Robert Sobukwe’s dream unrealised, 21 years into democracy

February 27 2015 marks the 37th anniversary of the death of Robert Sobukwe, the first leader of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and an icon of African nationalism. 

The PAC was founded in 1959, and in 1960 led the campaign against pass laws that ended with the death of 69 people. Sobukwe was arrested the same year and jailed, mostly in solitary confinement, until 1969, when he was released under strict banning orders. He died of lung cancer in 1978.

Sobukwe always emphasised the importance of African people managing their own affairs, developing a sense of self-reliance and self-determination. “We are pro-Africa and anti-nobody,” he said in 1949, during his time as a student leader.

He saw African nationalism as the means to emancipate Africans totally; to liberate them from political oppression, social degradation and economic exploitation. The fact that so many suffer from these conditions today is a sign that Sobukwe’s views are still highly relevant.

He would have argued that political freedom without economic emancipation is of no use; the people will continue to suffer as they suffered under apartheid. 

Today, 21 years into democracy, we still have half of the population, largely African, living in poverty. Millions go to bed with an empty stomach, and others find it impossible to enter institutions of higher learning because of lack of funds. Yet we live in a country very rich in raw materials.

“Prof”, as Sobukwe was affectionately known, put the agrarian question at the centre of his thought, because he believed that African people were robbed off their land by colonialism. Land is still a thorny issue in South Africa.

Sobukwe was also very concerned with education: he wanted education that would respond to the social, political, economic and psychological predicaments of our continent. 

Today we rely on the West, mainly, for the amelioration of knowledge, which then becomes a form of neo-imperialism. The argument here is that Africa is unique and should be treated as such, and be given a chance to determine its destiny without the influence of the West’s self-centred ideologies.

Kenneth Moeng Mokgatlhe works on the PAC media team.


These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday