The 5th Onkgopotse Tiro Memorial Lecture: Where Professor PLO Lumumba Missed the Mark

Published on 12th September 2017

eNCA must be applauded for the live broadcast of Onkgopotse Tiro's memorial lecture delivered by Professor Patrick Lumumba on the 8th of September at the University of Limpopo, Tiro's Alma Mater. 

The live broadcast was important in accentuating and disseminating Tiro's ideas and the role martyrs such as him played in South Africa's struggle for liberation. The lecture was also significant in inadvertently exposing the tendentious narrative of portraying one person and one organisation as having been the only one that took part in the liberation struggle as wrong, fallacious and misleading.

Tiro belonged to the Black Consciousness Movement which is today represented by the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) and other formations such as SOPA and Black Consciousness Party. The philosophy of Azapo and these other formations is Black Consciousness. Professor Lumumba didn't articulate  that very important fact clearly. Professor Lumumba obfuscated the issues further when he mentioned leaders South Africa produced who  he described as great. All of them were ANC leaders except Bantu Stephen Biko. He did not mention Anton Lembede, founding President of the ANCYL in 1944. He did not mention PAC leaders and only mentioned Robert Sobukwe as an after-thought when he spoke about Robben Island.

The first political prisoners to be jailed on Robben Island in modern history were PAC political prisoners and one of those political prisoners who was also the longest serving political prisoner on Robben Island was Jafta Masemola. Another great leader who went to Robben Island about thrice in his life time and was not mentioned by Professor Lumumba is Zeph Mothopeng. 

I am aware the lecture was about Tiro. However, if in a lecture about Tiro the presenter mentions Robben Island and people like Albert Luthuli, Albertina Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani and Ahmed Kathrada,  then that presenter must also mention Mothopeng, Masemola and Sobukwe prominently. (Professor Lumumba thinks Hani served time on Robben Island, no he didn't).

Lumumba mentioned Mrs Albertina Sisulu twice or thrice in his lecture as one of the great leaders. He is probably not aware of what Azapo and the family of their late fellow Black Consciousness activist Medical Doctor, Abubaker Asvat think of his assassination and Mrs Sisulu's silence on Dr Asvat killers. When Dr Asvat was gunned down in broad daylight, Mrs Sisulu was working at Dr Asvat's surgery and did not disclose the identities of his killers, in order to protect the culprit who had ordered the assassination.

 If Professor Lumumba did a bit of research, he would have found out that Sobukwe is regarded as the father of Black Consciousness of which Tiro and Biko were proponents. In his 1948 Fort Hare speech, Sobukwe said, inter alia, 'we are pro Africa and anti-nobody'. Black Consciousness activists in the late 1960's and early 1970's said they were pro black and anti-nobody'. In the same speech, Sobukwe spoke of mental and spiritual freedom. In his 1959 speech, Sobukwe spoke about mental liberation.

The struggle against Bantu Education which Tiro tirelessly fought was began by struggle icons such as Zeph Mothopeng in the early 1950's when that inferior education system was first introduced and he was expelled from teaching.

Professor Lumumba referred to Mahatma Ghandi as a great leader. Here in South Africa we know that Ghandi disparaged Africans.

I failed to understand why Professor Lumumba tried to make a link between ANC leaders and Tiro in his memorial lecture when some of these ANC leaders were directly or indirectly complicit in the assassination of Tiro and ultimate covered up in the TRC of their role and that of those who assassinated Tiro.

By Sam Ditshego

Sam Ditshego []

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