This piece of writing is dedicated to 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.
He was born on the 5th of December 1924. This 5th of December 2014 is Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe’s 90th Birthday anniversary. Great nations do not forget their heroes nor do they adopt a sectarian attitude towards them. This piece of writing is to remind of Sobukwe’s legacy and to pass it on to this generation and to generations of Africa to come.
Sobukwe’s liberation credentials speak for themselves. They do not need any explanation. This is the only leader in the entire history of the liberation struggle in South Africa who was imprisoned on Robben Island without even a mock trial. He was kept in solitary confinement and then banned and banished to Kimberly to die there.
In Robben Island Prison, the apartheid colonialist regime ordered that he should be guarded by five guards with two fierce Alsatian dogs. Of him, the apartheid Minister of Justice John Vorster said, “If…Robert Sobukwe were released, we would have a fine [penalty] to pay in this country.”
This “ Defier of the Undefiable” exposed the struggle of fighting both “white domination” and “black domination” as a myth. The authors of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade sold black people like animals. They were not black.
European countries through the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 grabbed the African Continent at gunpoint. They sliced it like a wedding cake and partitioned it among themselves, into “British Africa,” “French Africa,” “Portuguese Africa,” “Spanish Africa,” “German Africa;” leaving nothing for Africans until millions of Africans died for their freedom to regain Africa.
Somalia, on the horn of Africa had the misfortune of becoming “Italian Somaliland,” “French Somaliland” and “British Somaliland.” These colonialists were not black. There has been no “black domination” in the world.
It is therefore a grave political delusion for any African leader to claim to have fought an evil that never existed. Apartheid was itself a product of racism that came not from black people. It was not a product of “black domination.” It was a creation of “white domination” stemming from the superstition and unscientific theories of unschooled authors of the idolatry of “white supremacy.”
Sobukwe is a leader who spoke the language of true African liberation. He never called a spade a big teaspoon. The land dispossessors of the African people recognised this fact. To stop him from achieving genuine liberation for his people, the apartheid regime made a special law to govern him. They called it “Sobukwe clause.” Much more is said and revealed in the book titled SOBUKWE LED THE ROAD TO ROBBEN ISLAND.
Freedom is not free. The price of freedom is selfless service, suffering and sacrifice. Sobukwe was prepared to go to Robben Island Prison so that the people of this country that are robbed of their land and its riches may repossess them and control the economy of their country equitably. Indeed, “liberation” of a land dispossessed people without repossessing its wealth is a gigantic colonial fraud.
On leadership Sobukwe declared, “True leadership demands complete subjugation of self, absolute honesty, integrity and uprightness of character, courage and fearlessness, above all a consuming love for one’s people.”
Sobukwe is not a leader who spoke with two tongues. He never compromised truth and justice on the polluted altar of appeasement and personal glory.
“We reject the economic exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. We accept as the policy the equitable distribution of wealth as the only basis on which the slogan of ‘equal opportunities’ can be founded,” he proclaimed.
He respected and honoured African Kings who were the first Freedom Fighters in this country to resist European colonisation of the African people. Sobukwe linked the African liberation struggle that was led by African Kings to the present land dispossession of the African people whose wealth is still owned and controlled by the minority who accessed it through colonialism.
In July 1959 when speaking on Heroes Day/Lembede Day, the Defier of the Undefiable said: “We are met here Sons and Daughters of the beloved land to drink from the fountain….We are here to draw inspiration from the heroes of Thababosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile’s Kop and numerous other battle fields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader.”
Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe was the pace setter in the politics of South Africa. When he went to prison, even his opponents followed him there. To armed struggle, they followed him.
In very uncompromising terms because it is true, he told colonial powers and their agents: “I wish to make it clear that we are anti-nobody. We are pro-Africa. We breathe Africa. We dream Africa. We live Africa: because Africa and humanity are inseparable….History has taught us that a group in power has never voluntarily relinquished its position. It has always been forced to do so. And we do not expect miracles to happen in Africa. It is necessary for human progress that Africa be fully developed and only the African can do so….”
In the political history of Azania (South Africa), Sobukwe has the revolutionary distinction of orchestrating “a crisis…that nearly brought about the kind of political situation which too often makes the transfer of power overnight,” as that prominent African journalist, Lewis Nkosi put it.
Sobukwe loved his people and country. On his grave in Graaf-Reinet, the place of his birth; are written these words: “THAT GLORY MAY DWELL IN OUR LAND.”
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
This article is an introduction to the writer’s latest book titled “SOBUKWE LED THE ROAD TO ROBBEN ISLAND”.