Comrade Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo was a founding member of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and an architect of the Sharpville Uprisings. On 1 June 2014 he passed away. He leaves behind a family, friends, fellow visionaries, a proud history and an as yet unfulfilled vision for Azania.
On the eve of an historic event in South Africa which exploded the myth that Africans would remain slaves of apartheid colonialism forever, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the founding president of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), despatched three members of his PAC National Executive Council (NEC) outside of the country. They were Peter N. Raboroko, Peter H. ‘Molotsi and Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo. These PAC leaders were the first from South Africa to meet President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. They operated from his country, spreading their liberation message throughout the world.
Veteran ‘Nana’ Mahomo, then about 30 years of age, was one of the architects of the national campaign called the ‘Positive Action Campaign’. Its results demonstrate its uniqueness.
The best way to pay my tribute to Veteran Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo is to call those who witnessed the political events of those days and their effects, which included the deaths of 84 PAC supporters who became martyrs in what is now internationally known as the ‘Sharpeville Uprising’, ‘Sharpeville Day’ or what the United Nations called the ‘International Day For The Elimination of Racial Discrimination’. That was as a result of sending out Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo and other PAC representatives to champion the struggle outside of South Africa’s borders.
Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth, writing about the Sharpeville Uprising said, ‘The seventeen days that shook South Africa, indeed, the entire world from 21 March this year [1960"> have forced an irrevocable turn in the history of the country ...The Pan Africanist Congress actively intervened in their affairs and ushered in a new period, rich in historical perspective and pregnant with political possibilities for the democratic movement … Sharpeville has become the symbol. It was through it that, men and women in the world became acquainted with the problem of apartheid in South Africa’.
For the first time ever – as a result of the Sharpeville and Langa Uprisings on 21 March 1960, led by the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania – the supreme body of the United Nations, in honour of the PAC martyrs who sacrificed their lives on March 21 March 1960 at Sharpeville, Langa, Evaton, Vanderbyl Park and other places in the country, the United Nations General Assembly, through its Resolution 2396, declared 21 March International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination. This happened because Pan Africanist Congress leaders like ‘Nana’ Mahomo had left the comfort of their homes and dedicated themselves to the liberation of their country and humanity.
Dr. Ismail Mohammed, a Mathematics lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, was absolutely correct regarding the significance of the Sharpeville Uprising when he wrote, ‘Sharpeville stands out as a turning point in our history. In the aftermath of the Sharpeville Uprising, when the full horrible magnitude of the tyrant became clear, the lines were drawn to determine the destiny of our country’ (The Natal Mercury, 18 March 1981). Veteran Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo, as a founding member of the PAC and an architect of the uprising, contributed immensely to this ‘turning point in the history of our country’.
The United Nations Special Committee was formed as a result of the Sharpeville Uprising and the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations General Assembly was brought about by the PAC representatives at the United Nations. The United Nations gave observer status to the PAC and African National Congress (ANC) as recognised liberation movements from South Africa as a result of the PAC campaign, waged with the support of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The PAC had prepared a paper pointing out that South Africa was a British colony which Britain had never decolonised.
Confirming the PAC’s key role, Professor Tom Lodge has written, ‘In November 1974 PAC lobbyists succeeded in obtaining the expulsion of South Africa from the United Nations General Assembly and in July 1975 the Organisation of African Unity Meeting in Kampala (Uganda) adopted as official policy a long document prepared by the PAC arguing the case for the illegality of South Africa’s status’. Veteran Mahomo served the liberation of the African people in Azania with remarkable dedication and perseverance. This was despite insults hurled at him by his political opponents.
Commenting on the impact of the Sharpeville Uprising, ,the renowned Professor Z.K. Matthews of Fort Hare University, who was also once the Treasurer-General of the ANC, wrote in the Imvo newspaper in 1961:
‘There have been many groups that broke away from the ANC....None of them survived. The Pan Africanist Congress is an historical exception. It broke away from the ANC and launched the Sharpeville Uprising on 21 March 1960, which had a unique national and international significance and changed the cause of history in this country [South Africa">. It prompted a first visit ever by a United Nations Secretary-General. The PAC launched the most significant movement for South Africa’s international isolation.’
