IN HER book Laying Ghosts to Rest, published about five years ago, Mamphela Ramphele complains of "an increasing tendency to demonise liberalism as a political orientation. There is a dismissive view about the role of liberals in our political history, although many fine South Africans made a significant contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle from the platform of liberalism".I found her comments ironic considering the scathing critique of liberalism that came from the Black Consciousness movement during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly from Steve Biko, who explained the movement’s break with the National Union of South African Students thus: "Blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and by themselves."In the climate of political quiescence after the Rivonia trial, Biko was not only underscoring the spirit of black self-reliance but he was also rejecting the paternalism evident in the wor...

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