It is an odd fluke that these two men arrived on and departed from this Earth on the same date, albeit almost a century apart: Robert Sobukwe was born on December 5, 1924 and Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013.
Initially counterparts in the ANC Youth League, their profound tactical differences and deep ideological and intellectual divides were apparent early on. Their proximity is all the more bizarre given the consistent and deliberate erasure of Sobukwe’s contribution to the Azanian and, indeed, global African lexicon in contrast to the effusive celebration that Mandela enjoyed in both life and death.
The schisms between the two men emerged as early as the 1940s, when the ANC Youth League was formed to respond to what South Africa’s youth believed to be the inertia of the struggle. Sobukwe, Anton Lembede and AP Mda were among the leading lights who galvanised the Defiance Campaign and strongly opposed the policy of multiracialism, which they deemed to be a dangerous mechanism to privilege minority rights.
Sobukwe was dissatisfied with the growing influence of the white-led Communist Party of South Africa and, by 1956, became part of the Africanist group. He diagnosed the colonial question by saying: “The Europeans are a foreign group which has exclusive control of political, economic, social and military power. It is the dominant group. It is the exploiting group, responsible for the pernicious doctrine of white supremacy, which has resulted in the political humiliation and degradation of the indigenous African people.”
Read the rest: Mail & Guardian