Benjamin Pogrund’s Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe: New Reflections is a medley of refreshing contemplations.
This must-read book features chapters by Kwandiwe Knodlo, Bobby Godsell and Ishmael Mkhabela, among others.
The opening chapter by Pogrund himself is perhaps the most profound in reflecting on the life and work of Robert Sobukwe.
Pogrund incorporates a deep respect for Sobukwe’s humility, an appreciation for his enthusiasm with African centred politics and the sobriety of his leadership.
The various authors touch on a number of pertinent issues amongst which you will find Paul Verryn’s thoughts on xenophobia’s destructive anti-African message, Claudelle von Eck’s experiences with internalised racism & gender, and Willem Pretorius’ careful contemplation of land reform.
Andrew Walker paints a touching image of his journey towards appreciating the political endurance of Sobukwe.
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Duma Gqubule reinvent borrowed memories of Sobukwe’s childhood and his life outside of politics.
Through these and other chapters we find out more about this man that has become the struggle’s best-kept secret.
Sobukwe was a diligent student who showed leadership qualities even during his early years in a township adjacent Graaf-Reinet.
A brilliant scholar of literature and history who was not afraid to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, his peers affectionately termed him ‘Prof’.
Sobukwe has been described as a deeply religious man, a fantastic friend, a devout husband and father.
What led to his arrest in 1960 was perhaps also a tenant of his selflessness and people-oriented leadership.
During the Sharpeville demonstrations, Sobukwe vowed to stand on the frontlines together with the people he cared so deeply for.
Rather than using the masses as his political shield and spear, he wanted only to protect them from the fascist regime.
It was his optimism and disciplined character that carried him through years spent in solitary confinement on Robben Island.
Perhaps the book could have done without Adam Habib and Alexandra Leisegang’s rant on inert civility.
I gravitated much more towards the excellent chapter by Ishmael Mkhabela, who enjoyed an acute understanding of Sobukwe’s politics, and who demonstrates the necessity for People’s Power in the face of oppression, touching on Sobukwe’s ungovernability and lust for justice at any cost.
After all, Sobukwe was a fierce leader with a powerful presence.
It was Sobukwe’s PAC that led people into the streets while the ANC begged at the feet of the Crown.
Sobukwe was a powerful voice for radical, Africanist politics.
Why else would the apartheid regime lock him away in solitary confinement for years, then release him into house arrest to live out the rest of his time completely disarmed by military watch?
Why else would the leadership of the ANC be so afraid to utter his name, lest their voice shakes at the recognition of his unapologetic criticism of them?
Today, our nation is littered with issues that Sobukwe both predicted and addressed nearly fifty years ago.
The failures of the ANC and the rise of popular politics, such as that of the EFF, are amongst these issues.
Sobukwe’s wisdom and courage are what is sorely needed in the building of our nation.
Despite the assault by the African National Congress on the life and legacy of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, a new generation of leaders have both recognised and begun to honour this phenomenal individual.
Despite there being not a single recording of what has been described as Sobukwe’s charismatic speeches; his voice grows louder every day in our collective minds.