei. What remains is of course the SADF and the mercenary forces. The SADF will clearly try to prevent a successful uprising, and failing that, to suppress it violently. As we said, our task in such a situation is to come out of the uprising with a strong cadre, a mass movement which is richer in experience, and one whose resolve to struggle further is not broken. Over and above this, an uprising that kicks Gqozo out of power, although it does not defeat the South African state as a whole, will (i) send a powerful signal to the oppressed majority and this cannot fail to lead to the fall of the other tin-pot dictators – e specially Mangope and (ii) depending on our programmatic perspective, will allow us to establish ‘forward trenches’ for our struggle in the area i.e. it will result in a qualitatively more confident people, a stronger layer of cadre and an incomparably rich experience of battle.

The question of whether we can achieve all this must of course be answered concretely. To answer it we must transfer from the sphere of theory to the sphere of practical politics. Now, given our estimation of the situation in the country and within our movement since Boipatong; given our analysis of the relationship of forces in the Ciskei, what should our political and action programme for the overthrow of that Puppet with a Big Hat – Brigadier Oupa Gqoza?

A Political for the Overthrow of Gqozo

A political programme, as distinguished from a programme of action, must spell out our demands, who they are directed at, as well as the political basis of these demands. Such a programme must also make our bottom lines absolutely clear. Over and above all this, it must provide concrete answers as the political tasks of our movement.

a) The call to reincorporate the Ciskei into South Africa
As we all know, the call for the reincorporation of the homelands back into South Africa has a long history. It dates from the time South Africa granted the homelands “independence”. The call expresses a healthy sentiment for the unity of the South African nation. There can be no question about the correctness of this call. We remarked earlier that the deadlock at Codesa and the events at Boipatong, together with the reassessment that followed these events, provided the democratic movement with the opportunity to correct some of the political errors which were committed at Codesa. The question of the incorporation of the homelands was one of the areas where we committed such errors. We have already shown the nature of this mistake. The Bisho events, by pushing the question of the homelands to the fore allows us the opportunity to take up this question in a consistently democratic manner. The demand can no longer just be the re-incorporation of the homelands. The demands must now be the immediate incorporation of the homelands.

But this is not the end of the question. In fact, it is just the beginning. The key question is how must this reincorporation take place – on whose terms? How do we ensure that the gains -political and organisation – that would emerge out of our struggle for reincorporation, out of the partial uprising – are preserved and consolidated?

The question is particularly important given the errors of the way we handled the uprising in the Ciskei in March 1990. As we have shown, at that time our approach allowed Gqozo to hide behind the legitimacy of the democratic movement and so consolidate the counter-revolution. We have also mentioned the political source of our error then. Our task is not just to win a “sphere of influence” and add to our forces at CODESA our main task is to develop organs of people’s power as a crucial stepping stone in our struggle for democracy. What this means is that we need to guard against the temptations of a left-version. a second edition of Oupa Gqozo. Our approach to the process of reincorporation must be mass-based and thorough-going.

For instance, the NEC of the ANC has called for the appointment of an Interim Administration by De Klerk after consultation with other political parties. This approach already removes the initiative from the masses, from their organisations, their street and village committees. This approach hands the process over to the regime and its puppets. This road can at best only lead to the removal of Gqozo, the individual, to the installation of another functionary who will violate freedom of political activity a t the slightest opportunity. The real task is to ensure that the masses win real space for determining the further evolution of the struggle in Ciskei.

The key question posed by the call to reincorporate Ciskei into South Africa is this: which forum or body will discuss the terms of reincorporation? In order to ensure that the process of reincorporation is democratic and mass based, we must call for a convening of a Congress of the People of Ciskei.

(b) It is necessary to convene a Congress of the People of Ciskei

As it is already clear, the key task of a Congress of the People (COP) will be to involve the masses of ordinary workers and peasants in the process of the Ciskei. A number of questions now themselves.

Firstly, who will come to the COP? Secondly, what is its relationship to the state? Thirdly, how will it emerge? To answer these questions, we need to look at the broader role of the COP.

