The Economic Freedom Fighters marks the 41st anniversary of the brutal assassination of Abram Onkgopotse Tiro by the racist and murderous apartheid regime. Tiro, who was central to the Black Consciousness Movement that took South African tertiary campuses and ultimately high schools by storm, can be credited to have played a leading role in that regard.
Tiro was elected the SRC President in Turfloop, University of the North, in 1972 where he was to use a graduation ceremony to criticise the Bantu Education Act of 1953 which earned him an expulsion from the university. Here Tiro spoke of the racial segregation in universities, tuition fees and the ways in which the entire apartheid system, even in its promise of Bantustan policies was for the benefit of white minority rule. Concluding the speech, Tiro said with great hope:
“The day shall come, when all shall be free to breathe the air of freedom which is theirs to breathe and when the day shall have come, no man, no matter how many tanks he has, will reverse the course of events.”
Protests in solidarity with Tiro spred across South African universities demanding that he be re-admitted, but the authorities refused him to continue his education. Tiro was then to be given a teaching job by Mr. Lekgau Mathabathe, the principal at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto. It was here that the heroes and heroins of the 1976 Youth Uprising were to consume Black Consciousness ideology under his watch and guidance. This is why in its founding moment, the EFF first went to Soweto to report, salute and ask the 1976 generation for blessings.
Tiro mentored and taught students to question the system, in particular the content of their history books. Amongst his students was Tsietsi Mashinini who was a key leader of the Youth Uprising itself. Tiro also contributed to the founding of the South African Student Movement which was affiliated to the Black Consciousness Movement. The coward apartheid regime however followed him to this high school too, putting pressure on the principal to fire him.
Tiro fled the country to Botswana, fearing arrest by the regime in 1973. In Botswana, Tiro had planned to apply to continue his studies with the University of South African (UNISA). Whilst he was completing a UNISA application form on 01 February 1974, a parcel arrived from the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF). As he opened it, a parcel bomb exploded, killing him instantly.
In remembering him, we remember that we must always fight against anyone and any system that uses the colour of our skins as a means of our oppression. In remembering him we too unequivocally restate that “the primary source of income for Blacks is land, and that land had to be restored to the dispossessed” without compensation. In remembering him, we continue to call for free quality education for which he died trying to pursue. His words, which were true for his generation, remain so even for ours: that “Our so-called leaders have become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation.”
This alone is testimony that his spirit lives in the EFF and that fighters carry his spear to continue the struggle. As the generation of Economic Freedom Fighters we shall never rest until the humanity of black people is restored. We shall fight to the death to ensure that economic freedom is realised in our lifetime. Long live Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, Long Live!
Issued by the Economic Freedom Fighters