On the eve of an historic event in South Africa that exploded the myth that Africans would remain slaves of apartheid colonialism forever, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe the Founding President of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania despatched outside apartheid colonial South Africa three members of his PAC National Executive Council (NEC). They were Peter N Raboroko, Peter H Molotsi and Nelson “Nana” Mahomo. These PAC leaders were the first to meet President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana from South Africa. They operated from his country spreading their liberation message throughout the world. Veteran “Nana” Mahomo, then about thirty years of age, was one of the architects of the national campaign called the “Positive Action Campaign.” Its results demonstrate its uniqueness.
The best way to pay my tribute to Veteran Nelson “Nana” Mahomo is call those who witnessed the political events of those days and effects which included 84 PAC supporters who became martyrs in what is now internationally known as “Sharpeville Uprising,” “Sharpeville Day” or what the United Nations called “International Day For The Elimination of Racial Discrimination.” That was as a result of sending out Nelson “Nana” Mahomo and other PAC representatives outside South Africa.
Frantz Fanon author of THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH, writing about the Sharpeville Uprising said, “The seventeen days that shook South Africa, indeed, the entire world from 21st March this year  have forced an irrevocable turn in the history of the country. ….The Pan Africanist Congress actively intervened in their affairs and ushered in a new period, rich in historical perspective and pregnant with political possibilities for the democratic movement…. Sharpeville has become the symbol. It was through it that, men and women in the world became acquainted with the problem of apartheid in South Africa.”
For the first time ever, as a result of the Sharpeville and Langa Uprisings on 21st March 1960, led by Nelson Nana Mahomo’s organisation, the PAC of Azania, the supreme body of the United Nations, in honour of the PAC martyrs who sacrificed their lives on March 21st March 1960 at Sharpeville, Langa, Evaton, Vanderbyl Park and other places in the country, the United Nations General Assembly, through its Resolution 2396 declared March 21st each year, International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination. This happened because PAC leaders like “Nana” Mahomo had left the comfort of their homes and dedicated themselves to the liberation of their country and humanity.
Dr. Ismail Mohammed, a Mathematics lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand was absolutely correct on political events and the significance of the Sharpeville Uprising when he wrote, “Sharpeville stands out as a turning point in our history. In the aftermath of the Sharpeville Uprising, when the full horrible magnitude of the tyrant became clear, the lines were drawn to determine the destiny of our country.” (The Natal Mercury newspaper 18 March 1981). Veteran Nelson “Nana” Mahomo contributed immensely to this “turning point in the history of our country.”
The United Nations Special Committee was formed as a result of the Sharpeville Uprising of which Nana Mahomo had been one of its architects. The expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations General Assembly was brought about by the PAC representatives at the United Nations of which “Nana” Mahomo had been a founder. The United Nations gave observer status to PAC and ANC as recognised liberation movements from South Africa as a result of the PAC campaign waged with the support of the Organisation of African Organisation. The PAC had prepared a paper pointing out that South Africa was a British colony which Britain had never decolonised. Confirming this fact, Prof. Tom Lodge has written, “In November 1974 PAC lobbyists succeeded in obtaining the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations General Assembly and in July 1975 the Organisation of African Unity Meeting in Kampala (Uganda), adopted as official policy a long document prepared by the PAC arguing the case for the illegality of South Africa’s status.”
Veteran Mahomo served the liberation of the African people in Azania with remarkable dedication and perseverance. This was despite insults hurled at him by his political opponents. Commenting on the impact of the Sharpeville Uprising for which Nana Mahomo had been despatched outside the country by President Sobukwe, the renowned Prof. Z.K. Matthews of Fort Hare University who was also once the Treasurer-General of the ANC wrote in the IMVO newspaper in 1961: “There have been many groups that broke away from the ANC….None of them survived. The Pan Africanist Congress is an historical exception. It broke away from the ANC and launched the Sharpeville Uprising on 21st March 1960 which had a unique national and international significance and changed the cause of history in this country [South Africa]. It prompted a first visit ever by a United Nations Secretary-General. The PAC launched the most significant movement for South Africa’s international isolation.”
