Can Sobukweism create a new Africa?

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa November 27, 2021
Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. Photo: History Mag

O Africa!

Like some great century plant that shall bloom

In ages hence, we watch thee; in our dream

See in thy swamps the Prospero of our stream;

Thy doors unlocked, where knowledge in her tomb

Hath lain innumerable years in gloom.

Then shalt thou, walking with that morning gleam,

Shine as thy sister lands with equal beam.

This poem was read as the last part by Pixley Ka Isaka Seme on April 5, 1906, during his famous ‘The Regeneration of Africa’ speech he gave at Columbia University in America.

Seme had started off the speech with the words: “I have chosen to speak to you on this occasion upon “The Regeneration of Africa.”

“I am an African, and I set my pride in my race over against a hostile public opinion. Men have tried to compare races on the basis of some equality. In all the works of nature, equality, if by it we mean identity, is an impossible dream! Search the universe! You will find no two units alike.”

This speech was to lead to a new era of African nationalism and the Struggle against colonial conquest in Africa.

And in 1912 Seme led the formation of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which later became the African National Congress (ANC). Seme would later defect from the ANC and join the All African Convention (AAC). He died in 1951.

Although African Political Consciousness intensified in the 1870s, it became a significant factor from the 1880s within the African political realm. Among the early organizations formed were: Native Voters’ Vigilance Association, Native Education Association and the temperance body, the Independent Order of True Templars.

And the high degree of political unity among Africans in the Cape was achieved in the 1890s and would lead in 1902 to the formation of the Cape Native Voters Association.

In the ensuing debates since decolonization on the total liberation of Africa, various ideologies and political programs have been suggested to be ideal for the complete emancipation and independence of Africa. One such philosophy is African nationalism, which according to many has shaped the Struggle for the liberation of the African continent, but somehow has subsided due to an elitist clique.

But in Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, African nationalism moved to higher levels.

Sobukwe joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in 1948 and was elected president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) of Fort Hare University. In 1952, Sobukwe gained the South African authorities’ attention when he backed the Defiance Campaign. He identified with the Africanists within the ANC.

In 1957, Sobukwe left the ANC to become editor of The Africanist newspaper in Johannesburg.

In a speech he delivered at Fort Hare in 1949, Sobukwe said: “You have seen by now what education means to us: the identification of ourselves with the masses. Education to us means service to Africa. You have a mission; we all have a mission. A nation to build we have, a God to glorify, a contribution clear to make towards the blessing of mankind.”

Sobukwe added: “That is why we preach the doctrine of love, love for Africa. We can never do enough for Africa, nor can we love her enough. The more we do for her, the more we wish to do. And I am sure that I am speaking for the whole of young Africa when I say that we are prepared to work with any man who is fighting for the liberation of Africa WITHIN OUR LIFETIME.”

Sobukwe strongly believed in an Africanist future for South Africa. He was against any model that would suggest working with anyone other than Africans. Sobukwe defined an African as anyone who lives in and pays his allegiance to Africa and who is prepared to subject himself to African majority rule.

Sobukwe said: “I wish to make it clear again that we are anti-nobody. We are pro-Africa. We breathe, we dream, we live Africa; because Africa and humanity are inseparable.”

“We have made our choice. We have chosen African nationalism because of its deep human significance; because of its inevitability and the necessity to world progress. World civilization will not be complete until the African has made his full contribution,” he said.

The ANC had been formed in 1912, and this was followed by a string of nationalist political parties established in almost all African colonies during the 1950s, and their rise was an important reason for the decolonization of Africa.

A group of Africanists from the ANC broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania (PAC) on April 6, 1959. They noted that the ANC had been captured by white communists of the SACP, and they rejected the Freedom Charter of 1955, saying it was a betrayal of the Struggle for Freedom.

However, some news reports from the time suggested that the Africanists were actually expelled from the ANC.

