Remembering Robert Sobukwe, A Great Son of Africa

Robert Sobukwe was born on 5th December, 1924. Today, we at Edoofa remember him. Sobukwe’s fearlessness amidst the adversities of life in South Africa during the Apartheid Regime and speaking up against them is a source of inspiration to us all today. He was a political dissident and his opinions were considered extreme by the Apartheid Government, which considered him so dangerous that they enacted a specific clause in his name called the the “Sobukwe clause”, a statute which on its face seemed to grant broadly applicable powers, but was specifically intended to authorize the arbitrary extension of Sobukwe’s imprisonment, extending his original 3-year jail term.

Sobukwe’s views were more radical than those of the leaders of the African National Congress, he believed in the idea of “Africa For Africans”, and the very ideology of his political party was based on the idea that the South African Government should be constituted by the African people owing their allegiance only to Africa. In his inaugural speech for the party he founded, The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, Sobukwe stated:

“We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans, for the 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.”

Robert Sobukwe

Born to a poor family in Cape Province, South Africa, Sobukwe always had a strong desire for learning and education. He was educated locally and then went on to pursue his university education, after which he became a lawyer and a teacher. Often compared to Malcolm X due to his radical ideology, the Apartheid Government was extremely worried about Sobukwe’s meteoric rise among the African Consciousness as he spoke of the need for black South Africans to “liberate themselves” without the help of non-Africans. He defined non-Africans as anyone who lives in Africa or abroad Africa and who does not pay his allegiance to Africa and who is not prepared to subject himself to African majority rule. His strong convictions and active resistance inspired many other individuals and organisations involved in the anti-apartheid movement, notably the Black Consciousness Movement.

The Apartheid Regime decided to have him arrested which was a clear indication that his voice was now a powerful one. Following his arrest, Sobukwe was charged with and convicted of incitement, and sentenced to three years in prison. After serving his sentence, he was interned on the infamous Robben Island. The new General Law Amendment Act was passed, allowing his imprisonment to be renewed annually at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. This procedure became known as the “Sobukwe clause” and went on for a further three years. Sobukwe was the only person imprisoned under this clause. He was severely tortured in prison. 

When the Apartheid Government realised he was dying, they decided to release him from prison. Yet, still they feared him and so the Sobukwe Clause was not terminated but extended to be effective through a banning order that included not allowing him to be in the presence of more than five people.

To date, we are still looking for any recorded material of Sobukwe’s voice. We have heard radio speeches and seen television footage of the majority of our freedom fighters, but nothing of Sobukwe. Could it be true that he was not recorded audiovisually ever? Or is it more likely that he was feared so much that every recording of him was destroyed as a form of political censure?

Robert Sobukwe was a powerful voice in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and even in the larger narrative of Africa’s identity. He truly believed that the empowerment of Africa is the source of her liberation. He once spoke of the need for education to be of service to humanity; that education is the true source of this empowerment. At Edoofa, we believe this to be true. We believe education is indeed, the true source of empowerment.

With $7 Million worth of Scholarships and 1400 seats across the globe, Edoofa shares a vision with Sobukwe, to see Africa as a global leader of innovation, culture and growth. With this vision in mind, our global scholarship program has 400 Seats exclusively reserved for meritorious students across Africa. Admissions have started for the 2019 batch. For more information visit www.edoofa.com

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