On March 21, 1960 the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) called for a “Positive Action Campaign” against the apartheid regime’s Pass Laws. Black people peacefully marched from their homes to surrender themselves to their nearest police stations under the slogan “NO BAIL, NO DEFENCE, NO FINE”. About 180 Africans were injured and 69 killed when South African police instructed by the apartheid regime opened fire on some 300 protesters engaged in peaceful demonstrations in the townships of Sharpeville, Vanderbijlpark and Langa. This event which has become known as the Sharpeville Massacre marks the beginning of armed resistance in South Africa.
On APRIL 18, 1980 the Independence of Zimbabwe was proclaimed. Zimbabwe’s independence resulted from a protracted liberation struggle led by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) through the leadership of President Robert Mugabe against British rule. Since achieving independence the ability of the Zimbabwean state to respond to the needs of its people can be gauged, inter alia, from the successful land reform as well as the indigenization and economic empowerment programs.
On April 27 1898 Mbuya Nehanda, one of the architects of Zimbabwe’s First Chimurenga war, was hanged together with her four comrades (Sekuru Kaguvi, Gutsa, Hwata and Zindoga) by the settler regime for daring to challenge colonial land theft.
On 1May 1890 , following the decision of the International Workers’ Congress in 1889, the workers of Europe and America engaged in mass demonstrations and strikes . Their first demand was for an 8 hour working day. The idea was subsequently adopted by organised workers all over the world. While the demand of an 8 hour work day was eventually reached, May Day continues to indicates its significance through rallying the workers of all nations around the slogan: “Workers of the World, Unite!” In celebrating May Day annually workers around the world show their international solidarity towards the attainment of an egalitarian society free from all forms of exploitation and oppression
Karl Marx, who was born on May 5, 1818, is the inspiration for first pillar of the politics of Marxism, Leninism. Marx himself regarded his most important contribution to be his identification of “the dictatorship of the proletariat” as the agency and core mechanism to the transition to socialism. Hence Marx looked to the Paris Commune for inspiration. He referred to it as “a new point of departure of world-historic importance,” The main theoretical questions raised in “The Communist Manifesto” were answered by the Paris Commune including: What would a government of the dictatorship of the proletariat look like? and Why did previous revolutions fail? Ultimately it is the study of the Paris Commune which is key to understanding Karl Marx’s theory of revolution.
Empress Taitu Betul of Ethiopia died in February 1918. She was a woman of great wisdom and her contribution regarding the attainment of the independence of Ethiopia is instructive. In this regard her involvement in the battles of Mekele and Adwa is profound. In 1896 Ethiopia with its poor weapon arsenal and ill attired soldiers, dealt Italy a humiliating defeat at the battle of Adwa. The victory of the battle of Adwa was the first victory of a black nation since the start of European Colonialism. At this battle Taitu marched in the forefront with her husband, Menelik, to confront the enemy. She also commanded an artillery battery during the battle. The Ethiopians eventually forced the Italians into Eritrea and out of Ethiopia altogether. Consequently on 26th of October, 1896, the independence of Ethiopia was proclaimed. On the 10th of May in 1889, Taitu and her husband, Menelik, were crowned Emperor and Empress of Ethiopia. Before this they were known as Queen and King of Ethiopia.
The battle of Mekele (which occurred before Adwa) demonstrated Queen Taitu’s capability as a brilliant tactician and leader. During this battle the Italians were well-fortified with machine gun weaponry in hillside bunkers. The queen sought and was given ground intelligence about the weaknesses in the Italians’ water supply source. She then ordered the capture of the water supply. Her soldiers heroically defended the water for 15 days until the Italians surrendered to defeat. It must be stated that Queen Taitu took good care of her troops during this battle. She sustained them with food and ammunition throughout.
Taitu’s presence in both battles is itself clearly suggestive of the hands on and leading role black women played in the history of Ethiopia. It also served to inflate the morale of the soldiers to defeat Italy and free Ethiopia
On 16 June 1976, 20000 people, mostly students, marched through the streets of Soweto in defiance against the bantu education system in general and Afrikaans being used as a medium of instruction in blacks schools in particular. The apartheid regime responded by shooting and murdering more than 600 students . The Soweto uprising was inspired and driven by the philosophy of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness via the organising idea of Black Power. It was initiated by students who soon called on workers to join them. The resistance of June 16, 1976 was led by Tsietsi Mashinini and Khotso Seatlholo.
Frantz Fanon was born on July 20, 1925 and died on December 6, 1961. He was, amongst other things, a Marxist-Leninist, Pan-Afrikanist visionary, author and master strategist. His revolutionary works include: ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ and ‘Towards A Dying Colonialism.’ He brings great relevance and incisive insight to our appreciation of and approach to colonialism; capitalist imperialism, white supremacy and neocolonialism. His legacy continues to inspire black resistance struggles aimed at attaining the total freedom of blacks world wide.
The date of birth and death of Queen Nefertiti are unknown. As queen, alongside Pharaoh Akhenaten from 1353 to 1336 B.C, she was one of the most powerful women in ancient Egypt. She is also believed to have ruled Egypt after her husband’s death. Queen Nefertiti was instrumental together with her husband Akhenaten for displacing Egypt’s Chief God Amon and subsequently reorienting Egypt’s religious and political logic and structure around the worshipping of the Sun God Aten.She wasconsequently instrumental in inspiring a social, cultural and political renaissance.
Yaa Asantewa “Queen Mother of Ejisu” (1900)
In the final Ashanti-British War Nana Yaa Asantewaa agitated and organised the Ashanti traditional leaders to rise up against the British in battle. This war, the Yaa Asantewaa War, was from 1900 to 1901. She was in her 60s when she led the Ashanti people into battle against the White colonizers. This war, the Yaa Asantewaa War, was from 1900 to 1901. She is known for practically rallying Asante resistance using a gender lens and her sharp oratory skills. When the Ashanti Chiefs held a secret meeting at Kumasi, Yaa Asantewaa was present. They discussed how they should fight the British. Yaa Asantewaa saw that some of the chiefs were afraid to rise up against the British colonisers. They prefered to instead beg the British to return their King Prempeh who was forced into exile by the British. Yaa Asantewaa then made the following speech to the Ashanti Chiefs which stirred them up into battle with the British colonizers.
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of old, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anoyke and Opulu Ware, Ashanti Chiefs would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared speak to Ashanti Chiefs in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. If you men will not go forward, then we the women will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Yaa Asantewa and other leaders were eventually captured by the British and sent into exile.
BLF dedicates August 9 to Yaa Asantewa “Queen Mother of Ejisu”.