PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa will on 28th April 2018 bestow Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe with the National Order of Luthuli for her tenacious fight for freedom and her steadfast support of incarcerated freedom fighters. She challenged the injustices meted out against the majority of South Africans.
Her son, Dini Sobukwe, will receive the award on behalf of the 90 year-old struggle stalwart and anti-apartheid activist affectionately known as the ‘Mother of Azania’, Significantly, Mama Sobukwe receives this long-overdue honour in the year which marks the 40th commemoration of the death under banishment of her husband, founding president of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and a liberation struggle icon, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.
The award will come exactly a day after South Africa celebrates 25 years since the dawn of democracy. Mama Sobukwe was nominated for the award by members of the Blackhouse Kollective in Soweto following the Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe Tribute Lecture dedicated in her honour during Women’s Month last year.
This is the first time that Mama Sobukwe’s contribution to the liberation struggle, which has otherwise gone uncelebrated and erased from history, is being honoured. The Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Trust (RMST) and the Blackhouse Kollective welcome this significant honour bestowed upon Mama Sobukwe as the first step towards the genuine and meaningful recognition of one of the nation’s least known and celebrated heroines. “My mother epitomises the collective experiences of many other Black women, whose roles and contributions to the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness. It is most befitting that the South African government decided to honour her as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death under banishment of Robert Sobukwe; we hope that more will be done to celebrate her and other women struggle stalwarts going forward,” said Sobukwe.
“Mama Sobukwe deserves the highest honour in our nation for her enduring resilience and quiet courage. A freedom fighter and a liberation heroine in her own right, she has suffered immensely for her family and the nation at large, without ever complaining or seeking attention. This award comes a little too late, but it is certainly fitting that she should be celebrated and honoured while still alive and in our midst”, said Zandi Radebe, Chief Executive Officer at the Blackhouse Kollective.
Here’s an excerpt from a tribute to Mama Sobukwe written last year by Thando Sipuye an Afrikan historian and a social scientist. He is an executive member of The Ankh Foundation, the Blackhouse Kollective and the Africentrik Study Group based at the University of Sobukwe (Fort Hare). He writes this article for the Blackhouse Kollective.
Born Zondeni Veronica Mathe on the 27th July 1927 in Hlobane in Natal, she got married to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe on the 6th June 1954 and, in line with African tradition and matrimonial rites of passage, she received the customary nuptial name of Nosango. She bore four children, Miliswa, Dinilesizwe, Dalindyebo and Dedanizizwe.
In her intriguing novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adiche Ngozi speaks about the “danger of a single story”, questioning ideas such as the potential of a single narrative to create stereotypes and perpetuate certain erasures.
Although women are the bedrock of society, and in fact, the primary nurturers of socio-economic and political revolutions, when history is told, their stories, contributions and experiences tend to be downplayed or erased.
If, and when, the stories of women are told, only those of the popular, already well-known and overly researched about women get retold slightly differently. Only those whose activism was masked by overt theatrics attract public interest and the imagination of scholars and artists.
The erasure, silencing and neglect of Mama Sobukwe must be read and understood through this lens, exposing the broader systematic project of erasing, neglecting and silencing ordinary Black women and their experiences.Mama Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many other Black women throughout the Afrikan continent and diaspora, whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.
Forgotten by the ignoramus oligarchs, politicians and authorities of the countries for which they and their beloved sacrificed their lives during the liberation struggle, a majority of them today rely on government pensions and grants to make ends meet.
Mama Sobukwe is a glaring example of this unforgivable shame.
The life story of this indomitable woman is one of constant neglect, pain and erasure. She embodies the totality of the ‘serve, suffer & sacrifice’ dictum coined by her husband, Mangaliso Sobukwe and his colleagues in the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC).The 90 years old resilient and strong ‘Mother of Azania’ who, although aged and frail, still spends time daily in her garden, is cast as an insignificant shadow of a feared man whose memory remains buried in secrecy and obscurity. She is rendered completely non-existent in her own right, she seems to have no humanity of her own, forgotten, erased and muted.
A simple Google search on Mama Sobukwe’s name tells the story of her enduring invisibility and erasure. Googling ‘Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe’ you only get three significant web-links that speak about her.
The most prominent of these is her 1997 testimony at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) regarding the complicity of the racist white-settler regime in poisoning Sobukwe, feeding him food with glass while incarcerated, denying him medical help when he got sick until his untimely death.
The complete article is here http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/zondeni-veronica-sobukwe-90-years-struggle-suffering-sacrifice/