Nana a founder and Secretary for Culture for the Pan Africanist Congress made a tremendous contribution to this isolation internationally. He was part of this “historical exception” and launching of “the most significant movement for South Africa’s international isolation.” In fact, Mahomo’s organisation became the pace setter in the politics of South Africa until Pollsmoor, Victor Vester, CODESA and the involvement of President Bill Clinton of America in the 1994 South Africa elections.(DESPATCH FROM THE WAR ROOM Stanley B. Greenberg pages 126 and 127)
Nana Mahomo’s movement (PAC) was the first to form a military wing in South Africa. This was fifty five years after Chief Bambatha had led the last war of national resistance against British colonialism in 1905. The military wing of the PAC known as POQO/APLA was formed on 11th September 1961. Tom Lodge who was a senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa wrote: “The largest and most sustained insurrection in South Africa in modern times was mounted by POQO, the under-ground wing of the outlawed Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)…the persistence of the movement over relatively long time – span and over large geographical area, qualify POQO to lay claim to be being the most sustained insurrection by blacks in modern times…the PAC insurgents were very much more numerous than Umkhonto….In terms of geographical extensiveness, the numbers involved and its time-span, the POQO conspiracies…represent the largest and most sustained African insurrectionary movement since the inception of modern political organisations in South Africa.” Nana Mahomo organised not only scholarships for students from this country who wanted to further their education, but weapons as well for his movement. He envisaged a country rid of greed and alarming economic inequalities. He loved knowledge and desired his people to acquire it on a massive scale in all fields of life.
What of Robben Island Prison? This again brings in Nana Mahomo into an important history. The first political prisoners and some sentenced to life imprisonment in Robben Island were PAC prisoners. The first batch of these freedom fighters were imprisoned on Robben Island on 12th October 1962. Incidentally Mahomo was one of the organisers of books for political prisoners to further their studies in Robben Island Prison. Jafta Masemola is the longest-serving prisoner on Robben Island in the history of South Africa. He was the first and the four others to be sentenced to life imprisonment. This was caused by the military impact of POQO activities. There is no doubt that the world would never have heard of “Robben Island” if the Sharpeville and POQO Uprisings had not happened. Veteran Nana Mahomo and his co-founders of the PAC made this possible. History must be told as it happened and not to suit certain political interests.
One of his lasting legacies which will continue to remind lovers of freedom about Africa’s authentic liberation are Nelson Nana Mahomo’s two widely acclaimed films Phela Ndaba (End of Dialogue) and The Last Grave at Dimbaza and his M.A. Thesis at Massachusetts University on the Pan Africanist Congress. The films were shot secretly right inside apartheid colonial South Africa and smuggled out of the country for information to the outside world. An important thing that characterised Veteran statesman Nelson “Nana” Mahomo was his spirituality. This, he maintained until his departure to eternity on 1st June 2014. He was born in 1930 and 84 years at the time of his death. It is probably his deep spirituality that sustained him against the missiles of all his enemies.
He fought for the liberation where his people would have their standard of living uplifted, where no children would lack money to acquire education and where Africans would have a larger portion of the economy as this vast majority in their country and where finally, there would be equitable redistribution of land as demanded by African kings and by the pioneers of the modern liberation struggle. Yes, it can be said that Nana Mahomo’s vision like that of his President Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe may be delayed. But it shall never be destroyed because it stands for authentic liberation of the majority of the people of this country. Fighters for truth and justice do not die. They remain a dynamo of inspiration and courage, no matter how dark the situation looks.
May The Mahomo Family, his children, his friends and all his Pan Africanist fellow visionaries be reminded and consoled by the fact that: “The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching our goals, but in having no goals to reach. It is not a calamity to die with ideals unfulfilled, but it is a calamity to have no ideals to fulfil. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars. But it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach.” NELSON NANA MAHOMO HAD STARS TO REACH! MAY HIS SPIRIT RISE IN GLORY!
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several books such as THE HIDDEN SIDE OF SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICS, THE TRUE HISTORY OF ROBBEN ISLAND MUST BE PRESERVED and 1OO YEARS NATIVE LAND ACT 1913 – Womb of African Poverty And Marikana Massacre.