I greet all members of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania gathered here today for a very historic purpose and wish this meeting revolutionary success. You are custodians of a unique revolutionary legacy in South Africa which the imperialists and their agents fear. They have worked day and night to destroy it. Divisions within the PAC have also helped them.
That great Pan Africanist revolutionary, Frantz Fanon hit the nail on the head when he said “Each generation…must discover its mission and then fulfil it or betray it.” The same Frantz Fanon made an indisputable historic declaration about the first campaign of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), when he wrote:
“The seventeen days that shook South Africa and indeed, the entire world from March 21st this year (1960), have forced an irrevocable turn in the history of South Africa. PAC and the urban proletariat actively intervened in their affairs and ushered in a new period, rich in historical perspective and pregnant with great possibilities for a democratic movement. Sharpeville shook public opinion for months, in news papers, over the wavelengths and in private conversations. Sharpeville has become a symbol. It was through it that men and women in the world became acquainted with the problem of apartheid in South Africa.”
A professor of history Bernard Leeman captures this unique PAC revolutionary act vividly, when he writes, ”Whites in South Africa flocked to the Canadian and Australian High Commissions in Pretoria. They enquired about emigration. Many whites bought guns. The helmeted troops patrolled the streets. In a single day the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania had changed South Africa forever.”
Even the South African apartheid colonialist regime admitted this historic fact. Acting colonial Prime Minister Paul Sauer told the apartheid colonial parliament in Cape Town. “The old book of South African history was closed a month ago. For the immediate future South Africa will have to reconsider in earnest and honestly her whole approach to the native question. We must restore overseas faith. We must altar the conception of baaskap.”
Professor Z. K. Matthews of Fort Hare University was for a long time Treasurer of the ANC. He wrote in Imvo newspaper. “There have been many groups that broke away from the ANC…..The Pan Africanist Congress is an historical exception. It broke away from the ANC and launched the Sharpeville Uprising on 21st March 1960. It had a unique national and international significance in this country. It prompted a first visit ever to South Africa by a United Nations Secretary General. The PAC launched the most significant movement for South Africa’s international isolation.”
Comrades, I repeat. You are the custodian of a golden revolutionary legacy in the modern liberation struggle of this country. When appreciating the inspiration from which this legacy is propelled; our first president Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe on Heroes Day in July 1959, paid tribute to the heroic role that our African Kings played in defending our country against European imperialism and colonialism. He reminded PAC members who were gathered as you are gathered here today. He said:
“Sons and Daughters of Africa, we are today going down the corridor of time and renewing our acquaintance with the heroes of Africa’s past, those men and women who watered the tree of freedom and independence. We are here today, to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Africa, to establish contact beyond the grave with the great African heroes and to assure them that their struggle was not in vain.
We are gathered here Sons and Daughters of the beloved land to drink from the fountain of African achievement, to remember the men and women who begot us to remind ourselves of where we come from and to restate our goals. We are here to draw inspiration from the heroes of Thababosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile’s Kop and numerous other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invaders….”
Ma-Afrika, the last war of national resistance against colonialism was led by Chief Bambatha in 1906. For fifty-five years there was no armed struggle in this country until 11th September 1961 when the Pan Africanist Congress formed its military wing POQO renamed Azanian Peoples Liberation Army in 1968 after the historic Battle of Villaperi where General Gerald “Kibwe” Kondlo heroically fell. The POQO battles of Paarl, Mbashe, Ntlonze and numerous others are written with the blood of our fallen APLA heroes.
It is these PAC- led battles that precipitated the road to imprisonment on Robben Island and frightened the colonialists to invoke the “Sobukwe Clause.” There had been no political prisoners on Robben Island since 1874 when Chief Langalibalele had been imprisoned there. This means that there were no political prisoners on Robben Island for over 88 years until the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania was born to challenge the apartheid colonialist regime through the armed struggle.
In his book, Resistance And Ideologies In Settler Societies Southern African Studies, Prof Tom Lodge has written, “The two most important insurgent organizations in South Africa were POQO, the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress and Umkhonto Wesizwe, the sabotage wing of the ANC. The two wings reflected in their different strategies their fundamental ideological divergences….The PAC insurgents were much more numerous than Umkhonto we sizwe.
In terms of geographical extensiveness, the numbers involved and its time span, the POQO conspiracies… represented the largest and most sustained African insurrection movement since the inception of modern African political organizations in South Africa.”
Tom Lodge concludes, “The persistence of the movement over a relatively long time span and over a large geographical area, qualifies POQO to lay claim to being the most sustained insurrection by blacks in South Africa in modern times.”
Comrades, much more can be said about the revolutionary credentials of the PAC. The fundamental challenges remain. The African people remain dispossessed of their land. Our land is being sold by foreigners to foreigners like ice cream on a hot day, while our people do not have even a piece of land to build a decent home and are victims of poverty, ignorance, disease, high child mortality and shortest life expectancy.
