Robert Sobukwe

By: Neelam Sandhu

Early Life

Robert Sobukwe was born on December 5th, 1924 as Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. He was born to a lower class, poor family in Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Robert's mother, Angelina was a cook and domestic worker in a local hospital. His father, Hubert, was a wood-cutter and municipal laborer. Robert was the youngest of five children.
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Sobukwe received primary education in a mission school in his town. His high school education lasted six years at the Healdtown Institute, but was temporarily interrupted by a brief bout with tuberculosis.

Although it was uncommon for black youths to go to university, Robert Sobukwe was awarded a grant from the South African Department of Education and another loan from the Bantu Welfare Trust. Because of this, Sobukwe went on to Fort Hare University . There, Sobukwe's interest in politics was fueled by his lecturer, Cecil Ntloko, who inspired Robert to be politically active.

Fight Against Apartheid

Sobukwe and three of his friends and peers founded the daily anti-apartheid publication Beware in 1948. Later that year, Sobukwe joined the ANC Youth League (African National Congress Youth league) and became a leading member along with Nelson Mandela.

Sobukwe's activism flourished, and he was later elected as the president of the Fort Hare Students' Representative Council (SRC). He was a very effective speaker, rousing many black citizens to support the anti-apartheid cause.

As he continued to work with the ANC, however, Sobukwe realized that his views conflicted with the ANC. He believed that the future of South Africa should rest in the hands of the black population, and not minority groups such as whites or Indians.

Career in Pan Africanist Congress

In 1959, Sobukwe left the ANC and formed the new Pan Africanist Congress. As the party's president, Sobukwe advocated for black empowerment, leading to the formation of the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1960s and eventually inspiring the Soweto Uprisings of 1976. Robert Sobukwe is most famous for his involvement with the PAC, yet he also is known for being the head of a national protest against Pass Laws, in 1960, that also got him imprisoned in Robben Island. After his imprisonment, Sobukwe was released in 1969 and put on house arrest until his death.
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Sobukwe's We Will Win Speech (Date Unknown)

Sobukwe: 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. FORWARD THEN, TO INDEPENDENCE NOW, TOMORROW THE UNITED STATES OF AFRICA!


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