The African people’s struggle for liberation started in the 1400’s when the continent was invaded by Europeans. Subsequently, millions of Africans were taken to the Americas as slaves. The African people’s struggle against white (European) domination produced leaders such as Toussaint L’Ouverture who defeated the French in Haiti in the 1700’s. This article will deliberately omit the invasion of ancient Egypt by the Hyksos and by Alexander before the Common Era as well as by the Muslims with their Jihads in the seventh century in the Common Era.
In South Africa, our struggle for liberation started when the Dutch people from Europe landed in this country in 1652. It did not start even with the establishment of the South African Native National Congress, the ANC’s predecessor in 1912, or with Nelson Mandela. Waves and waves of European invaders from England and other countries continued to come to South Africa and tensions continued to simmer. Many gallant Africans Kings, not only in what came to be known as South Africa but also in Southern Africa and Africa in general, fought against white encroachment. Kings such as Moshoeshoe, Sekhukhune, Hintsa and others fought against white domination and were victorious but European invaders would not let up.
There were different phases of our struggle for liberation in the so called South Africa, which include Imbumba Ya Manyama, the African People’s Organisation, SANNC, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Black Consciousness Movement. These organizations had intelligent, gallant and outstanding leaders. This writer would like to choose only one of them, the founding President of the PAC, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, who had an act of Parliament passed specifically for him known as The Sobukwe Clause aimed to keep him indefinitely in prison and was renewed annually. Sobukwe served time on Robben Island and was kept under solitary confinement for six years, when he had served and completed his prison sentence, because Apartheid authorities said they feared him. They did not say they feared Nelson Mandela. In fact, one of the Prime Ministers of South Africa, in response to a foreign journalist’s question about the conditions of political prisoners on Robben Island said there was only one political prisoner on Robben Island and that prisoner was Robert Sobukwe. The rest of the prisoners were, according to the said Prime Minister, his followers. Mandela was also included among Sobukwe’s followers. Now where does the idea of celebrating Mandela’s birthday come from and why should we celebrate Mandela’s birthday and not Sobukwe’s birthday on the 5th December?
The answer to the above question can be found in Chinweizu’s book, Decolonising the African Mind, published in 1987. He writes that when the Nobel Peace Prize is bestowed on a person from the Third World, the prizes have, almost invariably, gone to persons who have accommodated themselves to the Western world outlook and served its interests. The Peace Prize is for preserving the peace on Western terms, or for engineering a battle truce on terms compatible with the interests of the West, or for limiting the damage to Western interests from insurrections by the oppressed. Thus, when rebellions seriously challenge Western hegemony and white racism, the Peace Prize is brought out to manipulate them into channels least threatening to Western power.
Chinweizu gave the cases of Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu. The award to Albert Luthuli in 1961 was politically quite similar to that of Tutu (1984) and Nelson Mandela (1992). He says that when Martin Luther King was awarded the prize in 1964, he was competing with Malcolm X for the allegiance of the African-American population. King was following the non-violent path to African-American emancipation from American racism. Malcolm X was beginning to gather opposition to the non-violent campaign which he diagnosed as futile. Malcolm X’s way was far more threatening to white America and to the interests of the entire Western world than King’s. By giving King the Nobel Peace Prize, Chinweizu says the establishment of the white West intervened in the black rebellion, and gave a prestigious boost to that faction which they judged more tame and accommodating.
It is obvious that the white West are giving the ANC faction a boost against the PAC by drumming up support for this dubious Mandela Day. What is it based on? The first political prisoners on Robben Island in modern times were PAC members that included the longest-serving political prisoner on Robben Island, Jafta Masemola, who also spent nine years in solitary confinement.
Moreover, Mandela sold us out and compromised the future of African children. He was out-maneuvered by South African and foreign corporations during the secret negotiations in which he and the ANC appropriated to themselves, and arrogantly excluded the PAC and Black Consciousness organizations, the right to determine the solution to the Azanian question. So why should we celebrate the birthday a person such as this? Let those corporations, the white West and some sections of South Africa’s white ruling elite celebrate Mandela Day because they scored big from the secret deals they held with him.
Finally, the SABC hosts of radio programmes, especially Ashraf Garda, are refusing to read my smses and emails in which I oppose Mandela Day. They want to manufacture consent. There is no consent on Mandela Day among many South Africans, who feel the same way as this writer that he does not deserve to be elevated higher that Robert Sobukwe.
By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a Senior Researcher at the Pan Africanist Research Institute (PARI).