Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)


The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) is a political party whose presence in the South African political landscape spans just over half a century. The PAC’s origins came about as result of the lack of consensus on the Africanist debate within the African National Congress (ANC). When the Freedom Charter was adopted at Kilptown in 1955, those who championed the Africanist ideological stance felt that this was a betrayal of the struggle. The deepening of political differences broke out into the open in November 1958. At the Transvaal provincial congress of the ANC, 'Africanist' members were excluded from the hall. This group of people resolved to break away from the ANC and form a political party. On 6 April 1959 the PAC was formed at Orlando Community Hall in Soweto. Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, an ardent Africanist, who was key to the breakaway, was elected as its founding president and Potlako Leballo as secretary.

On 21 March 1960 the PAC launched a peaceful anti pass campaign across the country. Members were called upon to leave their passes at home, gather at police stations and present themselves for arrest. People responded in large numbers particularly in Sharpeville, Langa and other places. In Sharpeville, the police opened fire killing 69 people and injuring 180 others. Subsequent to this, the PAC was banned and thousands of its members were arrested while others skipped the country and went to exile. In 1961 the PAC launched its armed wing Poqo, later renamed the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA) to launch the armed struggle against the apartheid government.

Despite organisational problems in exile, the party survived until it was unbanned together with other political organisations in February 1990. The PAC initially refused to participate in the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations, but took part in the 1994 elections obtaining 1.3% of the vote. The PAC continues to exist as an opposition political party that is represented in parliament.

This feature focuses on the history of the PAC’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. "Topics" outlines the chronological events in the organisations's history, written in chapters. “People” lists the PAC office bearers linked to their biographies and other people connected to the PAC. The “Timeline” covers the period of the PAC; its formation in 1959 to 2011. An archive of PAC history related documents, articles, books and thesis will be included under “Media Library”. Lastly, “Organisations” lists those organisations that are historically related or were at some point affiliated to the PAC.