Nana, as founder and Secretary for Culture of the Pan Africanist Congress, made a tremendous contribution to this movement. In fact, Mahomo’s organisation became the pace setter in the politics of South Africa until Pollsmoor, Victor Vester, the Congress for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and the involvement of President Bill Clinton of America in the 1994 South Africa elections.
Nana Mahomo’s PAC was the first movement to form a military wing in South Africa. This was fifty-five years after Chief Bambatha had led the last war of national resistance against British colonialism in 1905. The military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, known as Poqo/African People’s Liberation Army (APLA), was formed on 11 September 1961.
Tom Lodge, who was a senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, has written: ‘The largest and most sustained insurrection in South Africa in modern times was mounted by Poqo, the under-ground wing of the outlawed Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) ... the persistence of the movement over relatively long time-span and over large geographical area, qualify Poqo to lay claim to be being the most sustained insurrection by blacks in modern times ... the PAC insurgents were very much more numerous than Umkhonto. In terms of geographical extensiveness, the numbers involved and its time-span, the Poqo conspiracies...represent the largest and most sustained African insurrectionary movement since the inception of modern political organisations in South Africa.’
Nana Mahomo organised not only scholarships for students from this country who wanted to further their education, but also weapons for his movement. He envisaged a country rid of greed and alarming economic inequalities. He loved knowledge and desired his people to acquire it on a massive scale, in all fields of life.
What of Robben Island Prison? This again ties Nana Mahomo to an important history. The first political prisoners, some sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, were PAC prisoners. The first batch of these freedom fighters was imprisoned on Robben Island on 12 October 1962. Mahomo was one of the organisers of books for political prisoners, allowing them to further their studies in Robben Island Prison. Jafta Masemola is the longest-serving prisoner on Robben Island in the history of South Africa. He was part of the first group of political agitators to be sentenced to life imprisonment. This was a response to the military impact of Poqo activities. There is no doubt that the world would never have heard of ‘Robben Island’ if the Sharpeville and Poqo Uprisings had not happened. Veteran Nana Mahomo and his co-founders of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania made this possible. History must be told as it happened and not to suit certain political interests.
Nelson Nana Mahomo’s lasting legacies, which will continue to remind lovers of freedom about Africa’s authentic liberation, include two widely acclaimed films, Phela Ndaba (End of Dialogue) and The Last Grave at Dimbaza, as well as his M.A. Thesis at Massachusetts University on the Pan Africanist Congress. The films were shot secretly right inside apartheid colonial South Africa and smuggled out of the country for information to the outside world.
An important thing that characterised Veteran statesman Nelson ‘Nana’ Mahomo was his spirituality. This he maintained until his departure to eternity on 1 June 2014. He was 84 years old, having been born in 1930. It is probably his deep spirituality that sustained him against the missiles of all his enemies.
He fought for a liberation where his people would have their standard of living uplifted, where no children would lack money to acquire education, where Africans would have a larger portion of their national economy and,, finally, where there would be equitable redistribution of land as demanded by African kings and by the pioneers of the modern liberation struggle.
Yes, it can be said that Nana Mahomo’s vision – like that of his President, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe – may have been delayed. But it shall never be destroyed, because it stands for the authentic liberation of the majority people of this country. Fighters for truth and justice do not die. They remain dynamos of inspiration and courage, no matter how dark the situation looks.
May The Mahomo Family, his children, his friends and all his Pan Africanist fellow visionaries be reminded and consoled by the fact that:
‘The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching our goals, but in having no goals to reach. It is not a calamity to die with ideals unfulfilled, but it is a calamity to have not ideals to fulfil. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars. But it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach.’
NELSON NANA MAHOMO HAD STARS TO REACH! MAY HIS SPIRIT RISE IN GLORY!
* Dr. Motsoko Pheko is a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several book such as The Hidden Side of South African Politics, The True History of Robben Island Must Be Preserved and 100 Years Native Land Act 1913 – Womb of African Poverty And Marikana Massacre.
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