Mandela and Sobukwe a day to remember
5th December a day to remember, the passing of Nelson Mandela on 5 December 2013.
Let us take a minute to visit some of the life of Robert Sobukwe, born on this day in 1924:
Here I take the reader into a Reflection on South Africa History, I invite you to join me on some time / spiritual travel into a historical event.
From manuscript, name withheld, copyright, Cedric de la Harpe.
As the sun starts to filter into the space between the two shacks, the opposite neighbour’s door gives me the 1652 smile, teasing me, tempting me, today I will not be tempted, I smile.
Unusually, the date adds April 6, and I need great control not to jump up and please the master who is in control. Then, the “W” flashes, I can resist it no longer, I jump up and touch the “W”, the year moves to 1752, I touch “W” again, 1852, again, 1952, and I give up, the date moves 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, it starts to slow down, 1957, even slower, 1958, and then after a long wait, 1959, the “W” switches to “B”
‘BANG’ SHEEWEEeeee it feels as if I am being transported to the early period, but then the vacuum draws me back into the ‘black cage’, the noise around me is one of excited chatter, excited debate, yes, it is Monday, a public holiday, Van Riebeek Day, I am in the Orlando Community Hall, hundreds of people are trying to squeeze into the hall, good natured, but with a purpose that allows them to push for position, irrespective of age or gender. I have two burly men walking ahead of me, making space, I am not white, but I am being ushered to the front row, comfortable chair, I am a VIP, I look at the name label on the top of the chair, James Mpanza.
The hall is packed tight, except for the two front rows of chairs, the rest of the standing room is squashed tighter than sardines. The men, all in neat suits, shiny shoes, I am barefoot, neatly tucking my feet behind Mpanza’s briefcase.
The Speaker introduces Robert Sobukwe, I am not sure whether we are at the launch of the PAC, or the inaugural Convention of Africanists, he apologises for the absence of Hastings Banda and Kenneth Kaunda, and outlines his direction for the convention.
“We are living today. Sons and Daughters of the Soil, fighters in the cause of African freedom, we are living today in an era that is pregnant with untold possibilities for both good and evil.
“However, in spite of all these rapid advances in the material and physical world, man appears to be either unwilling or unable to solve the problem of social relations between man and man.”
I raise my hand wishing to be acknowledged, my hand waves and the table does not notice, I look around, the entire audience is waving, not one of greeting, rather that the white man must leave.
Sobukwe in 1959 has marvelled at the level of development that we have had in the world, and he has noticed that ‘social cohesion’ is not taking place, even at the level of those blacks who have become educated, in the face of severe obstacles and control. He believes than man is either unwilling, or unable to solve the problem, but he is wrong.
I softly voice my opinion, “Sir, they would like you to believe that they are willing, you may think that their God has not given them the ability, but time will tell that their ‘essential defensive weapons’, with the advent of technology, becomes more efficient at controlling the people.
Robert Sobukwe then shifts onto the Afrika Position, I look around the packed hall, every person is shaking their head positively, they are all African Nationalists, Africanists, what has happened to this attitude, what has happened to the Africanists in our country, except for the few that I have uncovered in the Townships, they are not easily found.
I need to find this document, to read it again, I am still battling to process what I am listening to. I have lost my attention process as Sobukwe talks Russia, USA, China, India, our black academics and politicians were not the ‘monkeys’ we thought they were.
As Sobukwe addresses the ‘Race Question’ I am alert again, how did he see and understand an issue, that we are unable to even talk about in 2014.
The Africanists take the view that there is only one race to which we all belong, and that is the human race. In our vocabulary therefore, the word ‘race’ as applied to man, has no plural form.
This view can only exist in the bottom three levels of class groups, Sobukwe has obviously not moved out of the third from the bottom.
In these three lower groups, this view is common, and, at this level, even my most anti-white white friends will hold this view, even believing that their abusers and oppressors, are human.
“In Afrika the myth of race has been propounded and propagated by the imperialists and colonialists from Europe, in order to facilitate and justify their inhuman exploitation of the indigenous people of the land. It is from this myth of race with its attendant claims of cultural superiority that the doctrine of white supremacy stems. Thus it is that an ex-engine driver can think of himself as fully qualified to be the head of the government of an African state, but refuse to believe that a highly educated black doctor, more familiar with Western culture than the White premier is, cannot even run a municipal council”.
Ouch, this was not a wise comment, this is typical of what we would have seen as clever, and we did not have space for a ‘clever boy’ in my days. If you are past matric, you would never be considered for a job as a black police constable.
“I do not wish to belabour this point. Time is precious. Let me close discussion of this topic by declaring, on behalf of the Africanists, that with UNESCO we hold that every man is his brother’s keeper. For every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, because he is involved in mankind.”
This attitude is not as anti-white as I would have expected.
“In South Africa we recognise the existence of national groups, which are the result of geographical origin within a certain area as well as a shared historical experience of these groups. The Europeans are a foreign minority group, which has exclusive control of political, economic, social and military power.”
“It is the dominant group. It is the exploiting group, responsible for the pernicious doctrine of White Supremacy, which has resulted in the humiliation, and degradation of the indigenous African people.”
According to the Kaalvoet Theory, a black leader at the level of Robert Sobukwe, educated, intelligent, would see every person in the groups above him, as the dominant group, the exploiting group. Over time we will see the results of how black leaders move up the KT structure, and form part of this dominant group as seen from the lower groups.
“It is this group which has dispossessed the African people of their land and with arrogant conceit has set itself up as the ‘guardians’, the ‘trustees’ of the Africans.”
