When any scholar visits this country and speaks about Pan Africanism on a national radio or television and associates it with Nelson Mandela and the ANC but factors out Robert Sobukwe and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), one wonders if s/he should take the scholary input by such a scholar, on the history of this country’s struggle for liberation, seriously. This also raises the question of who sponsored such scholar’s visit to this country and who were his/her hosts. The conduct of such scholars is consistent with the official ANC government’s intention to expunge the name of Sobukwe from the annals of this country’s history and from the collective consciousness of the African people.
One such scholar is Professor Horace Campbell who was a guest on Tsepiso Makwetla’s SAfm radio show on 27 August 2013. He was introduced as Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University whose recent book is Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. He is also author of the books Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney; Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation; Pan Africanism, Pan Africanists and African Liberation in the 21st Century; and Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics.
Mandela and the ANC of 1957 cannot and should not be associated with Pan Africanism. Mandela was one of the ANC leaders who abandoned a Pan Africanist programme and adopted a charter of dubious origin which has now been revealed to have been written by a white Communist Party member, Rusty Bernstein. Mandela was one of those who physically chucked out Pan Africanists at the 1958 ANC conference and even punched one of the Pan Africanist leaders, Zeph Mothopeng. Perhaps Prof Campbell is oblivious of the fact that in his book Long Walk to Freedom published in 1994, Mandela describes one of the greatest Pan Africanists and freedom fighters Marcus Garvey as an ‘extremist’ and this year the ANC wanted to bestow one of this country’s national orders to the killer of yet another great Pan Africanist, Walter Rodney. He also describes his former colleague from the Congress Youth League Anton Lembede as a ‘racialist’. Associating the ANC and Mandela with Pan Africanism is the stuff of dilettantes. In religious lexicon it is blasphemous.
In an apparent manoeuvre to avoid displaying his ignorance on Sobukwe and the PAC or trying to evade discussing Sobukwe, Professor Campbell said Pan Africanism cannot be associated with a leader or leaders but he kept on associating some leaders with it. We cannot help associating Pan Africanism with Edward Wilmot Blyden. This writer proposes to quote from a discourse on the legacy of Blyden to dispute Professor Campbell’s assertion and to demonstrate that Pan Africanism can be associated with some leaders and that Mandela is not one of them. The discourse states in its introduction that, “Blyden’s ideas and speeches urging a return to Africa and the re-creation of an African Nation were to seed African consciousness movements all over the world. There is an unbroken line of black leaders that inherited his ideas, directly or indirectly. W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey exploded them into the twentieth century, continuing to champion the theme of a return to Africa. Their political ideas in turn became a source for the leaders of African independence movements of the fifties and sixties- Nkrumah, Nyerere, Sekou Toure and Blyden’s own grandson, Edward W. Blyden III whose Sierra Leone Independence Movement (SLIM) played a key role in winning Sierra Leone’s independence from Great Britain.”
Professor Campbell mentioned the first President of Ghana and one of the foremost Pan Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah more than once during the interview and also conveyed the impression that Mandela was in Nkrumah’s league or that they saw eye to eye. Yet in 1961 during Mandela’s tour of Africa, Nkrumah refused to meet Mandela. Nkrumah recognized Sobukwe and the PAC. Almost all the leaders of countries Mandela visited in 1961to ask for support asked him about Sobukwe. One of those leaders told Mandela that he should wait until Sobukwe was released from jail.
During that radio interview Campbell rightly condemned the West but he is a victim of Western propaganda. He is ignorant of South African history and some aspects of African history. He condemned the leadership of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and referred to what happened in Zimbabwe recently as a “travesty”. I wonder what he would refer to what happened in South Africa in April 1994 and what does he think of the beneficiaries of that gigantic fraud and daylight robbery. The beneficiaries of that April 1994 colossal fraud have turned this country into an egregious cesspool of corruption which exposed the head of the electoral commission a day before he was on radio as corrupt.
What has happened In Zimbabwe might have been a travesty but Zimbabweans have a sovereign state. They enjoy self-determination and decide their destiny. Zimbabwe is not a neo-colonial state that follows neo-liberal policies of the Washington Consensus. It is not a banana republic. President Mugabe does not pander to western bigotry and arrogance. If he describes the Zimbabwean elections as a travesty, what does Professor Campbell think is happening every four years in the US? Are the US voting machines not a charade? A computer science expert Rebecca Mercuri was quoted in the American Free Press.net article as having said that the voting equipment vendors and certifying authorities are allowed to keep the machines and the computer code that runs the machines secret. In many cases, company officials operate the machines on Election Day. In Chicago, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) programmed the “control cards” that ran the Precinct Ballot Counter machines at their company offices during the 2000 presidential election. Mercuri went on to say that “Democracy is down the tubes” if the trend to insecure electronic voting systems is not stopped. “The most vulnerable of these systems are the fully electronic touch-screen [Votronic] or Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices because of their lack of an independent, voter-verified audit trail,”. This sounds more like a travesty than what has happened in Zimbabwe.
Professor Campbell and the like minded academics who canonize Mandela should give themselves time to learn about the Pan Africanist Congress and its leaders and include them in their discourse on Pan Africanism. In South Africa Pan Africanism is associated with Robert Sobukwe and the PAC. We would not like to accuse Prof Campbell of intellectual dishonesty on South African matters and colluding with those who have a hidden agenda of expunging Sobukwe’s name from history books and from the collective consciousness of African people.
By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a Senior Researcher at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).