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The legacy of Robert Sobukwe 41 years since his death

By Zuko Komisa

As we enter the 25th year since ushering our democracy in 1994, we are reminded of our liberation fighters who devoted their lives to the cause. Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe died on this day 41 years ago.

His contribution to the struggle was his strong conviction and his advocacy of radical black consciousness which resulted in the apartheid state instituting the ‘Sobukwe Clause”. The clause was evidence of the fear the government had of Sobukwe’s ideas.

A giant in the nation’s struggle who in his life wore many hats. Sobukwe was founding member and first president of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), lecturer, lawyer as well as the Fort Hare University SRC President. He was imprisoned on Robben Island from1963 to 1969.

Zandi Radebe a Lecturer at Unisa’s Department of Political Sciences describes Sobukwe as a person with a deep understanding of our history who challenged the system head on.

“We do not appreciated some of the reasons why Robert Sobukwe was incarcerated, even after he had served his sentence. There is something about the man’s ideas, and his principles. When you think about what he was able to do in the 1960’s in Sharpville, when he said to black people you need to put down the dom pass which continues to enslave you and demand to be arrested. There is something fundamental and physiological that happens for the people who were being oppressed at that time.”

The legacy of Robert Sobukwe 41 years since his death

Photo: AFP

Thami ka Plaatjie, a former secretary general of the Pan Africanist Congress, who is writing a book on Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe spoke of the kind of person he way in his earlier day.

“What made Sobukwe who he was the sheer power of his personality, a prodigious personality, everyone he came across melted at his being, a towering intellectual par excellence. Collonialist teachers that taught him at Hiltown were all in agreement that here is a student we are not likely to produce in a millennium in our ranks. Sobukwe stood out.”

The legacy of Robert Sobukwe 41 years since his death

Photo: Peter Magubane

Today Sobukwe continues to be a celebrated stalwart, an important political figure in the struggle of the democracy of our nation, an agitator of complete emancipation whose powerful ideologies of setting free the mind of an Africa echoing through generations.

Mike Siluma spoke to Thami ka Plaatjie, Zandi Radebe who looked at the legacy of Mangaliso Sobukwe, his views about race, land, Pan Africanism and his life on Robben Island. Listen to the full conversation here:

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