“It is this group which conceives of the African people as a child nation, composed of Boys and Girls, ranging in age from 120 years to one day.”
Sorry, my Brothers and Sisters, I am guilty.
“In short, it is this group which has mismanaged affairs in South Africa just as their kith and kin are mismanaging affairs in Europe. It is from this group that the most rabid race baiters and agitators come. It is members of this group who, whenever they meet in their Parliament, say things, which agitate the hearts of millions of peace-loving Africans. This is the group, which turns out thousands of experts on that new South African Science the Native mind.”
I feel the eyes of every person in the hall looking at me, it is as if they know I am white, I feel exposed, bare, I try to stop thinking, lest they see something that I may be hiding.
This Sobukwe is powerful, the new ‘South African Science’, the ‘Native Mind’. In 2014 we seem to accept that this group is a problem, it is still because of ‘their mind’, ‘their thinking’. If only they could read, if only they could understand what the ANC are doing to our country, “they would change their vote”, and fix the country.
“The down-trodden, poor “stinking coolies” of Natal who, alone, as a result of the pressure of material conditions, can identify themselves with the indigenous African majority in the struggle to overthrow White supremacy, have not yet produced their leadership. We hope they will do so soon.”
“The Africans constitute the indigenous group and form the majority of the population. They are the most ruthlessly exploited and are subjected to humiliation, degradation and insult.”
“Now it is our contention that true democracy can be established in South Africa and on the continent as a whole, only when White supremacy has been destroyed. And the illiterate and semi-literate African masses constitute the key and centre and content of any struggle for true democracy in South Africa.”
This Sobukwe is powerful, his comment that White supremacy must be destroyed in order to establish a true democracy, causes Kaalvoet to reflect on white supremacy, on how it contributes to the failure of our democracy in 2014, granted only through the eyes of my black persona.
I hope I can get an opportunity to discuss our 2014 experiences with Sobukwe soon.
“And the African people can be organised only under the banner of African nationalism in an All-African Organisation where they will by themselves formulate policies and programmes and decide on the methods of struggle without interference from either so-called left-wing or right-wing groups of the minorities who arrogantly appropriate to themselves the right to plan and think for the Africans.”
“We wish to emphasise that the freedom of the African means the freedom of all in South Africa, the European included, because only the African can guarantee the establishment of a genuine democracy in which all men will be citizens of a common state and will live and be governed as individuals and not as distinctive sectional groups.”
Wow, this is powerful, why did we fear PAC, why did we fear Sobukwe?
Would it not be great if 1994 had brought us a ‘genuine democracy’ in which all men were citizens of a common state and we can all live and be governed as individuals, and not as distinctive sectional groups.
Surely, the ‘freedom of the African’, if achieved through Sobukwe’s principles, would have freed us Europeans also, or do we really believe that we are free?
“Against multi-racialism we have this objection, that the history of South Africa has fostered group prejudices and antagonisms, and if we have to maintain the same group exclusiveness, parading under the term of multi-racialism, we shall be transporting to the new Afrika these very antagonisms and conflicts.”
Is this not the problems that we are facing in 2014, we have the ‘very antagonisms and conflicts’ seen in all our public discourse?
I believe it is, yet, I never hear the academics or media even touch this concept.
“Further, multi-racialism is in fact a pandering to European bigotry and arrogance. It is a method of safeguarding white interests, implying as it does, proportional representation irrespective of population figures. In that sense it is a complete negation of democracy.”
No wonder many of my black brothers question our ‘new democracy’, they listened to Sobukwe in 1960, what did we read into what he was saying that we missed the content?
“To us the term ‘multi-racialism’ implies that there are such basic insuperable differences between the various national groups here that the best course is to keep them permanently distinctive in a kind of democratic apartheid. That to us is racialism multiplied, which probably is what the term truly connotes.”
No wonder our 2014 social discourse results in so much racial animosity; we have created it.
My hands are uncomfortable, I do not take them out of my suit pockets, in case the blood is seen.
“We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans, for the Africans, with everybody who owes his only loyalty to Afrika and who is prepared to accept the democratic rule of an African majority being regarded as an African.”
“We guarantee no minority rights, because we think in terms of individuals, not groups. Economically we aim at the rapid extension of industrial development in order to alleviate pressure on the land, which is what progress means in terms of modem society.”
Strangely this is a concept that I have lived with since the start of our New Democracy, I never wished for minority rights, I did not know why.
“We stand committed to a policy guaranteeing the most equitable distribution of wealth. Socially we aim at the full development of the human personality and a ruthless uprooting and outlawing of all forms or manifestations of the racial myth.”
“To sum it up we stand for an Africanist Socialist Democracy. Here is a tree rooted in African soil, nourished with waters from the rivers of Afrika. Come and sit under its shade and become, with us, the leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree. Sons and Daughters of Afrika, I declare this inaugural convention of the Africanists open.”
Why did de Klerk and Nelson Mandela not adopt this approach, why did they not tell me of the damage that the system caused, the system that I was part of, the damage to the black communities, why did they not ask me to go into the Townships and have a look, to ‘become with us’? “Here is a tree rooted in African soil, nourished with waters from the rivers of Afrika. Come and sit under its shade and become, with us, the leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree.
I am standing on my chair, clapping, I am now the white ‘Kaalvoet’, and the entire audience, including the speakers are clapping, but they are clapping me, not Subukwe, they are clapping a white who seems to understand ‘Africanists’.
Kaalvoet 5 December 2014