The Political Spirituality of Robert Sobukwe’s Leadership – does it hold relevance in South Africa, post 1994

The University of Fort Hare (UFH) Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies, in partnership with Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Trust (RMST), hosted the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Tribute Lecture under the theme: “The Political Spirituality of Sobukwe’s Leadership – does it hold relevance in South Africa, post 1994?”. The 27th February 2019 marks 41 years since Robert Sobukwe passed on. He is known for the critical role he played during the liberation struggle.

The University of Fort Hare’s ABC Hall was packed to capacity when Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg addressed more than 600 people who attended the lecture. Amongst others, Interim DVC: Academic Affairs Prof Hendriks and other UFH Senior Managers, representatives from the Robert Sobukwe Trust, PAC Members, whom some of them work for the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, former UFH Deputy Vice Chancellor Institutional Support: Prof Gilingwe Mayende, UFH president of Convocation: Mr Solomzi Tshona, SAUS President: Mr Misheck Mugabe, UFH Post Graduate Students President: Mr Wandisile Sixoto , PASMA student organisation members and also members of the public were some of the dignitaries present on the day.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe studied at the University of Fort Hare when education was so racialized against Black Africans; and he is one of the unsung heroes who stood by his values and principles both as a student at Fort Hare and as one of the founders of PAC and subsequently its President.  

Prof Kondlo referred to the lecture as a tribute lecture to integrity. “Robert Sobukwe was and will always be a remarkable son of the soil, his footsteps in history shall never be erased” said Prof Khondlo. He spoke robustly on the values that Sobukwe stood for and was not apologetic about delivering the tribute lecture to Robert Sobukwe. He declared that he is not a political activist but responds to issues in his personal capacity and as a scholar of politics. He meted that he was not hunting for any political favours in passing views about Robert Managaliso Sobukwe.

Prof Kondlo went on to say that he felt that the role of Robert Sobukwe still needs to highlighted and made known especially to young people.  “Robert Sobukwe is described as a very gifted human being and a thought leader” Prof Kondlo also unpacked how Sobukwe’s enemies labelled him as a political looser because of the current state of the PAC. However, some great leaders whom Prof Kondlo interviewed, the likes of the late Mr Elliot Mfaxa and the late Mr Ggobose also attested about Sobukwe’s personal demeanor, trustworthiness and sharp intellect. He lamented “all I want to say to those who see Sobukwe as a failure, they are getting it completely wrong”.

Prof Kondlo strongly believes that Robert Sobukwe is not celebrated enough in today’s political discourse. “Sobukwe is the only political leader in our country’s liberation struggle whose voice you will never find” he alluded. He commended the Centre of Transdisciplinary studies under the leadership of Dr Dondolo for organising the lecture.

“The Land question was at the heart of Robert Sobukwe’s political emancipatory discourses. The return of land to the dispossessed majority was Sobukwe’s condition for authentic national liberation. Without resolving the land question one cannot claim to have resolved the national question,” said Khondlo.

Given the current situation in our country, Prof Kondlo concluded by saying “it is going to require strong thought leadership with moral authority to turn-around South Africa’s situation”.

By Sihle Makasi