He led in deed and thought

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born to poor farmworker parents in Graaff-Reinet in the Cape in 1924. From an early age he showed signs of being an excellent student and he won a scholarship to the Methodist School in Healdtown, in the Eastern Cape.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born to poor farmworker parents in Graaff-Reinet in the Cape in 1924. From an early age he showed signs of being an excellent student and he won a scholarship to the Methodist School in Healdtown, in the Eastern Cape.

After enrolling at Fort Hare University, Sobukwe joined the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in 1948. The following year he was elected president of the students' representative council and it was then that he first displayed his talent as a public speaker.

In 1950 Sobukwe was appointed to a teaching post in Standerton, a position he lost when he spoke out in favour of the Defiance Campaign in 1952, though he was later reinstated.

In 1954 he started lecturing in African studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. During this time he edited The Africanist and criticised the ANC for allowing itself to be dominated by what he termed "liberal- left-multi-racialists". An ardent supporter of an Africanist future for South Africa, he rejected the idea of working with whites.

"The Prof", as his friends called him, was instrumental in initiating a breakaway from the ANC, resulting in the birth of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). He was elected the first president of the PAC at its inaugural congress.

On March 21 1960, at the launch of the PAC's anti-pass campaign, Sobukwe marched to the Orlando police station in Soweto to present himself for arrest for not having a pass. On the way to the police station, small groups of men from Phefeni, Dube and Orlando West joined him. Most of the marchers, including Sobukwe, were arrested.

Sobukwe was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. But at the end of his sentence parliament enacted the General Law Amendment Act, which empowered the minister of justice to prolong the detention of political prisoners. Sobukwe was moved to Robben Island, where he remained for six more years.

On his release, in 1969, Sobukwe was put under house arrest in Kimberley. During his incarceration he obtained an honours degree in economics from the University of London, and started a law degree, which he completed in 1975, when he started his own law practice.

Sobukwe died on February 27 1978.-SAhistory.org.za

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