PAC kills pan-Africanism

The philosophy of pan-Africanism is in danger of extinction if it is left in the hands of the unstable Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

The philosophy of pan-Africanism is in danger of extinction if it is left in the hands of the unstable Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

Pan-Africanism, a philosophy of uniting African people, including those in the diaspora and which leaders such as Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah espoused and so passionately preached, is like the biblical seed that fell on rocky ground - which is where it is in the PAC.

The current infighting in the organisation, added to its obscure status in the politics of this country, disqualify it from being the guardian of pan-Africanism.

The party cannot speak authoritatively of uniting Africans when it is itself not united. It has been biting its own tail for decades instead of building itself or South African society.

The late Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, founder of the PAC, must be turning in his grave.

The recent expulsion of its former president, Motsoko Pheko, for whatever reason, was a turning point for the party.

I still have vivid memories of the party's leaders from the Border region of the Eastern Cape pointing guns at one another in the streets of King William's Town in the early 1990s, fighting for positions in public.

Party insiders maintain that the factions within the party started or were strengthened in exile. At about the time Tennyson Makiwane arrived to join the PAC in exile in Tanzania, after being expelled from the ANC in the 1970s, ethnic power struggles were at their worst in the PAC.

Makiwane, who later left to join KD Matanzima's Transkei homeland government, was assassinated in 1980.

The problem continued inside the country after the party was unbanned when some members called for a boycott of the 1994 democratic elections.

Two camps emerged from the fracas - those for and those against participation in the polls. The tensions heightened as the militant boycotters saw those who encouraged participation as sellouts or as being coopted.

The supporters of the boycott were not wise to the fact that black people were voting for the first time in their lives and it was significant for them to exercise that newly attained right.

This issue is believed to have been the straw that broke the camel's back as the PAC never regained lost ground. The list of unsettling instances of leadership squabbles before and after 1994 at all levels is endless.

One needs to ask what happened to the PAC that was associated with the original teachings of pan-Africanism and that espoused the African values of respect. What happened to the PAC that used to be the darling of rural communities in Cala and Cofimvaba in Eastern Cape, where it overshadowed both the ANC and the Black Consciousness Movement in grassroots debates and underground activities?

It was at these two strongholds that Cala-born former PAC provincial leader, Zingisa Mkabile, former party president, Clarence Makwethu, and stalwart, Waters Toboti, became "saints" of the struggle. Maxwell Nemadzivhanani frequented the area.

There, children as young as five attended cell meetings as regularly as they attended church on Sundays.

After school, classes on pan-Africanism were held in local school halls in Cala, where teachers were sympathetic to the PAC ideology and allowed its pamphlets to hang among school charts on classroom walls.

The late PAC leader in exile, John Nyathi Pokela, used to say: "The African people are the PAC and the PAC is the African people."

I wonder if this still holds water today. Many PAC leaders might be ashamed to repeat or quote Pokela's statement today because the party has lost the plot while it continues to flounder in divisions. In the process, pan-Africanism has no leader.

All South Africans - and all Africans, for that matter - should be concerned at the lack of a genuine leader for pan-Africanism in this country because this ideal is not as much about ideology as it is about a movement to bring Africans together.

This task cannot be entrusted to the divided PAC. It must be rescued from extinction.

It is high time the current PAC leadership under Letlapa Mphahlele did an organisational introspection and charted a new direction if the party is to survive.

They need to understand that, while ideologies remain static, strategies and tactics change. An ideology is strengthened as fresh tactics and strategies are introduced.

For its own good, the PAC needs to come down to the people at grassroots level and identify a burning issue to take up vigorously on their behalf.

The land question is still relevant, even without that dreaded one-settler, one-bullet tag.

This might help it to regain its lost momentum because at the moment it has no clear political agenda - something that has adversely affected the pan-Africanism with which it used to be associated.