"The State of the Nation." Address by R. M. Sobukwe, on "National Heroes' Day," August 2, 1959

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"The State of the Nation." Address by R. M. Sobukwe, on "National Heroes' Day," August 2, 1959

 

Mr. Speaker Sir, Sons and Daughters of Afrika. Just over three months ago, on the 6th April, we met in the Communal Hall in Orlando, Johannesburg, to launch the ship of freedom?the Pan-Africanist Congress. On that historic day the African people declared total war against white domination, not only in South Africa but throughout the continent. On that day there entered into the maelstrom of South African politics an organisation dedicated to the cause of African emancipation and independence; an organisation committed to the overthrow of white supremacy and the establishment of an Africanist Socialist Democracy.

 

Oppressed versus Oppressor

 

It is just over three months that the Pan Africanist Congress has been born, but within that short space of time she has successfully pinpointed the basic assumptions in our struggle, namely that:?

1. The illiterate and semi-literate masses of the African people are the key to, the core and cornerstone of the struggle for democracy in this country.

 

2. African nationalism is the only liberatory creed that can weld these masses who are members of heterogeneous tribes into a solid, disciplined and united fighting force; provide them with loyalty higher than that of the tribe and give formal expression to their desire to be a nation.

 

3. The struggle in South Africa is part of the greater struggle throughout the continent for the restoration to the African people of the effective control of their land. The ultimate goal of our struggle, therefore, is the formation of a United States of Afrika. These pronouncements have struck a responsive chord in the hearts of the Sons and Daughters of the land, and awakened the imagination of the youth of our land while giving hope to the aged who for years have lived in the trough of despair. Indeed, the aged can now truly say:

 

"Lord now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy will:

For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."

 

The issues are clear-cut. The Pan-Africanist Congress has done away with equivocation and clever talk. The decks are cleared, and in the arena of South African politics there are today only two adversaries: the oppressor and the oppressed; the master and the slave. We are on the eve of a continental showdown between the forces of evil and the forces of righteousness; the champions of oppression and the champions of freedom. Realising this, the oppressor is panic-stricken and is making feverish preparations for a last-ditch stand in defence of white supremacy. On the other hand, the forces of freedom are gathering strength from day to day, disciplining, nerving and steeling themselves for the imminent struggle.

 

Afrika for Africans

 

Once again, as in 1949, the African people are waiting expectantly and eagerly the emergence of a bold and courageous programme from the Pan Africanist Congress, an organisation that has its roots among the masses, and whose leadership comes from their loins. Not only has the Pan Africanist Congress succeeded in raising the eyes of our people above the dust of immediate conflict to the genuine democracy that lies beyond the stormy sea of struggle, but it has imparted a meaning and a purpose to their struggle. The African people, therefore, are awake! They are waiting, waiting eagerly and expectantly, waiting for the call, the call to battle, to battle for the reconquest of the continent of Afrika which for over 300 years has been the prostitute of the philanderers and rakes of western capitalism. I ZWE LETHU I AFRIKA (Africa must come back)?that is the cry ringing throughout the continent. Afrika for the Africans. (A democratic rule of an African majority.) IZWE LETHU I AFRIKA! Those are the words that spell the doom of white supremacy in Afrika.

 

Position in the Continent

 

Throughout the continent of Afrika the struggle is being relentlessly waged against the historical anachronisms of imperialism, colonialism and white supremacy. Precious African blood is flowing in Algeria, where the Sons and Daughters of Afrika, under the courageous leadership of Ferhat Abbas of the government of Free Algeria are paying the supreme sacrifice for the recovery of the destroyed shrines.

 

Greater and greater efforts are being made by the independent countries of Afrika to mould, shape and assert the African personality, and to lay the foundations for a United States of Afrika. Just recently the heads of the States of Ghana, Guinea and Liberia met in conference to discuss methods of furthering the cause of Pan Africanism.

 

In Tanganyika, Nyerere is fighting for the revision of the multi-racial constitution imposed on the African people by imperialist Britain, and is pressing for the practical application of a non-racial democratic principle of "one man one vote". In Uganda, as our Bulletin stated, "British imperialism is locked in mortal combat with African nationalism." In Central Afrika tension is going high, and there is clear evidence that in the struggle between Kamuzu Banda and Roy Welensky, Banda will emerge triumphant. In fact, the signs are that not only Nyasaland but also Northern Rhodesia as well, will secede from the unholy federation of Welensky and Lennox-Boyd.

