During an address at Fort Hare University Completers’ Social sixty-six years ago, the twenty-four year old Robert Sobukwe quoted Marcus Garvey as having said, “You cannot grow beyond your thoughts. If your thoughts are those of a slave, you will remain a slave. If your thoughts go skin-deep, your mental development will remain skin-deep”.
In his book Long Walk to Freedom published twenty one years ago, the seventy six year old Nelson Mandela described Garvey as an “extremist”. It was as if Garvey and Sobukwe had Mandela in mind when they uttered those words. Indeed, Mandela could not grow beyond his thoughts. Yet the founding general secretary of the ANC Sol Plaatje (9 October 1876 – 19 June 1932) was the guest of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the early 1920’s after failed deputations to England; and Plaatje also met W.E.B. Du Bois.
The ANC’s black, green and gold colours of its flag were adopted from Garvey’s UNIA except that the ANC left out the red colour from its flag. The PAC also kept the black, green and gold colours because the PAC is the legitimate heirs to the 1912 ANC. The mouthpiece of Marcs Garvey’s UNIA was The Negro World publication. Sowetan’s predecessor was called The Bantu World modeled on Garvey’s Negro World.
Garvey, born 17 August 1887 and died 10 June 1940 was the most influential leader of African origin on the international scene and was not promoted by the corporate and imperialist media. In fact, the corporate and imperialist media denounced and downplayed him. He touched the lives of many Africans and people of African descent in a remarkable way. UNIA had over forty branches throughout the world. Garvey was an organizational genius one of Sobukwe’s strengths. The other attributes of Garvey and Sobukwe were charisma and singleness of purpose, the liberation of the oppressed African people all over the world.
He preached self-reliance and built the Black Star Line company. The first President of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama was one of the African leaders who were influenced by Garvey. After that country’s independence one of the development principles adopted by Khama was self-reliance in order to lessen Botswana’s dependence on the white settler minority governments that surrounded Botswana. One of Garvey’s famous quotes is, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. Khama’s quote was, “A nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past is a people without a soul”.
Other African leaders who were influenced by Garvey were Kenya’s first President and the father of the current President, Jomo “Mzee” Kenyatta; Kwame Nkrumah, Nmandi Azikiwe and many other post independence leaders including African American leader Malcolm X. Garvey influence a generation of Pan Africanist leaders such as the founding President of the ANCYL Anton Lembede. The writings of Lembede echoed the philosophy and ideology of Garvey. The PAC exhibits some Garveyite organizational philosophy and ideology such as rejecting the 1955 ANC integrationist approach to the African people’s struggle for liberation lest it diluted the objectives of the liberation. The PAC also believed in African nationalism and Pan Africanism. Some of the ideas of the Black Consciousness Movement are Garveyite -ideas such as uniting first as the oppressed blacks.
Africans in the Black Consciousness Movement are failing to notice the common thread that exists between the PAC and the Black Consciousness Movement. How do they explain the fact that newcomers can perform better than both of them combined? I am not assessing the strength of the PAC and BCM on the basis of manipulated electoral politics. But it begs the question why the PAC and BCM have splintered into so many groups. Don’t they have singleness of purpose like Sobukwe and Steve Biko - the liberation of the oppressed African people? Or are they perhaps under the illusion that Mandela and the ANC brought them liberation like one of the newcomers whose leader recently tried to rehabilitate the battered image of Mandela at a rally?
We are witnessing what Garvey revealed between 1916 and before he died that those blacks who died for whites and served the interests of the imperialist and white world were elevated. He exposed the white media and publishing companies for emphasizing issues that promoted their interests and said they deemphasized or ignored those issues that show Africans in a positive light. The white and imperialist world canonise Mandela because Mandela is an African who “died for white people” that is why the white world likes him so much. He is in history text books, in the media, everything and anything is named after him and there is a day set aside to celebrate his life. The imperialist and white world is interpreting our reality for us and we have accepted it.
Garvey also taught us that the oppressors can’t rely on their oppressors to free them. But Mandela and the ANC thought the oppressor can free us. They abandoned unity with the PAC and BCM and joined forces with the Nationalist Party which came to power in 1948 on a ticket of Apartheid and white supremacy. Mandela himself spent most of his life fighting to destroy the PAC. He tried to persuade Jafta Masemola, the longest serving political prisoner on Robben Island in modern times, to be part of the negotiations with the Nationalist Party. Masemola refused informing Mandela that he (Mandela) can’t negotiate from a position of weakness. Mandela told his white negotiating partners that Masemola unsettled him. Six months after his release from a twenty-six year jail term on Robben Island, Masemola died in a mysterious car accident. Masemola’s death bore all the hallmarks of an assassination. There are two books MI6: Sixty Years of Special Operations by Stephen Dorril and The Big Breach by Richard Tomlinson which reveal that Mandela was an MI6 agent and that MI6 has a big office in South Africa. Princess Diana died the same way Masemola died. It has been reported that MI6 specialises in assassinations that are disguised as car accidents. The PAC is failing to call for a probe into Masemola’s death and how they were cheated in the 1994 elections. The PAC is heavily infiltrated. The late Mr. Govan Mbeki is reported to have said Mandela was too ignorant to negotiate with FW De Klerk and was apparently placed under house arrest after his release from prison.
Like many great African leaders Garvey was destroyed, he was deported in 1928 from the United Stated following trumped up charges. However, as far back as 1919, the FBI’s Edgar Hoover wrote a secret memorandum discussion the deportation of Garvey on the grounds that he was associating with radical African America groups in New York. Let’s celebrate the birthday of a true leader and revolutionary on 17 August.
BY SAM DITSHEGO