What do people do when they can no longer breathe? A Martinique philosopher and revolutionary once declared that, “when we revolt it’s not for a particular culture”. Protest is not a natural habit as others might assume, but rather it is a means to an end. Frantz Fanon further added that “we revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe”.
The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) understood that in order to breathe it should revolt at the funeral of Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe. The ruling ANC government wanted to impose itself through vulgarising what our Mother of Azania stood for: A vision of a liberated nation yet to be realised.
Her husband and founding President of PAC, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, once argued that, “we can no longer pretend that there is a proper place and a proper occasion for politics”. And although we were at a funeral, we recognised that respectability takes second place to the ideals that Mama Sobukwe stood for that were being trampled upon by the ANC, disguised as the state.
Mama was a staunch Pan-Africanist who refused to betray what we believe to be the noblest cause on earth: the return of the land to the African masses and an Africa for Africans by Africans. She refused to do interviews with the media, since it has always distorted Sobukwe’s revolutionary ideas and legacy — this is the only progressive part acknowledged in the programme drafted by the state.
With all that she stood for, our silence at her funeral would have been betrayal, something even Martin Luther King Jr would have condemned us for, as he once declared that “silence is betrayal”, especially of one’s principles.
The well known Human Rights Day for example, is a prime example of how the legacy of the PAC has been erased in a post-1994 South Africa (the writer will refer to it as occupied Azania). On 21 March 1960, Robert Sobukwe signalled a clarion call for a peaceful and revolutionary anti-pass campaign which led to the horrific Sharpeville massacre by the vicious apartheid regime. And yet when this day is celebrated as a holiday in a “democratic occupied Azania”, there is no mention of the deeds of the PAC and its contribution to liberation.
Furthermore, the media, as a powerful tool to either educate or misinform the people, needs to be interrogated for its bias and uninformed coverage of the funeral proceedings. The ideals espoused by el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (or Malcolm X) are as relevant today as when he suggested that “the media…is the most powerful entity on earth.” The Afro-American revolutionary martyr continues: “they have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent …because they control the minds of the masses”. That is the picture of how Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula appears to be.
To reiterate a point already noted, we ought to delve deeply into the minister’s dirty tricks for hijacking the funeral of one of our own so as to gain political points for the ANC under the guise of a state funeral.
In 1994, when the apartheid state hosted a state funeral for Sabelo Phama, a fierce leader within the PAC and commander of its military wing, the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), they did not dictate or impose themselves on the funeral proceedings.
However, the programme director was Joe Mkhwanazi, a PAC member who knew the revolutionary culture to send off this noble son our own way, with our traditions and honouring him as an Africanist who stood for a vision of a liberated Azania.
They did not tell the Africanists to sing the South African national anthem along with Die Stem which we reject and regard as blatantly racist, or cover his coffin with the South African flag. They did not, worst of all, deploy an apartheid official to deliver the eulogy. We rejected Deputy-President David Mabuza most of all, as the task given to him to deliver the eulogy for Mama Sobukwe was above all disrespectful, as he is not aligned with the tradition and honour the Mother of Azania knew and understood as a freedom fighter.
These are the things we did at the funeral as a result:
We refused to be bulldozed by a “charterist” (adherents of the Freedom Charter) ANC government official Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as the sole programme director. Especially when the Sobukwe family and the PAC had agreed that the local Methodist priest would be the programme director as he is informed of the practices of the PAC.
Secondly, we rejected the South African national flag on the coffin of Mama Sobukwe. To us it represents a false dream of liberation and the misleading notion that we own the land that we were dispossessed of as a result of colonial conquest.
It would have deprived the Mother of Azania of her dignity as an uncompromising revolutionary. Our revolt was to safeguard this precious legacy and to stop the erasure of our past that the ANC seems hell-bent to do.
We rejected the rainbow national anthem. It is no secret that Die Stem was sung by racists during victories over African conquered people. We have always held that it must be scrapped completely from the national anthem. Many progressive organisations post-1994 have been campaigning for this version to be removed.
Our revolutionary conscience would not allow us to sing it while saluting the Mother of Azania. It is a contradiction and a sellout position to her ideals. Instead we sang for her the revolutionary Isibane. A song that reminds us of the struggle that continues and the sacrifices made by our own.
We also refused to recognise Narius Moloto as a legitimate PAC president. Although he keeps peddling himself as the leader of the PAC, but he is only the president on Power FM and SABC radio and television. The media houses who keep going to him for interviews are misinformed of the politics of the party.
The reality is that a majority of PAC members and branches, all those who attended the Kimberly Unity Conference held from 9-12 August 2018 have denounced him as a traitor of the revolution.
It should also be noted that Moloto was not part of the plenary team for the funeral because we regard him as a rotten potato devoid any vision for the Azanian people. The PAC resolutions correctly label him as no longer within the ranks of the liberation movement.
We continue to mourn the Mother of Azania who has descended to join the revolutionary ancestors of our noblest cause of liberating humankind. We are grieved that she left us shortly after the Unity Conference, at a time when the party is starting to unite. However, we march forward in our revolutionary mandate for Azania to be free and independent from neocolonialism and imperialism.
As a result some of the resolutions emanating from the conference mentioned above, Apa Pooe will be a national spokesperson for the party until a national elective congress from 14-16 December 2018. It will be a platform whereby this revolutionary movement will democratically and constitutionally elect its President.
As Africanists we are anti-nobody but pro-Africa. Henceforth, it is through the Congress Preparatory Committee that we will communicate directly with the media (refer to PAC Kimberly Conference Resolutions). The party which the Mother of Azania loved will be united. The greatest honour to bestow in her memory is to have one united PAC.
And most importantly, the greatest resolution from the Kimberley Unity Conference is that we should all be like our revolutionary leader, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. Therefore to all Africanists, I say:
“Let us be like Sobukwe: defend, consolidate and advance his revolutionary legacy.” DM
Mokgweetsi Keikabile is a #FeesMustFall activist, Pasma Veronica Sobukwe (University of Johannesburg) chairperson 2018/2019 and PAC member in PAC Johannesburg Central Branch.