 

South Africa

 

Throughout Afrika, then, the forces of white supremacy are in retreat before the irresistible march of African nationalism. This is the era of African emancipation. Afrika holds the stage today. For the first time, positive action is being taken by the world against the inhuman policies of South Africa's white settler foreign minority governments. And the countries that have taken the lead in this worldwide boycott of South African goods are the countries of Afrika and those governed by people of African descent. And in South Africa, what is the position? Well you all know, that there has been talk from certain quarters of "hitting the nationalists in the stomach." We would have used the word "belly", but responsible, moderate leaders, you see, do not use such ugly words. There was such talk then, and lists were prepared. But immediately one so-called "nationalist concern" made certain sectional trade union concessions, it was no longer a nationalist controlled firm, and its products were no longer nationalist products. The old meaningless stunts are still being used by certain quarters. But there is a boycott of beerhalls launched by the courageous women of Durban?a movement originating from the masses and controlled by them. Nobody doubts its success. The evidence is there for all to see. If their "friends" do not interfere with the Durban women they will undoubtedly achieve their goal?acquiring for the African in Durban the status of human beings. There is also the potato boycott which, while commanding the active support of all persons because of the atrocities perpetrated by white farmers against African convict labourers, has unfortunately been handled by the quarters aforementioned. The result has been that these quarters which fear the militancy of the African people more than they loathe oppression, are hoping and praying that the boycott will fizzle out before they are compelled to call it off.

 

What of the Pan Africanist Congress?

 

We are met here today to commemorate our national

 

Heroes' Day. We are, today, going down the corridor of time and renewing acquaintance with the heroes of Afrika's past?those men and women who nourished the tree of African freedom and independence with their blood; those great Sons and Daughters of Afrika who died in order that we may be free in the land of our birth. We are met here, today, to rededicate our lives to the cause of Afrika, to establish contact, beyond the grave, with the great African Heroes and to assure them that their struggle was not in vain. We are met here, Sons and Daughters of our beloved land, to drink from the fountain of African achievement, to remember the men and women who begot us, to remind ourselves of where we come from and to restate our goals. We are here to draw inspiration from the heroes of Thaba Bosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile's kop, Keiskama Hoek, Blood River and numerous other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader. We are here to draw inspiration from the Sons and Daughters of Afrika who gave their all to the cause and were physically broken in the struggle. We are met here, Sons and Daughters of Afrika, to take a trowel in our right hand and a shield and sword in our left, to commence the tremendous task of rebuilding the walls of Afrika.

 

We are gathered here, today, to reiterate our resolve to declare total war against the demi-god of white supremacy. We are here to serve an ultimatum on the forces of oppression. We are here to say Afrika must be free. We are here to make an appeal to African intellectuals and businessmen, African urban and rural proletariat, to join forces in a determined, ruthless, relentless and total war against white supremacy. We say to waverers and fence-sitters, choose now, tomorrow may be too late. Choose now, because very soon we shall be saying, with biblical simplicity, that He who is not with us is against us.

 

PAN AFRICANIST CONGRESS Programme

 

The decks are cleared. The battle must be joined. Therefore, Sons and Daughters of the soil, in the name of the National Working Committee of the Pan Africanist Congress, I announce the STATUS CAMPAIGN?a campaign which once launched will not be called off until our goal is achieved. This is an unfolding and expanding campaign, involving the political, economic and social status of the African. It is all-embracing and multi-frontal, but is itself part of our unfolding and expanding dynamic nation-building Programme. Details of the campaign have already been circulated to all regions, with specific instructions that Branches be encouraged to discuss the campaign freely and frankly. I shall, therefore, not outline the campaign here, but shall deal instead with the objectives of this campaign.

 

Mental Revolution

 

We have stated in the past, in all our documents, that whatever campaign is launched by any liberatory movement worth the name, must at all times be related to the ultimate objectives and must assist in building the fighting capacity of the masses.

