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Today [27 February], we pause to remember one of the great warriors of our race, uBaw’uHlathi, uMangaliso Sobukwe. 41 years ago, on this day, he died mysteriously at the Kimberley hospital (now Robert Sobukwe hospital), in the Land of Kgosi Galeshewe.

So feared was Sobukwe that, in an unprecedented move, the illegitimate-racist-European-regime designed legislation that was tailor-made for him. This was mainly done to limit the spread of his influence and in particular what the settler regime described as “his magnetic personality”.

In a poem dedicated to him, the elder and revolutionary poet, uBab’uDonato Mattera says of Sobukwe “men feared the fire of his soul”. Even in death, they continue to fear “the fire of his soul”.

Like many of the authentic voices of pan-Africanism, globally, today, there continues to be a conscious-pro-white project that is geared towards erasing Sobukwe’s name from popular memory and ensuring that the agenda of pan-Africanism (the total and unconditional independence of the African race)—doesn’t triumph.

In spite of the diabolic project to erase Sobukwe and pan-Africanism, his ideas remain irrepressible. In fact, his ideas have found renewed articulation in the form of the #RhodesMustFall moment and the related call for Afrocentric education by Black students in the white criminal settler colony referred to as South Africa.

It can also be legitimately argued that even movements like the Economic Freedom Fighters, have drawn substantially from the ideas of Sobukwe, particularly as it relates to the land question and the question of African unity.

Like many of the warriors of our race, who didn’t just give their very lives to Black peoples’ quest for liberation, but also never sold their souls to any of our race-enemies, uBaw’uHlathi occupies a special and honourable place in the hearts of Black people, the world over.

Given where we find ourselves today as a race (at the bottom of the human pyramid)-there is an urgent need for a critical re-study and re-articulation of his ideas, with the view to give impetus and proper context to the historically-evolved-globalised and now aborted project of Black liberation.

41 years later, we as a race, are in serious trouble. We are lost, confused, and leaderless and above all, agendaless. Just look at the state of the richest continent in the world-Africa. Africa is in a pathetic state, to say the least!

In view of all this, I can’t help but wonder: today, are those movements that define themselves along pan-Africanism or black consciousness- pursuing the same agenda for which Sobukwe suffered and gave his life?

So what should remembering Sobukwe mean today? Remembering Sobukwe today can’t be reduced to periodically writing glowing essays about him, changing the names of public places or buildings.

Or hosting elitist-ritualistic-cheese sandwich gatherings in his name. To remember Sobukwe today should mean, among others, to continue asking those difficult, discomforting, unpopular and unresolved questions (about the Black condition) that others prefer to avoid.

To remember Sobukwe today should mean to openly say or advocate for those things that others prefer to say only in the safety of their living rooms (for those Blacks who have living rooms).

To remember Sobukwe today should mean to refuse to be part of the neo-colonial project that seeks to reduce our race-agenda to nothing else but a perpetual lust for the crumbs that fall from the bloody table of those who murdered, raped and robbed our ancestors.

To remember Sobukwe today should also include openly calling for a formal inquest into his mysterious death and the deaths of many other Black people, who died mysteriously under the illegitimate-racist-European regime.

Above all, to remember Sobukwe today must mean to have the courage to look each other in the eye as Black people and ask: what price are you prepared to pay for the liberation of your race?

uBaw’uHlathi was indoda emadodeni (a man among men). A gladiator who never equivocated when the hour came for him to engage in combat with the enemies of our ancestors.

This is why Sobukwe is so dear to us. This is why the “fire of his soul” continues to ignite our souls. This is why we choose to remember Sobukwe.


* Veli Mbele is an author, essayist and activist.