Regional Formation Schools.” Report in SASO Newsletter, September 1970

" Regional Formation Schools." Report in SASO Newsletter, September 1970

The regional formation schools for the Natal and Transvaal regions were held on the 5-7th and 19-20th September respectively. The attendance at each formation school was in the region of 25 or so people. A full report on the formation schools will be circulated to all centres. We want merely to deal briefly with the major points of both formation schools.

From our point of view, i.e. Exec. the formation schools were extremely successful. We sought to achieve 2 major objects, firstly, we wanted to create a core of people in each campus who not only understood in detail what SASO is all about, but, also who are prepared to do SASO work on their respective campuses. Secondly, we sought to make all those who attended fully conversant with the approach we are adopting in an effort to make students aware of their responsibilities both as students and as members of society.

Questions set for us to answer, such as who are we? What are we talking about? Where are we today? Whither are we going?, helped to put us in a good frame of mind for the business we meant to deal "with. We then went further to highlight the important aspects of "black consciousness" and our historical background with a view to creating good ground for discussion.

The study of the Afro-American approach to their problems offered interesting comparisons between their situation in the [United] States and ours in this country. To give a concrete example one group was asked to study the significance of the statement "before entering the open society, we must first close our ranks." This statement underlies the "Black Power" philosophy of people like [Charles] Hamilton and (Stokely) Carmichael. This particular group made the observation that an open society in this country can only be created by blacks and that for as long as whites are in power they shall seek to make it closed in one way or the other. We then defined what we meant by an open society. Does it entail the competitive type of approach to a country's economical problems, or does it open the ranks fully and allow joint participation by everybody in the country's economy. In other words does our concept of an open society imply a retention of the opportunities for exploitation that one finds in Western-based societies? This was rejected by the group in favour of a more inclusive approach. The group went on then to note that none of the present parties would dream of fully allowing people to participate equally as members of a society in the economy of the country.

Closing our ranks was seen as necessary in this country purely to establish a common starting point. The difference in starting points was seen as the major reason for the diversification of interests and aspirations. Hence the group ended up by stating that the original statement should read "before creating an open society we must first close our ranks." The different course, is of paramount importance in that in the first one the Afro-Americans accept that they will never be in a position to change the system in America and adopt the approach that if you can't beat them, join them but join-them from a position of strength, whereas implicit in the latter statement is a hope to establish a completely new system at some stage. The second point here also is that purely from a consideration of who we are we realise that it is we who must be allowing others to participate in our system. We must not be the ones to be invited to participate in somebody else's system in our own private yard.

Then came a consideration of practical ways of implementing what we saw as the only valid approach--creating a black consciousness. The ideas considered varied from simple community orientated projects to exploitation of the system i.e. making use of institutions created in black areas for blacks. One does not wish to go into detail in this topic. Let it suffice to say that we saw a major difference in approaches to be made to the urban areas and those to be made to the rural areas.

Considerable time was spent in discussing "Black Theology" and what it entails. SASO is aware that it is a secular body but acknowledges the functional importance of working closely with other groups in an effort to stress the importance of this topic.

A sense of nostalgia was instilled in the group by a historical consideration of the black man's struggle in this country. Although this was deal with very superficially it served to illustrate just how complacent people are at this moment.

All in all people left the formation schools with new determination to do what can be done in the direction of making themselves and the student community at large useful in being members of the vanguard ranks in this stage of our involvement. The regional and local organisation of SASO in both the Transvaal and Natal regions was given a tremendous boosting by the formation schools. This makes it much more of a pity that the Eastern Cape Region has seen it necessary to postpone its regional formation school to early next year.

• Karis, T.G & Gerhart, G. M (eds)(1997). From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary history of African politics in South Africa, 1882-1990, Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence,1964-1979, Pretoria: Unisa.

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