Mon Oct 24 10:53:03 SAST 2016
Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha with Zweli Mkhize and Thoko Didiza
ANC leadership begins candidate review

The African National Congress is starting its “dispute resolution process” in a bid to address the a.

Robert Sobukwe's name is conspicuous by its absence in celebrating Human Rights Day, writes Mothobi Mutloatse

By unknown | Mar 29, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

March 21 has come and gone, with nary a word about Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe being mentioned by anyone in government with reference to the watershed that was the Sharpeville shootings.

The shootings would later prompt the armed struggle by liberation forces.

It is as if "The Prof", as the native of Graaff-Reinet and founding father of the Pan Africanist Congress was known, never existed.

I searched the Gauteng legislature's website in vain. Premier Mbhazima Shilowa's statement on the day in Sharpeville itself is thundering in its silence regarding Sobukwe.

Delivering the keynote address at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Inaugural Lecture at Fort Hare University organised by the Steve Biko Foundation in March 2003, Es'kia Mphahlele made an allusion to the "crass political mediocrity, even immaturity", asking rhetorically: "What nation forgets its political and intellectual ancestors so cruelly?"

Mphahlele went on to say: "What inanity prompts people to even think that they can tear out pages from our historical record and continue to live a lie?"

According to him, Sobukwe's leadership of the March 21 1960 protests against the pass laws focused the world's attention on South Africa like nothing before.

"Yet we continue," saidMphahlele, "to commemorate [Human Rights Day] without any mention of the man."

Mphahlele ended his address with a poem in tribute to Mama Veronica Zodwa Sobukwe, in remembrance of "the life of her beloved husband and the loved father of her family".

Thirteen years into our democracy and nearly 30 years after the death of Sobukwe, no official recognition has yet been accorded him.

Neither in Mofolo, Soweto, where he lived, or in Kimberley's Galeshewe township where the apartheid regime banished him after his extended imprisonment on Robben Island, nor even at the World Heritage Site prison.

Neither have I come across even a gravel road named in his honour.

It is a fat chance to expect Orlando Stadium to be renamed the Robert Sobukwe Stadium, or a chair at the University of the Witwatersrand where he had been strangely employed as a "language assistant" to be installed in his honour.

At his funeral one of my mentors, the late legal genius GM Pitje, said in an impassioned tribute: "No wonder Prime Minister BJ Vorster is said to have described Sobukwe as a man with a 'strong magnetic personality'."

It was the "magnetic personality" which led young black people to march on various police stations to surrender their reference books on March 21 1960.

Thereafter, March 21 1960 became recognised as the turning point in the black man's struggle for liberation.

To Pitje, "on that day Mangaliso ushered in a new era".

The last word is from Mphahlele: "Yet the story of this Man of Africa [Sobukwe] should continue to be retold for the benefit especially of the younger leaders-in-the-making."

I agree.

And I am not even a member of the PAC, or any political party for that matter.

Just a writer who happens to also be a publisher with a historical, cultural and heritage bent.

lMothobi Mutloatse is a writer and an independent publisher.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT