Robert Sobukwe

Mollie Redman

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"There is only one race, the human race"

The Life of Robert Sobukwe

Born in Graaff-Reinet, South Africa in 1924, Robert Sobukwe and five other siblings were raised among poverty. Sobukwe's parents encouraged Robert to pursue an education. After attending high school at Healdtown, Sobukwe received a BA in English at the University of Fort Hare. It was not until he began studying Native Administration that Sobukwe became interested in politics. When Sobukwe became president of the Fort Hare Students' Representative Council he unveiled his inherent ability to give powerful speeches. Sticking to his beliefs that South Africa's fate should be determined by Africans, or anyone who is loyal to Africa, Sobukwe broke away from the ANC creating another anti-apartheid movement called the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959. As president of the PAC, Sobukwe organized an anti-pass campaign. The idea of it was to arrive at police stations without passes and demand arrest from the officers. Simultaneously, the Sharpville massacre took place as protestors peacefully stood up against the Pass laws. Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison, however he remained imprisoned for a total of eight years. This was the result of the General Law Amendment Act which included a specific clause granting the minister of justice power to extend the imprisonment singularly of Robert Sobukwe. The rest of Sobukwe's life consisted of house arrest until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1977. Due to the government's many restrictions on Sobukwe, it was difficult for him to receive treatment. In 1978, Sobukwe died of lung complications.
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"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, the leaves of the same branch and the branches of the same tree."

Significance to Anti-Apartheid Movement

Sobukwe's capabilities as a leader in the anti-apartheid movement were short lived due to the government's complete control over the Africans. The government's fear of Sobukwe's powers laid in his ability to move masses of people with his words. This gives explanation to the General Law Amendment Act which was put in place to specifically keep Sobukwe in jail. Furthermore, the anti-pass protests Sobukwe helped the PAC organize resulted in international awareness for the anti-apartheid movement. Although what happened in Sharpville on March 21, 1960 was horrific, it was evidence of the many injustices faced by Africans. For the first time throughout the anti-apartheid movement, an armed struggle for freedom began to form.
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"The wheel of progress revolves relentlessly. And all the nations of the world take their turn at the field-glass of human destiny. Africa will not retreat! Africa will not compromise! Africa will not relent! Africa will not equivocate! And She will be heard! REMEMBER AFRICA!"

We Will Win

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 NONVIOLENCE.

There are those in our own ranks who will be speaking irresponsible of bloodshed and violence. They must be firmly told what our stand is.

Results of violence: 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 grave-side 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 will be 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 gamble taking our first step in the march to African and the United States of Africa. And we are not leading corpses to the new Africa. We are breathing and dynamic youth of our 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 stoop 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 and 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 accent 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.

This is not a game. 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 falsehood 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.


Works Cited

Alexander, Mary. "Robert Sobukwe: South Africa's Non-racial Africanist." Robert Sobukwe: South Africa's Non-racial Africanist. South Afrca, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

Mandyol, Sinethemba Sembene. "Selected Speeches of Robert Sobukwe and a Mini-biography." Robert Mangaliso Sobukhwe Selected Speeches of Robert Sobukwe and a Mini-biography. pag. Word Press. Ilizwe, 27 Feb. 2001. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

"Robert Sobukwe." Anonymous. South African History. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.