Sobukwe who became founding President of the PAC better contextualized African Nationalism: “We regard it as the sacred duty of every African state to strive ceaselessly and energetically for the creation of a United States of Africa from Cape to Cairo and Madagascar to Morocco”.

Sobukwe was adamant that hate was not part of our Struggle. He powerfully attested: “Moreover a doctrine of hate can never take people anywhere. It is too exacting. It warps the mind. That is why we preach the doctrine of love, love for Africa. We can never do enough for Africa, nor can we love her enough. The more we do for her, the more we wish to do.”

African nationalism primarily is made of African philosophy, African socialism, Afrocentrism, Black nationalism, Garveyism, Négritude, Nkrumaism, Rastafari, Sankarism, Third International Theory, and Ujamaa.

Sobukweism should be included to give strength to African nationalism.

Even an idea of Bikoism must be entertained in honor of the humanitarian work of Steve Biko, ‘The godfather of Black Consciousness in South Africa’.

Colonialism caused a cultural, economic, social, political genocide on the indigenous peoples of Africa, and still to a greater extent, influences how Africans live, eat, drink, wear, read, watch including what we listen to. The colonial legacy has led to an identity crisis and a continent that still looks if not entirely dependent on its “former colonial rulers” to run its affairs more than 70 years since the first countries gained liberation.

All the Sons and Daughters committed to Africa’s total emancipation need to revisit and revive African nationalism to arrive at the next chapter of our Struggle for the total liberation of all our people.

African nationalism is broadly accepted as an umbrella term which refers to a group of political ideologies, mainly within Sub-Saharan Africa, which is based on the idea of national self-determination and the creation of nation-states, some activists have stated.

In its originality, African nationalism was based on demands for self-determination and played an important role in forcing the process of decolonization of Africa.

Although African nationalism is understood to refer more to a broad range of different ideological and political movements, it has often found a partner with Pan-Africanism, which according to some of its proponents, seeks the federation of several or all nation-states in Africa.

In the case of African nationalism, early nationalists as a result of the continental genocide due to colonialism had hoped to overcome ethnic fragmentation by creating nation-states.

In its earliest period globally, African nationalism was inspired by African-American and Afro-Caribbean intellectuals from the Back-to-Africa movement who imported nationalist ideals unfolding in Europe and the Americas at the time.

Regrettably, the early African nationalists are reported to have been elitist and believed in the supremacy of Western culture but sought a greater role for themselves in political decision-making; this was done at the expense of their people.

However, it is revealed that one of the challenges faced by nationalists in unifying their nation after European rule was the divisions of tribes and the formation of ethnicism.

African nationalism intensified as a mass movement in the years after World War II caused by wartime changes in the nature of colonial rule as well as social change in Africa itself.

Painfully, according to proponents, nationalist leaders struggled to find their own social and national identity following the European influence that controlled the political landscape during the colonial occupation.

“African nationalism in the colonial era was often portrayed purely in opposition to colonial rule and was therefore frequently unclear or contradictory about its other objectives,” they say.

African nationalists of the period have also been criticized for their continued use of ideas and policies associated with colonial states. The Regeneration of Africa has been left in the hands of elites who don’t think much or care little to nothing about the African masses they claim to be representing.

The conversion of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) has yet to prove fruitful for the continental masses, compared to what is happening in the European Union (EU).

The current generation of African leaders seems to be inspired by the former colonial masters for everything including their education, culture and policies they promote.

On the vision of Africa, Sobukwe explained at the PAC Inaugural Speech, April 1959 that “besides the sense of a common historical fate that we share with the other countries of Afrika, it is imperative, for purely practical reasons, that the whole of Afrika be united into a single unit, centrally controlled. Only in that way can we solve the immense problems that face the continent people”.

Sobukwe declared, “Let me plead with you, lovers of my Africa, to carry with you into the world the vision of a new Africa, an Africa reborn, an Africa rejuvenated, an Africa re-created, young AFRICA.”

More broadly, Sobukwe declared, “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!”.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 27, 2021


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