December 5, a day that marks the birth and death of two great South Africans

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Today marks the birth and death of two men who shaped the history of South Africa. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, born on this day in 1924 and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, died on this day three years ago.

While much is written about Mandela, Sobukwe is the lesser known and celebrated hero of our struggle for freedom, human rights and non-racialism.

An African intellectual, lawyer, activists and first President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)….here’s an excerpt courtesy of SA History

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born to Hubert and Angelina Sobukwe on 5 December 1924 at Graaff-Reinet, Cape Province. He was the youngest of five boys and one girl. His father worked as a municipal labourer and a part-time woodcutter, his mother as a domestic worker and cook at a local hospital.

Sobukwe was exposed to literature at an early age by his oldest brother. His earliest education was at a mission school in Graaf Reinet. After completing Standard 6 he enrolled for a Primary Teachers’ Training Course for two years, but he was not given a teaching post. He then went back to high school, enrolling at the Healdtown Institute, where he spent six years studying with financial assistance provided by George Caley, the school’s headmaster, and completed his Junior Certificate (JC) and matric. Sobukwe’s schooling was briefly interrupted in 1943 when he was admitted to a hospital suffering from tuberculosis.

After completing his schooling he received a bursary from the Department of Education and an additional loan from the Bantu Welfare Trust, which enabled him to enrol at Fort Hare University for tertiary education in 1947. Sobukwe registered for a BA majoring in English, Xhosa and Native Administration. His keen interest in literature continued and became more focused on poetry and drama.

Sobukwe noted that before going to Fort Hare, he was not very interested in politics. It was his study of Native Administration that aroused his interest in politics. This new focus was fuelled by the influence of one of his lecturers, Cecil Ntloko, a follower of the All African Convention (AAC). Fort Hare was also the institution in which generations of young Black South Africans and Black students from other African countries were exposed to politics. These influences combined to make Sobukwe more politically active.

In 1948 Sobukwe and three of his friends launched a daily publication called Beware. Topics appearing in the paper included non-collaboration and critiques of Native Representative Councils and Native Advisory Boards. That same year Sobukwe joined the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), which was established on the university campus by Godfrey Pitje, a lecturer in the Department of African Studies who later became the league’s president. Sobukwe and his classmates were at first sceptical of the ANCYL because they felt that the African National Congress (ANC) had been compromised by its continuing participation in the Native Representative Council and the township Advisory Boards.

A year later, in 1949, Sobukwe was elected president of the Fort Hare Students’ Representative Council (SRC), where he proved himself to be an effective orator. His speech as outgoing president of the SRC in October 1949 established him as an important figure among his peers. In December he was selected by Pitje to become the National Secretary of the ANCYL. During this period he became influenced by the writings of Anton Lembede and he began adopting an Africanist position within the ranks of the ANC. During 1949 Sobukwe met Veronica Mathe at Alice Hospital, where she was a nurse in training. The couple got married in 1950.

In 1950, Sobukwe was appointed as a teacher at Jandrell Secondary School in Standerton, where he taught History, English and Geography. In 1952 he lost his teaching position after speaking out in favour of the Defiance Campaign. His dismissal, however, did not last long and he was soon reinstated. Although Sobukwe was secretary of the ANC’s Standerton branch from 1950 to 1954, he was not directly involved in mainstream ANC activities.

In 1954 Sobukwe moved to Johannesburg, where he became a lecturer in African Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand – a job which earned him the nickname ‘the Prof’. He settled in Mofolo, Soweto, where he joined a branch of the ANC. Sobukwe became editor of The Africanist in 1957 and soon began to criticise the ANC for allowing itself to be dominated by what he termed ‘liberal-left-multi-racialists’. In 1958 Sobukwe completed his Honours dissertation at Wits entitled “A collection of Xhosa Riddles”.

Read the rest about this brave and courageous South African here http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/robert-mangaliso-sobukwe

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