Robert Sobukwe

The founding fathers of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania have bequeathed to us a vibrant organization which we are reducing to ruins through selfishness and factional battles.

I have read David James Smith’s book, Young Mandela and the book confirmed what I have repeatedly written that there is no organization that the ANC fears more than the PAC. If there are those who doubt the veracity of the foregoing statement then they must go and read Young Mandela. Moreover, the book confirms that the PAC and the founding President of the ANCYL Anton Muziwakhe Lembede were always right on the question of Africans being on the forefront of and leading the struggle for liberation.

Lembede had written that he regarded non-European unity as a fantastic dream with no basis in reality, beyond occasional convenient co-operation with Africans as a single unit. He made it clear that ‘Africa is a black man’s country, Africans are one, the leader of the Africans will come out of their own loins’.

When Ruth First wrote to invite the ANCYL to become affiliated with the Progressive Youth Council (essentially young communists), the ANCYL rejected the invitation and wrote, “We fear there is a yawning gap between your policy or philosophic outlook and ours. We are devoting our energies to the preparation for the greatest national struggle of all time, the struggle for national liberation. Co-operation could only result in chaos, ineffective action and mutual jealousies, rivalry and suspicion”.

The book reveals that the Freedom Charter was single-handedly drafted by Rusty Bernstein. This document is part of the cause of the split which resulted in the formation of the PAC in 1959. The book also discusses the formation of the ANCYL in 1944, the Defiance Campaign of 1952 and events that led to the split within the ANC and the formation of the PAC. The author also mentions that Mandela was involved in the fight against the introduction of Bantu Education. But the person who is known to have been a fierce campaigner against Bantu Education was ANCYL founding member and second President of the PAC Zeph Mothopeng, who was also a teacher.

Mothopeng was also expelled from teaching because of his anti-Bantu Education stance. However, the book is about Mandela and touches on his shabby treatment of his first wife, the late Evelyn Mase. It discusses the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and the subsequent banning of the PAC and ANC and events thereafter.

On his 1962 tour of African states, Mandela got a rude awakening about the popularity and ideological relevance of the Pan Africanist Congress among African heads of state. Mandela found out that almost all African heads of state and leaders of political parties regarded the ANC as sell outs. One African head of state, in fact, told Mandela that he tore the Freedom Charter after he realized that it was written by whites. When Mandela came back to the South Africa he told members of the alliance that Africans must lead the ANC and this was met with resistance. In fact, he had raised that issue in London with Dr Yusuf Dadoo in London. Dr Dadoo was not happy and feared that the ANC was having a change of heart and turning nationalistic. Dr Dadoo’s remonstrance is surprising, wasn’t our struggle a national struggle? Dr Dadoo complained to the Alliance in South Africa that policy was being changed without discussion. Mandela also found out that David Astor, the editor of the Observer in London was pro-PAC.

From London, Mandela came back to the continent. On his return to the country he tabled his report. It stated that “the PAC had started off with tremendous advantages ideologically and had skillfully exploited opposition to whites and partnerships. Sharpeville had ‘boosted them up and the stand of their leaders during the trial, imprisonment of Sobukwe fostered the impression they were more militant than the ANC’. David James Smith wrote that the racist Apartheid government feared Robert Sobukwe more than they feared Mandela and that’s reason they isolated him until his death. The question I ask myself is why is the man who was feared by the oppressors ignored and the one who wasn’t feared elevated to such an exalted position?

In the (Pan-African Freedom Movement for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa) PAFMECSA area, the Nobel Peace awarded to Chief Luthuli had created the impression that Luthuli had been bought by the West. In addition, Luthuli’s book and some of his statements had been extremely unfortunate in creating the impression of a man who was the stooge of whites. Finally, the Congress Alliance itself did not allay that impression; on the contrary it perpetuated it. The mere allegation of being a stooge is of itself so damaging that it must automatically discredit the ANC. These things have made it appear the PAC is the only hope for the African people.

There were many who would say that the PAC might be naive but they were the only organization in South Africa that was in step with the rest of Africa. Personal spats and squabbles, as well as the recent inactivity within the ANC, had not helped and the ANC had a lot of work to do before it could say it had nailed the PAC”. This report was found by the Special Branch during a 1962 raid at Mandela’s hideout in Lilies farm in Rivonia during a raid and formed part of the evidence in the Rivonia Treason Trial.

The following year in 1963 there was a crackdown on the PAC and its members. Leading an organization which was the way Mandela described it; those who went to exile and led the PAC didn’t rise to the occasion and took the PAC forward just like the current crop of membership which is preoccupied with in-fighting and factionalism. The PAC continues to hemorrhage and one wonders when is this blood-letting going to stop. Let me borrow the words of Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and state that my heart lies there in the coffin with the PAC and I must pause until it comes back to me.

By Sam Ditshego

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