Robert Sobukwe

from the book Shadows of Justice by Graham Michael Lesch :

Robert Sobukwe : The lion of resistance

Robert Sobukwe : The lion of resistance

From the a collection of Robert Sobukwe’s Speeches:

Robert Sobukwe was the leader of the Sharpville uprising, (anti-pass campaign) March 21 1960.
“Sons and Daughters of the Soil, Remember Africa! Very soon, now, we shall be launching our campaign. The step we are taking is historical, pregnant with untold possibilities. We must, therefore, appreciate our role. We must appreciate our responsibility. The African people have entrusted their whole future to us. And we have sworn that we are leading them, not to death, but to life abundant.My instructions, therefore, are that our people must be taught NOW and CONTINUOUSLY, THAT IN THIS CAMPAIGN we are going to observe ABSOLUTE NON-VIOLENCE. There are those in our own ranks who will be speaking irresponsibly of bloodshed and violence. They must be firmly told what our stand is. Let us consider for a moment, what violence will achieve. I say quite POSITIVELY, without fear of contradiction, that the only people who will benefit from violence are the government and the police. Immediately violence breaks out, we will be taken up with it and give vent to our pent-up emotions and feel that by throwing a stone at a Saracen, or burning a particular building we are small revolutionaries engaged in revolutionary warfare. But after a few days, when we have buried our dead and made moving graveside speeches and our emotions have settled again, the police will round up a few people and the rest will go back to the Passes, having forgotten what our goal had been initially. Incidentally, in the process, we shall have alienated the masses who feel that we have made cannon fodder of them, for no significant purpose except for spectacular newspaper headlines.

\This is not a game. We are not gambling. We are taking our first step in the march to African independence and the United States of Africa. And we are not leading corpses to the new Africa. We are leading the vital, breathing and dynamic youth of our land. We are leading that youth, NOT TO DEATH, BUT TO LIFE ABUNDANT. Let us get that clear. The government, knowing that they stand to gain by an outbreak of violence, may most probably swoop down to the level of employing certain African political renegades to throw a stone at the police from a distance. Our Task Force will, therefore, have to move on either side of every batch to make sure they deal with saboteurs. Anybody who agitates for violence or starts violence whether he belongs to P.A.C. or not, we will regard as a paid agent of the government. Let the masses know that NOW. The principal aim of our Campaign is to get ourselves arrested, get our women remaining at home. This means that nobody will be going to work. Industry will come to a standstill and the government will be forced to accept our terms. And once we score that victory, there will be nothing else we will not be able to tackle. But we must know quite clearly, NOW, that our struggle is an unfolding one, one campaign leading on to another, in a NEVER-ENDING STREAM – until independence is won.

The white rulers are going to be extremely ruthless. But we must meet their hysterical brutality with calm, iron determination. We are fighting for the noblest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind. They are fighting to retrench an outworn, anachronistic vile system of oppression. We represent progress. They represent decadence. We represent the fresh fragrance of flowers in bloom; they represent the rancid smell of decaying vegetation. We have the whole Continent on our side. We have history on our side. WE WILL WIN. The government will be ruthless. They will probably try to cut us off from one another, censor the press, use their propaganda machinery to malign the leaders, mislead the people and spread falsehoods about the Campaign. Let nobody depend on either the press or radio. I, myself, MANGALISO SOBUKWE, or one of the P.A.C. leaders, acting on my behalf, will call off the struggle, after our demands have been fully met.”


Mangaliso Sobukwe (Founder President of the PAC) Service, Sacrifice and Suffering :
The Pan Africanist Congress has been launched, and since it is destined to play a most decisive role in the struggle for national liberation, I think it is in the interest not only of South Africa but of the world, that its policy and ultimate goal should be stated authoritatively and unambiguously. I intend to do so in this article. Let me begin by saying that we are quite aware of the fact that we are faced with an overwhelming combination of forces internally, in the person of the white ruling minority, and externally in the person of the forces of Western capitalism and international imperialism. The domestic forces of oppression have entrenched themselves over the last three hundred years. Consequently, they enjoy a monopoly of economic, political, cultural and military power. Viewed from this angle, the position of the ruling minority appears impregnable. But there are weaknesses in this structure.