Like the organs of people’s power which emerged in the 1980s, the COP will not just be a forum of discussion. It will be both an organ of struggle as well as an organ that will engage the state in negotiation over the conditions of reincorporation. Another important role of the COP is that by basing itself on popularly elected delegates, in both town and country, it will ensure that the South African Government cannot easily re-impose undemocratic organs in the township and village. As we said, the call for reincorporation comes from the desire to forge a united nation. If we allow the process of reincorporation to be dictated from above, we will open the road to divisive forces. Only a truly popular process of reincorporation can ensure that the South African government does not use the process to entrench divisions among our people – especially in the Ciskei and Border.

We can now address the three questions posed above. Who will attend? There are three forms of organisations which must guide our approach to representation. Firstly, there is the village and street committee. Secondly, there are the mass organisations, the civics, trade unions youth student organisations. Thirdly, there are the political parties. The most basic and fundamental unit of representation must be the village and street committees. Here delegates to the COP must be elected without consideration of their political affiliation. An important place must be reserved for the representative of the soldier. The call must go out from organisers of the COP that invites the soldiers to send elected delegates to the COP. This call must naturally be made over the little head of Gqozo – directly to the ordinary soldier. This is a fundamental task of the organisers of the COP, which they cannot neglect: Our movement needs to issue an “Appeal to the ordinary soldier”.

There will then be limited representation from mass formations and political parties. It is important that the majority of delegates come from street and village committees. This is not just another Conference for Democratic Future (CDF); it must be a genuine Congress of the People – giving a voice to ordinary workers and peasants.

Now, what will be the relationship of this COP to the state? This question must be seen in the light of the call for referendum in the Ciskei – to test Gqozo’s support! The COP is an organ of the people and by the people. It is independent of Gqozo’s state and as such must be organised independently. The COP, and those elected at its sitting to organise its affairs, will be an organ of people’s power – organising struggles and engaging the state in that process.

And how will it emerge? Organs of People’s power have, historically emerged in two ways. The one way is to emerge as an organ of a victorious insurrection. That is, after the people have overthrown Gqozo, a COP is convened. Clearly, when it emerges in this way there are stronger possibilities for getting soldiers to send representatives to the Congress. The other way is for the COP to be convened before the uprising and it becomes an important organ of mobilisation for the uprising. There is of course a possible combination of the two ways, where the process of organising for a COP unleashes insurrectionary forces. As to which way actually emerges depends on the pace at which the struggle unfolds.

But the democratic movement has no control (broadly speaking) over the timing of an insurrection. It is therefore necessary to convene a COP as soon as possible. The call must go out, within days and weeks, for a COP of the people of Ciskei. No delays must be allowed.

It might be objected that it will take a long time to organise the COP, that the process of electing delegates in streets, villages and mass organisations will take a long time. What such an objection misses is that, firstly, the existing mood of the masses in the wake of the Bisho events and the mass action will for organisational weakness. Nothing will invigorate the masses and activists than the call itself. The need to coordinate the spontaneous struggle in the Ciskei is felt by all. A call for a COP convened within days or weeks will satisfy a deeply felt need.

It is clear that the development of the COP might be uneven. Some areas or formations might not be able to send delegates within a week or two. But this is how all these kinds of organs develop. Those who are unable to send delegates within weeks will not weeks not be encouraged by a continual postponement of the COP. Even with limitations of representations, the COP must be convened. For example, the soldier will take time to reach a stage where she where s/he can elect representatives. Only a living COP will inspire the soldier, and the masses, to send delegates!

(c) The for the armed forces and the civil service

We have already spelt out the alignment of forces that make it possible to contest the sympathies of the ordinary soldier (and police). We said that the soldier supports the army because of fear: fear of Gqozo and fear of the people. Our primary task is to convince the soldier that his/her future lies with the people.

