Sobukwe’s honour in ruins

2018-03-07 06:01
From the left are Mpho Moshoeu (acting mayor), Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba (MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture), Prof. Patrick Fitzgerald (director of special projects, SPU) and Lionel Mojakwe (Department of Sport, Arts and Culture) during the wreath-laying ceremony at the law office of the late Robert Sobukwe, marking the 40th anniversary of his death. Photo: Facebook

From the left are Mpho Moshoeu (acting mayor), Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba (MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture), Prof. Patrick Fitzgerald (director of special projects, SPU) and Lionel Mojakwe (Department of Sport, Arts and Culture) during the wreath-laying ceremony at the law office of the late Robert Sobukwe, marking the 40th anniversary of his death. Photo: Facebook

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It was a question of too little too late when the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture took the media and a delegation of guests to the law office of the late struggle icon Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe on Tuesday, 27 February.

The visit to the building in the Mayibuye precinct was conducted in Sobukwe’s honour, as part of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of his passing.

Upon nearing the office, one was greeted by the strong stench of urine and faeces. It became clear that the windows and doors had previously been removed and through these openings, visitors observed the scene from the outside.

Sobukwe, the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and a defender of the human rights of Africans during the oppressive apartheid regime, took his last breath at the Kimberley Hospital on 27 February 1978.

In celebration of the day, a public lecture was held at the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) and at Wits University. Several national publications also wrote pieces in honour of Sobukwe.

Although some of the PAC supporters feel relieved that Sobukwe is at last being recognised by government after several promises to do so, they feel it is unfair that the office was not even prepared for viewing by guests.

On the day of the visit, the department, in partnership with the School of Humanities at the SPU, as well as the Sol Plaatje Municipality, laid a wreath at Sobukwe’s home in Naledi Street, Galeshewe, and at his now vandalised office.

The office had been renovated in 2012, and an amount of R67 000 reportedly spent.

Community members expressed their disgust at the site where the event, led by Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, was conducted.

They felt the department could have at least cleaned the premises ahead of the wreath-laying ceremony.

The office faces a bottle store and a shop, which use the same entrance yard. A busy tavern is a stone’s throw away.

“Why did they not send the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) people to clean the building? Sobukwe served Kimberley so well, and this is the type of recognition he gets,” said Kedilatile Loods, who stays close to the building.

The ceremony was held in front of the office, with a banner separating the building from the guests.

A seemingly embarrassed Mpho Moshoeu, acting mayor, said they were not shy to take visitors to the filthy office, since they were not to blame.

“We renovated this office a few years ago, but it was vandalised by our own community, our own children. But we will rectify it again,” Moshoeu said.

He promised that the renovation of the building would be prioritised, and that full-time security would be ensured once it had been done.

Moshoeu pointed out the need for the constituency to utilise the building to avoid further vandalism.

“In this year of celebrating the likes of Nelson Mandela, we are proud to also be put on the map through the honouring of our own icon Robert Sobukwe. Thus we will correct this mistake.”

Moshoeu admitted to a lack of management and planning on the premises from government and the municipality’s side.

“After we revamped it, we did not plan for a caretaker, but now we have resolved this.”

He further called for partnerships to be formed, including stakeholders like the community and police structures, to protect the premises.

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas also made a commitment during her State of the Province Address on Wednesday (28/02) that the office would be renovated. She pleaded with the people of Galeshewe to preserve the area in honour of Sobukwe.

Boitumelo Babuseng, DA member of the provincial legislature (MPL), suggested that the office be used as a legal resource centre to assist young lawyers.

He commented that honouring Sobukwe was long overdue.

“I love this man (Sobukwe) and my mom used to tell me about him when I was young. I feel this office alone is a jewel, even more than his house. This is rich history and needs to be preserved,” Babuseng said.

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