First of all, the entire economic fabric rests on the indispensable pillars of cheap black labor. Secondly, the white minority can maintain its continued domination only be perfecting the techniques of control in such a way as to enlist the active co-operation and goodwill of the oppressed. These techniques include the creation of bodies calculated to maintain and develop the relations of dominating and dominated, as well as to condition the minds of the dominated for the unquestioning acceptance of their role as collaborators in the perpetuation of their own domination. That is why we embrace the policy of non-collaboration as adumbrated in the nation-building programme on 1949. But because the South African ruling minority is backed by the forces of international capitalism and imperialism, it becomes necessary for us to develop an international outlook. However, the lesson in history in the last halfcentury shows that we can only get the moral support and sympathy of
friendly peoples: they can never liberate us. This means, among other things, that we must develop policies not merely aping this or that country, or merely fashioned to approximate to or to please central powers or constellations of powers of peoples. Our policies must flow from the logic of the African situation and from the fundamental long-term interests of the vast African millions. That is why in international matters, we support Dr. Nkrumahs’ policy of positive neutrality, holding with Dr. Azikiwe, that we are “independent in everything and neutral in nothing that concerns the destiny of Africa.” It is our contention that the vast illiterate and semi-literate mass of the Africans are cornerstone, the key and very life of the struggle for democracy. From this we draw the logical conclusion that the rousing and consolidation of the masses is the primary task of liberation. This leads to the conclusion that African Nationalism is the liberatory outlook to achieve this gigantic and historic task and that the philosophy of Africanism holds out the hope of a genuine democracy beyond the stormy sea of struggle.
We have made our stand clear on this point. Our contention is that the Africans are the only people, who, because of their material position, can be interested in the complete overhaul of the present structure of society. After freedom, then what? The ready answer of white ruling minorities is : chaos and a reversion to barbarism and savagery. The ready answer of all Pan Africanists is, the creation of a United States of Africa and the advent of a new era of freedom, creative production and abundance.

Before I give an outline of the United States of Africa we envisage, I will list some of the obstacles we are bound to come across. Let us assume that by 1973 every part of the Continent will be free from foreign domination. In some parts the change-over will have been comparatively peacefully achieved. In others there will have been bitter fighting which will leave in its wake a legacy of destruction and hate. In such countries the first ten or fifteen years will be years of readjustment and feverish reconstruction. There will be plenty of work to do, and capital for that work will be forthcoming from both East and West. By then the older stage will have passed through the first two of the four stages defined by Dr. Nkrumah at the All-African Peoples’ Conference as : The attainment of freedom and independence; The creation of unity and community between the free African states; The economic and social reconstruction of Africa.

These states will probably act as big brothers to the younger states. Of course we will have recalcitrants. I am certain that some of the leaders of the African states who are “great”, either because the press has made them so, or because they are one-eyed dwarfs in a land of blind dwarfs, will advance a number of excuses to put off the complete unification of the continent. They will do this for fear of losing their
Others, while playing lip-service to the concept of Pan-Africanism, will probably demand autonomy for each state with the object of remaining in the public eye. Fortunately, all genuine African nationalist leaders on the Continent are Pan Africanists, and are not likely to allow personal ambition to hamper the cause for which they have labored and suffered so long in their countries throughout Africa.
On the structure of the United States of Africa, there appears to be no clear agreement yet among African nationalists. At the Accra Conference, Dr. Nkrumah stressed the necessity for such a communion of our own to give expression to the African personality. The Conference adopted the late George Padmores’ outline of an initial federation of states on a regional basis, finally merging into a federal United States of Africa. The P.A.C., though it has adopted the same outline, is not enamored to federations because they entail compromise, sometimes on vital issues. Federations tend to kill effective unity, because inherent in them is the idea of “trial for a period” and the threat of ultimate secession by one state or another. So it is a unitary constitution that the P.A.C envisages for the Unites States of Africa, with all power vested in a central government freely elected by the whole Continent on the basis of universal adult sufferage.