We have already mentioned the need to issue an “Appeal to the soldier” which will address the fears and interests of the soldier. Such an “Appeal” must deal with the common interests of the soldier, the ordinary worker and peasant; it must deal with the discrimination and low wages in the armed forces; it must deal with injustices in the army and above all this, it must impress the soldier with the boldness of our vision.

The issue of struggle for the armed forces has always been the underbelly of our strategy – one of its most important weaknesses. We have created an approach of “our army and theirs” – without raising the fact that “their” army also includes those who are our class brothers and sisters; those who turned to the army because of hunger. For many of our cadre this is a new task i.e. the task of struggling for the sympathies of the armed forces of the regime. As part of our continuing debates on strategy and tactics, we need to develop tactics of engaging the armed forces.

It is however necessary to say one thing. Does the commitment to address the fears and interests of the soldiers mean we cannot attack the army? Does it mean we cannot defend ourselves with arms against the army? Absolutely not! We cannot win the soldier over a negotiating table or over a cup of tea. The soldier, as a rule, meets the masses on the barricades, in marches and across the barbed wire. At such moments, we must address the soldier, distribute leaflets to the soldiers and talk to them. And should not our representatives meet, not with officers in the rooms of the Peace Accord, but with the ordinary policeman-and women at the local police station? Of course, yes!

The struggle for the soul of the soldier and policemen and women constitutes the most fundamental task of an insurrectionary people. Yes, the soldier has been and continues to be brutal; yes, the soldier is generally rightwing in political views. But all this does not always last forever. The soldier is also oppressed. The soldier gets used as cannon fodder in foreign wars and against the people. The soldier is afraid. And in here lies the small hole that will burst the dam.

(d) The struggle against Gqozo and our attitude to business

Immediately following the massacre at Bisho, the Border Chamber of Business (BCB) an affiliate of SACOB called for a meeting of ‘senior delegates’ from South Africa, Ciskei and Transkei governments and the ANC, to discuss the crisis. Although the BCB appears to be agreeing with reincorporation, it is in fact the advance guard of the reaction. For behind talking about reincorporation it hints at the road that leads back to CODESA, and therefore the recognition of Gqozo’s right to remain ruler of Ciskei.

The recent history of our movement, specifically the negotiations between and COSATU on the eve of the stayaway 3/4 of August, makes it necessary to determine our attitude to the BCB’s initiative.

The BCB is clearly frightened by the prospects of a protracted war between Gqozo and the people, because it knows that as Gqozo’s class brothers it will be in the firing line. The initiative of BCB is thus an attempt to blunt the struggles of the people. What then should be our attitude to this initiative?

Some among us will argue that it will be to our advantage if the employers support us against Gqozo. In general, this cannot be denied. But then this raises the question more sharply: does business us in our fight against or does it pretend to ‘mediate’ and ‘not take sides’? The BCB does not support us against Gqozo. It pretends to mediate and be neutral.

We have said that the Bisho events are those events in the history of any struggle which draw the lines of demarcation without ambiguity. Between the people and Gqozo there is, and there can be, no middle road. One is either for or against. Our attitude to the BCB must be governed by the following approach: the BCB must be prepared to declare openly;

(i) That it supports immediate reincorporation of the Ciskei
(ii) That it is clear and open on the culpability of Oupa Gqozo for the massacre.
(iii) That it will refuse to pay in any way taxes to Gqozo – a lot of BCB companies will have branches and subsidies in the Ciskei.
(iv) That it will allow (and actively campaign for) free political activity in the Ciskei. Specifically, this means the rights of workers to organise in the factories and shops.

Those demands are simple and clear, they don’t need any ‘mediation’ or ‘negotiation’. Our leadership must avoid being drawn into useless and positively destructive negotiations which only serve to confuse the masses at critical moments in the development of the struggle against Gqozo.

To sum up, our political programme for the against Oupa Gqozo must be guided by (or must incorporate) the call for the immediate reincorporation of Ciskei into South Africa; the process of reincorporation must be mass based and democratic; therefore, our movement must immediately convene a Congress of the People; we must undertake a struggle for the sympathies of the soldiers; our approach to the BCB initiative must be based on a set of clear and non-negotiable demands.

