In Search of History: Fact or Misrepresentation of South Africa’s History?

Published on 15th February 2016

The mainstream media space is occupied by editors, talking heads or pundits, analysts and media practitioners in general some of whom, frankly speaking, are almost invariably spewing rubbish. The monopoly of media space these people occupy confirm the truism that the media is free to those who own it. This also applies to publishing houses who publish information that gel with their ideological disposition. An example is a Grade 11 South African history textbook titled In Search of History published by Oxford University Press, with no year of publication, authored by J. Bottaro, P. Visser and N. Worden. The cover picture is a portrait of Nelson Mandela but has no single picture of Robert Sobukwe; yet he is mentioned in the book which is an affirmation of the aphorism that history is written in the corridors of power which vitiates the essence of the teaching history.

On page 131 the textbook says, “The non-racialism of the [Freedom] Charter became a fundamental principle of ANC policy. It defined the South African nation as belonging to ‘all who live in it, black and white.’ This non-racial nationalism is known as Charterism. The Freedom Charter is a strongly democratic development. Many thousands of South Africans, of all races and classes, contributed to writing the document and supporting it.” This is pure lies and propaganda.

The ANC espoused multi-racialism which Sobukwe condemned as racialism multiplied. Sobukwe and the PAC were the first to espouse non-racialism. The phrase didn’t exist in the English lexicon, let alone in the ANC vocabulary. As I said in The Star of 18 January 2016, when Sobukwe first spoke about non-racialism, the likes of Mandela and Walter Sisulu said there was no such word in English. So how could the ANC have spoken about non-racialism in the Freedom Charter when their leaders said such a word did not exist in the English language?

The PAC maintains that South Africa does not belong to all who live in it; it belongs to the African people. An African as defined by the PAC is a person whose only allegiance is to Africa and identifies with the aspirations of the African people. There is no reference to race, since Sobukwe believed in one race, the human race to which we all belong. He pronounced this in his 1959 inaugural address when the PAC was founded. I stated this in the 29 February 2012 Star article published under the headline, Intellectual with a Vision for Africa and in a Business Day article of 27 April 2015 headlined Sobukwe’s PAC Teachings Can Go A Long Way In Solving SA’s Problems.

In the Mail and Guardian of 5 February 2016 published under the headline, “It’s in the DNA: We are all one race,” University of Cape Town Professor Emeritus Tim Crowe confirms Sobukwe’s theory of one race, the human race when he concludes that article thus: In fact, it confirms the wise assertion by pan-Africanist leader Robert Sobukwe that there is only one race: the human race. Did the Freedom Charter mark a strongly democratic development? Not at all! When it was adopted, the Africanists within the ANC led by Sobukwe were physically removed from the venue of the conference because they wanted to know where that document came from and who its author was. Thugs were also hired to see to it that the Africanists were dealt with as Oliver Tambo said. Therefore, there was nothing democratic about the Freedom Charter and how it was adopted. How could many South Africans have contributed to writing the document and supporting it when there was resistance to its adoption within the ANC and its authorship questioned?

We now know from a book titled Young Mandela by David James Smith published in 2010, which I reviewed for the Sowetan, that the Freedom Charter was single-handedly drafted by Rusty Bernstein who was a member of both the South African Communist Party and Congress of Democrats. On the PAC, the textbook says that “However, not all ANC members accepted the non-racial approach of the Freedom Charter. A group, led by Robert Sobukwe, broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in1959. They accused the ANC of abandoning the ideals of the Youth League of the1940’s by moving away from ‘Africanism’ towards non-racialism. They felt that only Africans should lead the resistance movement, and they opposed the idea of working alongside non-African political activists. The Africanist slogan was Government of Africans, by Africans for Africans – in other words, black African interests had to come first and there should be no power-sharing.”

As I have already pointed out, the ANC espoused multi-racialism and not non-racialism therefore the author(s) of the textbook are misleading the students. The Africanists could not have rejected non-racialism when their leader coined that phrase. It is illogical for people to be against a concept that they formulated and embraced in their basic documents. The ANC spoke of non-racialism long after it was the PAC’s policy position and any honest historian must acknowledge this fact. They were mimicking the PAC. An example of this aping of the PAC was when Sobukwe refused to plead in court in the aftermath of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre  when he said he didn’t recognize the jurisdiction of the apartheid government over Africans because when their laws were enacted, Africans were not represented. Two years later, Mandela repeated almost the same thing in court. This book is deliberately misleading our children by teaching them that the Africanists accused the ANC of embracing non-racialism.

As I said, the ANC’s policy was multi-racialism. So how could the Africanists and Sobukwe have accused the ANC of a concept that even their leaders such as Mandela and Sisulu had not conceptualized? The best thing this book should have done was to publish Sobukwe’s entire inaugural speech so that the students can read for themselves what the PAC position is. However, Sobukwe’s inaugural speech can be read online.

If Africans could not have been in the forefront of their struggle against colonialism and racism, who did the authors of this textbook expect were supposed to lead the African people’s struggle for liberation? Was it not logical that Africans could not have been led by people other than Africans themselves? As Sobukwe pointed out, the PAC rejected tutelage and guardianship. There was nothing wrong with the Africanists’ slogan of Government of the Africans, by Africans for Africans since it could not have been government of European/Asians/ Americans by Europeans/Asians/American for Europeans/Asian/ Americans on the African continent. The authors put a spin on the name Africans to mean black Africans, but the Africanists spoke of Africans, not black Africans. Perhaps they spoke of indigenous people. On power-sharing, in keeping with the concept of non-racialism, Sobukwe was against exclusive rights for certain groups and classification of people as minorities instead of just being referred to as people. A book containing Sobukwe’s speeches is available, the authors of the textbook under discussion should get a copy for themselves or I can make mine available to them or the Ministry of Education.When writing social science textbooks, the Ministry of education should involve stakeholders like it is done in other countries.

The final point is one on the anti-pass campaign that culminated in the Sharpeville massacre. The textbook teaches our children that “Both the ANC and the PAC organized anti-pass campaigns in March 1960. This is another lie. It was the PAC that organized the March 1960 anti-pass campaign, invited the ANC and the ANC rejected the invitation through its Secretary General, Duma Nokwe. Nokwe’s letter rejecting the PAC’s invitation was published in the Sunday Times.

This history textbook which is nothing about African history. There is nothing on Great Zimbabwe and the Munhumutapa Empire, Mapungubwe, Babandianalo and other great empires and kingdoms of Africa. There is nothing on the savagery of the Atlantic slave trade and East African slave trade but there is so much about the holocaust, Russia, America, European doctrines such as the eugenics movement but nothing on Sobukwe’s and Frantz Fanon’s theories on the baseless doctrine of white supremacy. There’s nothing sourced from the great historian Cheikh Anta Diop and Basil Davidson. There is nothing on East Africa, North Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa. Nothing on Ethiopia, Nubia, Kemit or ancient Egypt, Nok civilization, ancient Ghana and Kongo for example and they call their textbook a history textbook. Perhaps the title In Search of History is appropriate; they must go and search more for history.

By Sam Ditshego
The writer is a fellow at the Pan Africanist Research institute.

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