In such a set-up, only continent wide parties committed to a continental programme, and cutting across sectional ties and interests, whether of a tribal or religious nature, are possible.

A Socialist government will in turn promote the idea of African Unity and the concept of a free and independent African personality. The potential wealth of African in minerals, oil, hydro-electric power and so on is emmense. B butting out waste through systematic planning, a central government can bring about the most rapid development of every part of the state. By the end of the century the standard of living of the masses of the people will undoubtebly have risen dramatically under an African Socialist government. Subsistence farming will have disappeared, and a large internal market will absorb a very large percentage of the industrial and agricultural products of the Continent.
All nationalist governments on the Continent aim at wiping out racialism, imperialism and colonialism in all their manifestations. In a United States of Africa, there will be no “racial groups”, and I am certain that with the freedom of movement from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar, the concentration of so-called minority groups will disappear. 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 nourished the tree of African freedom and independence with their blood; those great Sons and Daughters of Africa who died in order that we may be free in the land of our birth. We rededicate our lives 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 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 draw inspiration from the heroes of Thaba Bosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile’s Kop, Keiskama Hoek and numerous other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader. We draw inspiration from the Sons and Daughters of Africa who gave all to the cause and were physically broken in the struggle. We are met here, Sons and Daughters of Africa, to take a trowel in our right hand and a shield and sword in our left, to commence the tremendous task of rebuilding the walls of Africa!
We will not look back; we will not deviate. And as the heat of oppression mounts, we shall become purer and purer, leaving all the dross of racialism and similar evils behind, to emerge as a people mentally and physically disciplined, appreciative of the fact that :
There is only one man in the world,
And his name is All men.
There is only one woman in all the world,
And her name is All women! ”
Sons and Daughters of Africa, we are standing on the threshold of an historic era. We are blazing a new trail and we invite you to be, with us, creators of history. Join us in our march to freedom. To independence now. Tomorrow the United States of Africa. IZWE LETHU