A Programme of Action to overthrow Gqozo

The following ideas are suggestions to be discussed and changed as the struggle unfolds. It is however important that our movement formulates a clear programme of action and takes it seriously. One of the features of the struggle since February 2 is that militants, and the broad masses, have begun to feel that our leadership does not take campaigns seriously and changes them at the slightest excuse. This demobilises our people and weakens our struggles.

a) The funeral of the of Bisho must be a national event!

One of the casualties in our struggle since February 2 has been the lack of solidarity between sectors and regions. This is part of the legacy of changing campaigns mid-stream, of not wanting to “rock the boat” too much. One of the most glaring examples of this lack of solidarity is the way our leadership handled action around Boipatong. First there was the call for a national day of mourning. It was not clear whether it was to be a national or not. Then it was said the will only be in the PWV. Then it was said that only the Vaal will stayaway. All this happened in the space of a few days! The result was not just confusion but also lack of solidarity at a national level. Long gone were the days when Goniwe was buried by militants from all over the country.

It is thus necessary to recapture those traditions of solidarity. The Bisho events are fundamentally national in character.

Efforts must be made to organise busses to the funeral from all over the country. If the funeral is in the week, a national must be declared on the day of the funeral. If it is on the weekend, this will make it easier for militants from all over the country to converge on the Border region. In such an event, there must be a half day stoppage on the Wednesday before the funeral.

b) A national consumer boycott must be called for three weeks starting on the 25 September to 11 October.
c) Occupations of Ciskeian embassies/consulates must continue.
d) Solidarity rallies must organised in all regions on the day of the funeral.
e) ANC/Cosatu regions must collect monies to help families of the victims of the Bisho massacre.


To conclude our discussion of perspectives on the events in Ciskei, it is necessary to address two issues. The first is the question of the relationship of the campaign for the overthrow of Gqozo and the general campaign for free political activity and reincorporation of the homelands. It is tempting to want to settle the question of all the homelands in one “big bang”. But it would be an error to succumb temptation. The why it would be an error is because the Bisho events have focused the attention of the country and the world on Oupa Gqozo and through him on other homelands. It is not difficult to see that although generally unpopular, the homeland leaders are hated with varying degrees of intensity at different times. If we simply lump them all together we will be showing a lack of tactical sensitivity. We need to maintain the focus on Gqozo and the Ciskei as the axis around which the campaign for reincorporation will revolve.

The second reason why it would be an error to simply lump all the homelands together and give them equal priority in the campaign is because a different alignment of forces exists in the different homelands. It therefore does not follow that if we call for the overthrow of Gqozo as an immediate task this call can be extended to all homelands, or even to Bophuthatswana and KwaZulu. Our approach should be to use the national campaign focused on Ciskei to lay the ground for a later focus on the other homelands. This of course does mean that demonstrations and general agitation around these other homelands must continue, but without once losing our focus on Ciskei.

The third reason is that there are clearly also political differences between the homelands. For instance, Transkei is clearly different from Ciskei. To lump all the homelands together would drag us into the long drawn out type process – which is what Gqozo and De Klerk would prefer at the moment.

The other issue we need to address is that we need to undertake a sober and (revolutionary) realistic assessment of the relationship of forces at each stage of the development of the campaign. We need to avoid an overestimation of our capacities (while also not underestimating them). In other words, we need to be bold yet not adventurous. De Klerk will not deliver freedom. But he will also not fall tomorrow. What we need is a long view of history. Only a cheap and sham freedom will come out of De Klerk’s pen. Only relentless and untiring struggle – now victorious, now suffering retreats – will bring genuine freedom to the oppressed majority.

Steve Mdluli (An activist in the mass movement)

‘Steve Mdluli’ is an alias Oupa Lehulere sometimes published his writings under, during the anti-apartheid years, the transitional period and the immediate post-democratic years of South Africa.

"Ideas that enter the mind under fire remain there securely and forever." -Leon Trotsky

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