Robert Sobukwe: A doyen of our revolution.

2015-02-22 09:04

During this month of February, we dedicate ourselves to celebrate a life of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe that shining star of the African liberation struggle of this country and the African continent. That brutally persecuted and severely tested leader who passed the revolutionary test with unparalleled distinction. This is a Pan Africanist that walked the political talk to the finish with astounding patriotism.

This piece of writing is to remind us of Sobukwe’s legacy and to pass it on to this generation and to generations of Africa to come, the ideas of a man that has won himself a national honour to be regarded as the struggle martyr and doyen of our revolution. Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe’s key contributions to the freedom we enjoy today were to argue that Africans had to prove to themselves and to the world that they could stand on their own feet. To do this, they had to liberate themselves, without the help of “non – blacks. This applies to the self-development of Africans in this country and their self-reliance in restructuring and transformation of the existing social order. Perhaps Sobukwe knew that although he could be banned, his ideas could not be banned and would live on in the minds of young Africans”, hence we continue to celebrate his life and radical revolutionary ideas and thus allowing us to become fully what we were created to be, agents of our own history.

A revolutionary leader possessed of a towering intellect and extraordinary magnetism, Sobukwe took the raw anger of the oppressed in this country and gave it a voice and direction. He was able to translate our vague anti-white feelings, our seething anger, and harness it into a struggle for a different future. This was a very striking feature because he was so powerful intellectually, yet he felt that one with the peasants, with the workers. He impressed his fellow struggle activists as a man who was very clear on the issue of national struggle toward final victory. Prof believed that a leader must have total commitment to the struggle of the African people for national emancipation, no matter what the hardships may be, or what the obstacles may be.

When many in our country were still talking about multi- racialism, Sobukwe spoke of a free, non-racial South Africa where a person’s colour was as irrelevant as the shape of his nose. He cast nation’s eyes to a free United States of Africa. This was at a time when most of Africa was in the clutches of colonialism. He spoke about the economic liberation of our continent in which we still find ourselves in the same traps of economic chains.

An Intellectual and a visionary was Sobukwe, but also a man of the people who advocated for an end of blacks to exercise the demons of self-hate and enter into their glorious liberty as equally Gods children as any other group. Furthermore, those Blacks had to set their own agenda and not let others, however sympathetic, however liberal, do that on their behalf. They were conscious selves, autonomous subjects and not object to be decided for. Sobukwe needed no one to fight his battles for him. He was consummately equal to any task. He could beat white lecturers in any faculty and most people knew that. Prof led from the front, he was never afraid of terror from the apartheid monsters. The fear that they had for him resulted in a law called the “Sobukwe Clause”, which caused him to spend a lengthy period on Robben Island after the expiration of his sentence.

His fiercest opponents respected him. Robert Sobukwe was the perfect portrait of the manner in which an African with Ubuntu responses to oppression, discrimination and evil. Leadership fell easily on his intellectual shoulders. There was no hysteria, no fear, no bluster, no boasting.

Even after his death Sobukwe could not be quoted nor his voice be heard. Of Greatest interest to us today is that even the “democratic” government he fearlessly fought, to his death to bring it about prefers silence about him. No spoken voice of Sobukwe is available in this country, few boulevards; building, institutions named after him and it is alleged that it is done deliberately to dishonour and eliminate Sobukwe’s legacy from our national struggle history.

Mangaliso Sobukwe is acknowledged as one of the sources of inspiration for the Black Consciousness Movement which grew to strength under Steve Biko in the 1970s, and for his role in launching the 1960 anti – pass campaign, furthermore rejected the orthodoxies that still today ensure that African nations are structurally dependent on old colonial powers and their global financial institutions. Sobukwe’s land policies and his unapologetic anti-imperialist stand made him an enemy of west and apartheid regime. He spoke truth to power fearlessly and paid with his life for an economic liberated and united African continent. During the course of our struggle, Mangaliso Sobukwe, suffered terrible torture, assault and abuse at the hands of the apartheid South African Police, who wanted him to betray his comrades, and failed. He remained unshakable in his conviction that the freedom of our people is more precious than his own life.

This of course means that the role that some gallant fighters for freedom played, such as Bantu Biko and Mangaliso Sobukwe, had to be minimized at best and obliterated at worst. To the current ruling government these struggle martyrs played no role in the struggle and therefore should be ignored. This explains why Sobukwe, such a great son of our soil is ignored by the state. That is why even junior figures in our struggle are recognized in renaming and public historical discourse ahead of Sobukwe.

Few young Africans have ever heard of Mangaliso Sobukwe. In reality, it is not the elimination of Mangaliso Sobukwe that has dealt a lethal blow to Africa and Africans; it is the assassination of his memory, as manifested in the indifference to his legacy, in the lack of constant reference to his ideals and ideas by Africans, by those who know and those who should know. Among physical and mental dirt and debris lie Africa’s heroes while the younger generations search in vain for role models from among their kind. Africans have therefore, internalized self-abhorrence and the convictions of innate incapability to bring about transformation. Transformation must run contrary to the African’s DNA, many Africans subconsciously believe just like Sobukwe did in his time.

Sobukwe was never fond of western assistance and aid whether in debt or otherwise, he believed that western assistance is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa. It is a reconquest that turns each one of us into a financial slave. He would not request for, nor accept aid from the west, Sobukwe knew that western countries welfare and aid policies will only end up disorganising us, subjugating us, and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural affairs.

Like Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and Kwame Nkrumah, Sobukwe’s appeal (to young people in particular) has endured precisely because his transgressive radical politics have proved impossible to subsume within our newly found democratic, liberal narrative which is all about the heroism of moderation and non-violence and is in fact predicated on deep racist anxieties. Indeed, Sobukwe’s legacy will never remain in furrows and will not be distorted for we will continue to tell, share with the public, exhibit and preserve his legacy to the nation. The ruling government really can't fool all of the people all the time. They will always know who their leaders are and they will be ready to acknowledge them and to the extent that they can, will reward them, will express their appreciation to them just like we do to Sobukwe.

They cannot buy that affirmation by the people. We know it, the apartheid regime tried to foist its candidates on us as our leaders, and the people, i.e. the vast majority, rejected them as but pseudo leaders. Once people have taken you to their hearts as a true, a genuine leader, than nothing anyone tries to do can dislodge the real leader from the hearts of the people. Undeniably, Mangaliso Sobukwe contributed to the freedom we enjoy today, to the pride of this democratic nation, and achievements that we celebrate as Africans and human soul. It is indeed very fitting that this month should be named the Sobukwe month, as Mangaliso Sobukwe, a great hero and son of our struggle and people, who died on February 27, 1978, 37 years ago.

As citizens in our young democracy today we have a sacred duty to honour Mangaliso Sobukwe and be an African society where everyone respects themselves, has a positive self-image filled with a proper self-esteem and holds others in high regard, a nation at peace with itself, united in our diversity, not only proclaiming but living out the contention that South Africa belongs to all. We should take our place amongst the nations of the world, confident and proud in being an African country. We would not have been here had it not been for the exceptionally sacrifices made by Mangaliso Sobukwe and many other struggle martyrs.


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