The coastal land of our country is fast becoming Europe. The national liberation struggle that was about equitable redistribution of land has been betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. The minerals of our country are still a looting ground by imperialists and their agents. Our children cannot afford high education. Many are learning under the trees in the Eastern Cape and in Limpopo. Many former members of the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army such as Kenny Motsamai are languishing in the prisons of “New South Africa” under an ANC government. Apartheid criminal perpetrators like Craig Williams are not only as free as air, but are becoming millionaires.
What is happening to the Pan Africanist Congress, a liberation movement that got South Africa expelled from the United Nations and took its seat there? What is happening to a liberation movement which was declared illegal when it was only one year one day, but survived for thirty years underground and colonialists feared “negotiating” with it and preferred cutting shady deals with the so-called “moderates?”
Pan Africanists and progressive forces in the world are asking. Where was the PAC when the assets of the Zimbabwe Government were seized in South Africa and sold in order to compensate white farmers who colonially claimed Zimbabwe land that was stolen by Cecil Rhodes at gunpoint and illegally given to these white farmers in Rhodesia? What did the PAC say when an ANC government representative at the United Nations Security Council voted with imperialists against Libya? This resolution 1973 enabled NATO and USA military personnel to fight secretly side by side with anti- Gaddafi rebels for an imperialist “regime change” and grabbing of Libyan oil wealth.
The Constitution that was formulated by the founding fathers of the Pan Africanist Congress such as Sobukwe, Mothopeng, Masemola and others like Mmaposholi Molapo, Nomvo Booi and respected by martyrs like Mmasabata, Boniswa Ngcukana and indeed, by the fallen Gerald Kondlo of the Villaperi fame and Sabelo Phama of “the year of the storm” must be defended. The founding fathers of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania were not anarchists or the Idi Amin’s and Joseph Kony’s of this world. The constitution of the PAC and its fundamental principles must be preserved and changes made only when they unify this Party and advance its vision and mission for the economic liberation of the African people and their repossession of land. This must be done constitutionally and democratically.
Comrades, there is too much at stake in the control of the riches of Africa for the benefit of Africans throughout Africa. A liberation struggle that does not result in the control of land and economy for its people is a failed struggle. Pan Africanism and a United States of Africa are an imperative. Imperialists are united against Africa. They have done so from the time of their inhuman European slave trade, the 1885 Berlin Conference on colonialism up to this time of neo-colonialism. Africa must unite or perish. Equally the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania must unite and focus on the original vision of the Sobukwe’s, Nkrumah’s, Lumumba’s, Sekou Toure’s etc.
Ma-Afrika, you are the hope of this country and the continent. Right at its inception the PAC had the blessing of all Pan Africanists. Let us deserve that honour. Our founding fathers and mothers earned that honour.
Writing about this honour that was bestowed on the PAC on 6th April 1959, the author of How Can A Man Die Better – The Life of Robert Sobukwe writes.” The singing of the national anthem was at a faster pace than usual, with Chairman Mothopeng beating time with his hands. Wandering about by delegates in the conference hall was discouraged. The Pan African theme was marked in the slogans on placards on the walls and stage.
Some read, “Forward to the United States of Africa! The continental theme was maintained in the reading of messages received which also gave the Africanists a notable propaganda coup. There were cables of good wishes from Sekou Toure, Supreme President of the Republic of Guinea and another from the Father of Africa’s 2Oth independence, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. He wished the meeting every success in uniting Africans against colonialism and racialism for human rights and self-determination.”
As Pan Africanists, we must recognise that we are in the era of neo-colonialism. It is the last stage of imperialism. It is a difficult struggle. It is not a dinner party. The chicanery of neo-colonialists and their agents is not easily and quickly detected by the masses. Let us tighten our belts and resolve to win the liberation struggle for the control of our land and its riches for the African majority. There must be equitable redistribution of land and its wealth according to population numbers in Azania and in all of Africa.
Lefatshe la rona! Shango lashu! Tiko ra hina! Izwe Lethu! iAfrika!
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
(This article is a message of support to the PAC Indaba held on the 06 April 2012, in Orlando, Soweto. This was also the 53rd anniversary of the formation of the PAC. The writer is a former President of the PAC of Azania)
- Rejoinder to Rapule Tabane’s “Spare a Thought, and a Place Name, for Mangaliso Sobukwe” (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- Introduction to the Pan Africanist Congress (pac) of Azania – Part 2 (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- Introduction to the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania – Part 1 (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- In Memory of Sharpeville-langa Massacre: Land Is Economic Power! (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- The High Court Declared Letlapa Mphahlele’s Constitution Null and Void (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- 2012 January 8 Statement and the History of the Liberation Struggle (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- The Raping of History – Rejoinder to Pallo Jordan’s ‘On a Century of Movement’ (mayihlome.wordpress.com)