MdhlelaIt is difficult to understand fully, without second-guessing, where the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) is headed to, or whether it will ever, in this lifetime, become a cohesive and united political organisation, as envisaged by its founder-president, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, some 65 years ago when the organisation came into existence.
It is difficult to diagnose what path the PAC seeks to carve for itself, or whether the factions that are weakening the Africanist party will ever coalesce and smoke a peace pipe.
As I write, the PAC is a divided organisation led by several leaders, each of whom purports to be the rightful leader. Out of this, several questions must arise: if the PAC goes to bed with the newly formed MK Party, is this action shared by all groupings?
Might this not antagonise or muddy the waters of reconciliation, if that moment would come in the distant future?
Certainly, there may be views that might be at odds with the thinking – of the PAC throwing its lot with a rival organisation whose foundational policy and ideology are at variance with what the PAC originally stood for.
Because we do not have the benefit of a crystal ball to fully understand what may be going on within the disparate factions, the logical summation of the matter must be that we may all be in the dark, or at best, our attempt to be speculative may not take us far in terms of arriving at a satisfactory answer to pass muster of truthfulness.
Seeking to understand the conundrum that mystifies the PAC, I once ventured to ask the die-hard PAC member, whose membership has been dormant for donkey’s years, what he thought of the PAC as the situation prevails presently.
He is a man of substance whose name I will not divulge but who joined the PAC as a high school lad of 15 at its inaugural launch at the Orlando Communal Hall in 1959. He never forgets the moment Sobukwe ascended the stage of a packed hall together with other enthusiastic followers of the brand-new PAC that had broken ties with the ANC.
“It was an electric moment, he says, “and every person in the hall was moved by the oratory skills of the man of the moment – Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe – elected the founding president of the Africanist movement that would a year later in 1960 spearhead the anti-pass law protest marches in various parts of the country, culminating in the Sharpeville massacre in which the apartheid police would shoot and kill 69 or more non-
violent protesters and injure more than 269 people.”
What do you think of the PAC as the situation prevails today, I asked him. The answer was crisp and succinct: “I will have nothing to do with the PAC as things stand today. If it does not unite and do what the Prof (Sobukwe) would have ordered, the PAC must forget about having me return to it.”
I am reconstructing his words. They were said some 15 years ago. The words came from the man who dearly loved Sobukwe, and what the Africanist movement stood for, and not, in his words, the shadow of an organisation the PAC has become. “I am certain that, in his grave, the Prof would turn his eyes away from the PAC today because it would not be recognisable to him in its present form; it is not the PAC he knew; it is not the PAC he wants; it is the PAC that should not speak on his behalf, because to do so desecrates his name, and his legacy.”
These words are hard but understandable. Sobukwe was not a “charterist”. He and his comrades, including Potlako Leballo and others, broke away from the ANC after the Congress of the People, led by the ANC, endorsed the Freedom Charter, a policy document Sobukwe and his friends were at odds with.
The MK party is an offspring of the ANC, and subscribes de facto to the prescriptions that accord with the charterist movement. How then, can the PAC leader in parliament, Mzwanele Nyhontso, stand before Sobukwe and look him in the eye, and not be ashamed, that by his action of endorsing the MK party, he might be contradicting the principles his predecessor – and ancestor – Robert Sobukwe – stood for?
- Mdhlela is the acting new editor of Sunday World, an Anglican priest and former editor of the South African Human Rights Commission journals