We are living today, Sons and Daughters of the Soil, fighters in the cause of African freedom, in an era that is pregnant with untold possibilities for good and evil. In the course of the past two years we have seen man breaking asunder, with dramatic suddenness, the chains that have bound his mind, solving problems which for ages it had been regarded as sacrilege to even attempt to solve.
The tremendous, epoch-making scientific achievements in the exploration of space, with man-made satellites orbiting the earth; the new and interesting discoveries made in the Geophysical Year; the production of rust resistant grains of wheat in the fields of medicine, chemistry and physics – all these, mean that man is acquiring a better knowledge of his environment and is well on the way to establishing absolute control over that environment. The question then arises, where does Africa fit into this picture and where, particularly, do we African nationalists , we Africanists in South Africa, fit in? There is no doubt that with the liquidation of Western imperialism and colonialism in Asia, the Capitalist market has shrunk considerably. As a result, Africa has become the happy hunting ground of adventuristic capital. There is again a scramble for Africa and both the Soviet Union and the United States of America are trying to win the loyalty of the African states. Africa is being wooed with more ardor than she has ever been. There is a lot of flirting going on, of course, some Africans flirting with the Soviet camp, and others with the American camp. In some cases the courtship has reached a stage where the parties are going out together, and they probably hold hands in the dark, but nowhere has it yet reached a stage where the parties can kiss in public without blushing.
This wooing occurs at a time when the whole continent of Africa is in labour, suffering the pangs of a new birth and everybody is looking anxiously and expectantly towards Africa to see, as our people so aptly put it, ukuthi iyozala nkomoni (what creature will come forth). We are being wooed internationally at a time when in South Africa the naked forces of savage Herrenvolkism are running riot; when a determined effort is being made to annihilate the African people through systematic starvation; at a time when brutal attempts are being made to retard, dwarf and stunt the mental development of a whole people through organized “miseducation”; at a time when thousands of our people roam the streets in search of work and are being told by the foreign ruler to go back to a “home” which he has assigned for them, whether that means the break up of their families or not; at a time when the distinctive badge of slavery and humiliation, the “dom pas” is being extended from the African male dog to the African female bitch. It is at this time, when fascist tyranny has reached its zenith in South Africa, that Africa’s loyalty is being competed for. We honour Ghana as the first independent state in modern Africa which, under the courageous nationalist leadership of Dr. Nkrumah and the Convention Peoples’ Party, has actively interested itself in the liberation of the whole continent from White domination, and has held out the vision of a democratic United States of Africa. We regard it as the sacred duty of every Africa state to strive ceaselessly and energetically for the creation of a United States of Africa, stretching from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar. Besides the sense of a common historical fate that we share with the other countries of Africa, it is imperative for purely practical reasons, that the whole of Africa be united into a single unit, centrally controlled. Only in that way can we solve the immense problems that face the continent. It is for the reasons stated above that we admire, bless and identify ourselves with the entire nationalist movement in Africa. They are the core, the basic units, the individual cells of that large organism envisaged, namely, the United States of Africa: a union of free, sovereign, independent democratic states of Africa. For the lasting peace of Africa and the solution of the economic social and political problems of the continent, there needs must be a democratic principle. This means that White supremacy, under whatever guise it manifests itself, must be destroyed. And that is what the nationalists on the continent are setting out to do. They all are agreed that the African majority must rule. And now for the thorny question of race. I do not wish to give a lengthy and learned dissertation on Race. Suffice it to say that even those scientists who do not recognize the existence of separate races have to admit that there are borderline cases which will not fit into any of the three Races of mankind. All scientists agree that all men can trace their ancestory back to the first Homo Sapiens, that man is distinguished from other mammals and also from earlier types of man by the nature of his intelligence. The structure of the body of man provides evidence to prove the biological unity of the human species. All “scientists” agree that there is no “race” that is superior to another, and there is no “race” that is inferior to others The Africanists take the view that there is only one race to which all belong, and that is the human race. In our vocabulary, therefore, the word “race” as applied to man, has no plural form. We do, however, admit the existence of observable physical differences between various groups people, but these differences are the result of a number of factors, chief among which has been geographical isolation.
In Africa, the myth of race has been propounded and propogated 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 premiere is, can even run a municipal council. I do not wish to belabor 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 brothers’ keeper. For every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, because he is involved in mankind. In South Africa we recognize 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. 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 one hundred and twenty years to one day. It is this group which, after three hundred years, can still state, with brazen effrontery, that the Native, the Bantu, the Kaffir is still backward and savage, etc. But they still want to remain “guardians”, “trustees”, and what have you, of the African people. 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.
Then there is the Indian foreign minority group. This group came to this country not as imperialists or colonialists, but as indentured labourers. In the South African set-up of today, this group is an oppressed minority. But there are some members of this group, the merchant class in particular, who have become tainted with the virus of cultural supremacy and national arrogance. This class identifies itself by and large, with the oppressor but, significantly, this is the group which provides the political leadership of the Indian people in South Africa. And all that the politics of this class have meant up to now is preservation and defence of the sectional interests of the Indian merchant class. 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. 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 center and content of any struggle for true democracy in South Africa. And the African people can be organized only under the banner of African nationalism in an All- African Organization 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 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 me will be citizens of a common state and will live and be governed as individuals and not as distinctive sectional groups.
In conclusion, I wish to state that the Africanists do not all subscribe to the fashionable doctrine of South African exceptionalism. Our contention is that South Africa is an integral part of the indivisible whole that is Africa. She cannot solve her problems in isolation from and with utter disregard of the rest of the continent. 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 Africa these very antagonisms and conflicts. Further, multi-racialism is in fact a pandering to European bigotry and arrogance. It is a method of safeguarding white interests irrespective of population figures. In that sense it is a complete negation of democracy. To us the term “multiracialism” implies that there are such basic inseparable 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. We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans for Africans, with everybody who owes his only loyalty to Africa 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 moderns society. 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 Africa. Come and sit under its shade and become, with us,
leaves of the same branch and branches of the same tree. Then Sons and Daughters of Africa, I declare this inaugural convention of the Africanists open! IZWE LETHU


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