home Featured Return the land – the best way to honor Sobukwe

Return the land – the best way to honor Sobukwe

By BO Staff Writer

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born on December 5, 1924 – it is today 92 years since his birth. On a day like this we are always compelled to reflect on how best we should honor his legacy. 

BLF National Convener, Andile Mngxitama, has pointed out elsewhere that a striking contribution of Sobukwe was “his bravery and capacity to inspire a people to revolt as manifested in the Sharpeville protest which exposed once and for all the brutality and fascism of the apartheid regime,” hence further clarifying what the main contradiction of a colonised society is and what it will take to attain total freedom.  To this end Mngxitama correctly indicates that “[s]o effective was he (Sobukwe) that the apartheid regime kept him isolated from other political prisoners on Robben Island and even passed a special law to keep him in jail”. 

Sobukwe’s revolutionary legacy is defined by his elaboration of the resolution of the land question via its containment in the Freedom Charter (FC). He vehemently rejected the false solutions suggested in the FC regarding land redistribution. Sobukwe recognized, while he was still in the ANC, that the FC is fundamentally a multi-racialist  document. He was infuriated by its proclamation that SA belongs to all who live in it both black and white, and its suggestion of harmony between blacks as conquered and whites as conquerors in a pre-revolutionary anti-Afrikan country and by extension, continent. He grasped the intention of the FC all too well – that it was a mechanism to facilitate the surrender of Afrikan  birth rights to land and to consolidate whiteness via the clause “land shall be shared amongst those who work it”. Quite clearly he saw these provisions as being inconsistent with his vision that sought land return via decolonization and by necessity without payment. Hence the greatest honor we can bestow upon Sobukwe cannot be anything less than land return to the Afrikan majority.  

Sobukwe’s revolutionary commitment to returning the land to Afrikans is what caused him to leave the ANC which he saw as being destined on the path of neo-colonialism. He had prior to this made every effort via serious ideological battle to prevent the complete political diversion of the erstwhile progressive movement.

Sobukwe’s Pan Afrikanist vision is first and foremost based on the right of Afrikans to their birthright being the land. This is in line with the black consciousness standpoint of Steve Biko that all land in SA was stolen from blacks and that the FC fails to make this point and consequently fails to frame the fundamental question as that of white racism which in turn needs black solidarity to create the revolutionary encounter capable of producing an anti-racist black  socialist society. Without this revolutionary encounter we cannot arrive at an anti-racist socialist society even if we all “work” the country.

Land return without payment to the colonial land thieves is the only true tribute  to Sobukwe’s immortal contributions. Only then can we proudly say, Sobukwe did not live or die in vain!

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