Now for over three hundred years, the white, foreign, ruling minority has used its power to inculcate in the African a feeling of inferiority. This group has educated the African to accept the status quo of white supremacy and Black inferiority as normal.

 

It is our task to exorcise this slave mentality, and to impart to the African masses that sense of self-reliance which will make them prefer self-government to the good government preferred by the A.N.C.'s leader. It must clearly be understood that we are not begging the foreign minorities to treat our people courteously. We are calling on our people to assert their personality. We are not hoping for a change of heart on the part of the Christian oppressor. We are reminding our people that they are men and women, with children of their own and homes of their own, and that just as much as they resent being called "kwedini" or"mfana" or"moshemane" by us?which is what "boy" means?they must equally resent such terms of address by the foreigner. We are reminding our people that acceptance of any indignity, any insult, any humiliation is acceptance of inferiority. They must first think of themselves as men and women before they can demand to be treated as such. The campaign will free the mind of the African and once the mind is free, the body will soon be free. Once white supremacy has become mentally untenable to our people, it will become physically untenable too, and will go. I am absolutely certain that once the STATUS CAMPAIGN is launched, the masses will themselves come forward with suggestions for the extension of the area of assault?and once that happens, the twilight of white supremacy and the dawn of African independence in this part of the continent, will have set in.

 

Soft Campaign:

 

Certain quarters have accused us of being concerned more with our status, with being addressed as "Sirs" and "Mesdames" than with the economic plight of the African people. Our reply is that such accusations can come only from those who think of the African as an economic animal?a thing to be fed?and not as a human being. It is only those who have been herrenvolkenised by their herrenvolk environment, people who have no idea whatsoever of the African personality, who can expect us to be lick-spittles in order to get more crumbs from the oppressor. Others again, have said that we have chosen a soft campaign, without any risks, because we fear to challenge apartheid totally. Let it be clear that we are not fighting just apartheid. We are fighting the whole concept of white supremacy. And we are fully aware of the nature and size of our task. And we will not shirk it. Right from the beginning of the campaign, the leaders will be in front. They will picket the concerns that are to be boycotted. And they will do so under our slogan of "no bail, no defence, no fine." And that slogan will not be changed until we land on the shores of freedom and independence.

 

Clarion call:

 

We therefore call first of all on the members of the Pan-Africanist Congress who are the hard core, the advance guard that must lead the struggle and on the African people in general. All of them, without exception, must wait for the call. They will be kept informed of every step we take. And when the call comes, we expect them to respond like a disciplined people. There is plenty of suffering ahead. There is plenty of suffering ahead, [sic] The oppressor will not take this lying down. But we are ready. We will not go back. Come what may. This campaign will be maintained, unfolded and expanded until Masiza's question is answered:

 

" Koda kube nini Nkosi Zonke izizwe zisinyasha pantsi kweenyawo?" (Until when, oh Lord, will all nations trample us under foot)?until we can answer "no more". We will go on, Sons and Daughters of Afrika, until in every shanty, in every bunk in the compounds, in every hut in the deserted villages, in every valley and on every hill top, the cry of African freedom and independence is heard. We will continue until we walk the streets of our land as free men and free women, our heads held high. We will go on until the day dawns when every person who is in Afrika will be African and a man's colour will be as irrelevant as is the shape of his ears. We will go on, steadfastly, relentlessly and determinedly until the cry of "Afrika for the Africans, the Africans for humanity and humanity for God" becomes a reality; until government of the Africans by the Africans for the Africans is a fait accompli.

 

We will not look back. We will not deviate, and as the heat of oppression mounts we shall become purer and purer, learning new lessons, and leaving all the dross of racialism and similar evils behind to emerge as a people mentally and physically disciplined, appreciative of the fact that:

 

There is only one man in the world, And his name is All men. There is only one woman in the world, And her name is All women.

 

Sons and Daughters of Afrika, we are today on the threshold of a historic era. We are about to witness momentous events. We are blazing a new trail, and we invite you to be, with us creators of history. Join us in the march of freedom. March with us to independence. To independence now. Tomorrow the United States of Afrika.

 

IZWE LETHU!!

Last updated : 03-Apr-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Apr-2011