On March 21 this year, the PAC will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. On the 6th April last year, the PAC’s 50th anniversary was rather a damb squib. After two weeks, the organization’s performance at the polls was dismal. The blame for the dismal performance can’t rest squarely on the lap of the party. There are some factors that engender this poor performance, chief among which is the illegal use by the ruling party of state organs to infiltrate and destroy the PAC, skewed political party funding and a tendentious Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). In addition, the ruling party is using covert and overt methods to try to obliterate the PAC physically from our collective psyche.
The ruling party underplays the role the PAC and its leaders, played in our struggle for liberation. As care taker president last year, Kgalema Motlanthe spoke on March 21 in Kimberley, a day brought about by Robert Sobukwe and the PAC, but never once did he mention that Sobukwe was banished by the Apartheid government to Kimberley. Moreover, every year since the 1990’s, members of the ANC desecrate March 21 and try to appropriate the history of the PAC. They flood the media with advertisements and litter lamp posts with posters of musicians who will be performing at government sponsored March 21 bashes. The ruling party also bastardized March 21 by renaming it Human Rights Day in order to obfuscate its historical significance and association with the PAC. Originally, the PAC named March 21,Sharpeville Day.
At war with itself coupled with a gullible and an obsequiously fawning media that is sucking up to the ANC, the PAC appears helpless to rectify this crude falsification of its history as well as take ownership of March 21. The more time goes by, the more the PAC undergoes attrition instead of using its five decades of existence to consolidate itself. Consequently, some members and supporters of the PAC are filled with despair. However, they should never lose hope but take ownership of their organization in order to reclaim its glorious
In addition to the 50th anniversary of Sharpeville-Langa massacres, April and October this year will further mark the 20th anniversaries of the deaths of Jeff Masemola and Zeph Mothopeng respectively. 2010 is certainly an important year for the PAC and we shouldn’t allow the FIFA Soccer World Cup competition to overshadow the PAC’s historic events.
Jeff Masemola is the longest serving political prisoner on Robben Island in modern history. He spent 28 full years on the Robben Island. After being betrayed by some ANC prisoners who reported him to the prison authorities for designing a master key that could open all the prison doors on Robben Island, he spent nine years in solitary confinement. Prior to being imprisoned on Robben Island, Masemola was a teacher at Banareng Primary School in Atteridgeville, Pretoria. Masemola died in a mysterious car accident on 19 April 1990. He was uncompromising on the return of stolen land to its rightful owners.
Zeph Mothopeng is a founding member of both the ANCYL, the PAC and a former President of the PAC. As President of the Transvaal African Teachers Association (TATA) which is now known as the Professional Educators Union (PEU), he fought relentlessly against the introduction of Bantu Education in 1951 until he was expelled. He was incarcerated on Robben Island in the early 1960 for taking part in the anti-pass campaign. At the conclusion of the Bethal Trial, in 1978, in which he was accused number one, Mothopeng was sentenced to 30 years, for his role in the 1976 Soweto uprising, part of which he spent on Robben Island. Uncle Zeph started teaching at Orlando High School in 1941 and in 1946 became Vice Principal. It was at the same year that he got his BA through Unisa. In the 1940’s, the indefatigable freedom fighter and intellectual fought for better working conditions for African teachers.
By Sam Ditshego