Nelson Mandela and Pan Africanism: The Lies That Bind

Published on 24th July 2018

One wonders if the South African Broadcasting Corporation Board read comments on Facebook that questioned why they showed a documentary claiming Nelson Mandela was a Pan Africanist. Those who posted those documents are basically accusing the SABC of spreading propaganda. I do not think the SABC hierarchy would want to be portrayed as purveyors of propaganda after rebranding the public broadcaster as “independent and impartial” after years of political interference dating back to apartheid years. There is currently a hearing on political interference at the SABC which has been kept under wraps. The SABC also suffered a blow recently when the court ruled against them upholding the judgement of a lower court. It appears the SABC’s woes won’t go away any time soon.

It is not for anybody to decide who is and is not a Pan Africanist but questions can be raised to establish the bona fides of Pan Africanists. In 2013, SABC radio hosted a US Professor who portrayed Mandela as a Pan Africanist and I wrote an article disputing the SABC’s line of reasoning. The host of that show and one of my favourite presenters, Ms Tsepiso Makwetla, did not ask that Professor relevant questions. Here is the link of the article in which those questions are raised

 The SABC never learn from history and have short memories. They think that the people who care about Pan Africanism and Pan Africanists have forgotten the Pan African Pantheon that they partnered to organise in the middle of last year at the University of Johannesburg and featured Adekeye Adebajo, Barney Pityana, Chris Landsberg et al. I criticised them until they ended up including Robert Sobukwe in their programme. If these are true Pan Africanists,  why did they attempt to exclude Sobukwe from their programme? Sobukwe holds Pan Africanist credentials and was recognised by other giant Pan Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Adel Nasser and Malcolm X.

If the SABC claims Mandela was a Pan Africanist, why did he preside over the suppression of Sobukwe’s ideas and attempted to destroy the PAC? What is Pan Africanist in holding secret talks with one’s oppressors and excluding compatriots one was with in the trenches and on Robben Island? What is Pan Africanist about the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996?

The people of South Africa are still struggling to get information about Sobukwe let alone know what he stood for. While they are struggling to know about Sobukwe, what he stood for is appropriated by the SABC and attributed to Mandela by the public broadcaster.

Universities and academics are equally guilty of suppressing information about Sobukwe. Early last year during the graduation ceremony at the University of South Africa which coincided with the 39th anniversary of the death of Sobukwe, the Master of Ceremonies Somadoda Fikeni and Vice Chancellor Mandla Makhanya failed to acknowledge the 39th anniversary of Sobukwe but mentioned the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko which was about eight months away. Sobukwe is remembered for having delivered the best graduation speech about seventy years ago that any university lecturer who speaks on a graduation day that coincides with the anniversary of the death of Sobukwe should not forget to acknowledge this intellectual giant who influenced the intellectual history of South Africa’s struggle for liberation and

The Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand Adam Habib told the Sobukwe Trust he had forgotten that Sobukwe was once a lecturer at that university. Tinyiko Maluleke thought it appropriate to defend the legacy of Mandela at the expense of that of Sobukwe after a debate “Did Nelson Mandela’s government set us up for Failure” on eNCA television that took place on Sharpeville Day the 21st March this year which eNCA has removed for the second time from the website in which Ms Lebohang Pheko, whose father Dr Motsoko Pheko is a former PAC President and MP, tore to shreds the narrative that portrays Mandela as the only person who is worthy of recognition to the exclusion of real leaders such as Sobukwe.

The people of South Africa are forced fed on the intellectual pap reinforced by the ANC, the South African and international media and the West that Mandela is an icon because they benefitted from his selling out the people of South Africa. What is particularly annoying is that the West insists on their white supremacist attitude of deciding for us that Mandela is a hero which is their condescending habit of choosing leaders for us which prompted me to write this article

Unfortunately, the SABC is failing dismally to rise to the occasion and become truly independent and impartial. The SABC claims it does not have audio and video recordings of Sobukwe but it is all a lie.

A public broadcaster should not take sides or push a particular agenda. Sobukwe is known as a Pan Africanist. If you want to promote Mandela for what he has not represented, try at least to also show what Sobukwe stood for. The public will choose between the lies about Mandela the SABC is purveying and the reality about what Sobukwe stood for.

By Sam Ditshego

The author is an independent researcher.

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