IN MEDICAL Ward F5 at Kimberley Hospital on February 27 1978, a great heart ceased beating.

IN MEDICAL Ward F5 at Kimberley Hospital on February 27 1978, a great heart ceased beating.

The giant that was Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe fell asleep eternally. Prof, as Sobukwe was affectionately known, died under house arrest in Kimberley.

Sobukwe, as the world knows him, was reborn at Fort Hare University under the diligent political midwifery of Godfrey Pitje. An apolitical, deeply religious young man was transformed into a political firebrand.

Thirty-two years after his death, Prof lives on. If Sobukwe were to rise up now, the first question he would probably ask would be: what programme is the PAC embarking on to fulfil its historic mission?

The historic mission of the PAC is to deliver Africa back to the Africans. It is to eliminate the colonial, neo-colonial and imperialist conquest in all its manifestations: mental, spiritual, material, cultural and otherwise. It is to restore self-esteem, self-respect and self-reliance in the African people.

Africa is the richest continent on earth, and yet Africans are the poorest people under the sun; both in the continent and in Diaspora.

No wonder Haiti, peopled by Africans, is the poorest nation in the Northern Hemisphere. This is by design, rather than by accident.

African land and minerals must be owned, managed and priced by the Africans. It is a daylight robbery that people who produce no gold can determine its price.

Nations with no coffee plantations tell us how much we can sell our coffee to them. Our historic mission is to rectify these injustices against the Africans.

We communicate in foreign tongues as if Africa is tongueless. Consciously or unconsciously, we perpetuate the myth that Africa was occupied by hominids (human-like beings), before the Europeans set foot on the continent.

Our historic mission is to preserve African languages and catapult them to the great heights they once scaled.

We once studied cosmology and chemistry and biology at the highest level in African languages.

The architects of Mapungubwe, Great Zimbabwe and the Kemit (Egyptian) pyramids speke indigenous Al Khebulan (African) languages. Africa cannot develop scientifically and culturally in borrowed tongues.

The recent matric results testify this, especially on maths and science subjects.

The greatest tribute we can afford Sobukwe, is to remember and vigorously pursue his historic mission. Under his programme-driven leadership, the PAC never reacted to others' actions or inaction.

South Africa played no small role in the defeat of Nazism in the Second World War. In other words, the country was a highly respected member of the international community.

But after Sobukwe and the PAC had led the people in Sharpeville and Langa, the regime's humanitarian mask was smashed to smithereens and the true beast emerged. South Africa became a pariah state, a loathsome skunk among the nations of the world.

Suffice it to say that Sobukwe led the charge to unmask and tame the beast.

Prof transformed politics from being a hobby for the elite and urban Mr and Mrs so and so. He made resistance politics a national effort where intellectuals, semi-literate and illiterate joined the struggle as equals. He took his message to villages and hostels where migrant workers were housed.

He argued that the illiterate and semi-literate people were the bedrock of resistance.

Not that Sobukwe glorified illiteracy. He never envisaged Africa under the dictatorship of the illiterate and semi-literate. In fact, he believed in universal literacy and numeracy.

Sobukwe launched a status campaign and ushered in a new dimension in resistance politics: mental liberation.

He knew you cannot defeat the enemy whose rear base is in your head. He urged the African people to stand up and allow no one to address them as boys and girls, regardless of their age.

Once the mind is chained, no amount of legislation and slogans will set you free. Mental liberation is the foundation of freedom; at individual and national level.

The fact that Africans still suffer from an inferiority complex, proves that Prof's teachings are relevant to this day.

The PAC founding president knew that fear was the main obstacle on the way to realisation of the historic mission. The masses were paralysed by fear of the uncouth state. He never prescribed in a book how to overcome fear; he actually took to the streets and wrestled with fear.

As we remember Sobukwe on the day of his death, let us put the PAC under the spotlight. When Prof launched the organisation half a century ago, he declared that it was the ship of freedom.

Is the ship seaworthy in its present condition? Is it docked, tied with ropes and rocking in one place? Is the ship well fuelled, well serviced and sufficiently powered to weather the stormy sea? Is this ship well captained and well navigated? What about its essential equipment? Is the compass still functioning? Is the ship in shipyard museum? Is it reduced to a tourist attraction?

These questions must haunt every member of the PAC. And everyone must provide answers. Action answers, not verbal answers.

l This is an edited version of the Sobukwe Memorial Lecture Mphahlele delivered at the University of Fort Hare last Thursday.