After my imprisonment for anti-apartheid activities, I spent some years at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva as an accredited Representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa. One of my many duties was to call for the release of all political prisoners in this country and expose the barbarism of apartheid colonialism. Some of these prisoners were Mangaliso Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela, Zephania Mothopeng, Walter Sisulu, Nyati Pokela, Govan Mbeki and Jafta Masemola.
When I spoke in Parliament on the 90th birthday of President Nelson Mandela, I said, “It is an extra-ordinary birthday of a man who has lived his life for others, sometimes at the expense of his own people, in the quest to harmonise humanity.” I received the news of the departure of President Nelson Mandela from this planet on 5th December 2013. On that day, I was commemorating the birthday of Prof Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, the founding President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania, for whom the apartheid colonialist regime had a special law called “Sobukwe Clause.” This law enabled this regime to imprison him on Robben Island without even a mock court trial.
Some of the things I admired about President Mandela were humour, tolerance and perseverance in struggle. I believe diligence as well. He was a hard-working person. My disappointment is that I think the peopled with whom, he negotiated freedom in South Africa did not respond as they should have done. They wanted to eat their cake and still have it. They took the magnanimity of the colonially land robbed Africans of Azania (South Africa) for political imbecility.
Through the Native Land Act 1913, the British colonial government allocated the then five million Africans only 7% of their land and gave its European colonial settlers numbering 387,349 souls 93% of the African country. This law is now disguised as “abolished” in Section 25(7) of the “New South Africa” constitution. Even though, the Native Trust Land Act 1936 added a mere 6% of land to make it 13%.
The freedom fighters of this country, especially those who belonged to the military wings of the Pan Africanist Congress (the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army) and to the African National Congress (Umkhonto Wesizwe) were imprisoned after being paraded before the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC) with the perpetrators of apartheid. As we speak, many freedom fighters such as Kenny Motsamai are still in jail. This is despite the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid through which the United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity. This has now passed as “miracle” and “rainbow nation.”
The consequences of wrong political response to the statesmanship of President Mandela by the representatives of the apartheid colonialist regime are that in South Africa today, there are “two nations.” One is extremely rich and white settler minority. Another one is extremely poor and 79.2% African majority. Mandela’s greatest contribution is that he tried his best to secure a prosperous and happy future for everyone in South Africa, but greed on the part of the forces of apartheid backed by the West, simply did not use the golden opportunity that President Mandela gave them. They did not respond to the South African political situation on equally magnanimous terms and in the spirit of justice. The victims of apartheid gave far more to “reconciliation” than the perpetrators of colonialism and apartheid.
The passing on of Nelson Mandela is a serious challenge to this country to rise to the occasion and ensure that there is equitable redistribution of land and its resources according to population number. The Marikana Massacre of African workers has already sent a signal that something urgent must be done to intensify the economic and social emancipation of the African majority in Azania for the good of everyone. The African people cannot live like slaves in their own country perpetually. The poverty, the filthy inhuman shacks in which millions live must go. Azania (South Africa) is four times the size of Britain and Northern Ireland combined and richer in natural resources. Indeed, liberation without repossession of land and its resources by the dispossessed is a gigantic colonial fraud.
The effects of the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference must be banished from the shores of Africa. Perhaps, now that the greedy ones missed the “Mandela magic,” the hope for genuine freedom, will lie in the words of James Russell when he said, “Truth is forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future and behind the dim unknown stands God within the shadow of keeping watch above His people.”
Farewell Madiba! You have done your share. You have shown the light. Let all the people of the world who cherish human freedom regardless of race, nationality and class walk in this light from Africa. Greet Sobukwe, Sisulu, Lembede and all African heroes for Africa’s total liberation. Remember Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Marcus Garvey and Malcom X.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is a former Member of the South African Parliament as well as former President of the PAC. He is also a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several books.