Johannesburg – In what could get tongues wagging, the SACP’s Solly Mapaila has dismissed PAC founder Robert Sobukwe as someone who was favoured by the apartheid regime.
Mapaila was the main speaker at a dialogue celebrating the Rivonia Triallists at Liliesleaf Farm, Sandton, on Tuesday. Attended largely by SACP and ANC youth, the dialogue marked 29 years of Nelson Mandela’s release.
Launching a controversial attack on the late Sobukwe, one of the revered figures in the fight against apartheid, Mapaila said the PAC founder lived a better life on Robben Island and could not be forgiven for that.
Mapaila said he was airing these views on Sobukwe for the first time. “I’ve not said it anywhere else but it’s important that I say it to you,” he told his audience.
“Sobukwe left the ANC on the basis of its acceptance of white people. But, the thing that I said I’m going to speak of for the first time, is that when our leaders were on Robben Island they were incarcerated.
“They were ill-treated, treated as slaves. They went to the quarry to crush stones every single day because they were being punished,” said Mapaila.
He said the house in which Sobukwe was jailed in solitary confinement on Robben Island was evidence that he was treated better.
It was widely recognised that Sobukwe was jailed alone because the apartheid regime feared him for his intellectual prowess, but Mapaila believed this was far from the truth.
“The apartheid government decided to treat Robert Sobukwe as the only political prisoner and others as terrorists. That’s why they built him a house,” said Mapaila.
“That’s why when you go to Robben Island, there’s a (house) there. Others got cells, Sobukwe stayed in a house. He had freedom. He had a full house. He had a radio,” said Mapaila.
“He was treated as a political prisoner when our leaders were treated as slaves, terrorists and criminals.
“That is unforgivable, although we don’t deny that he was a revolutionary. I’m saying this not because he was anti-communist, but that is unforgivable.”
Mapaila also addressed the country’s race issue, reminding his audience that the ANC and its alliance partners subscribed to non-racialism.
This principle entailed accepting white South Africans as fellow citizens, said Mapaila.
“South Africa is not just made up of Africans.
“At the moment, we have no less than 11million white compatriots. You can’t wish them away. They are here. They have a birthright,” Mapaila said.
“If there’s one thing that you cannot take away from somebody, it is their birthright. They belong here. We can’t see them as other South Africans or other people. They are part and parcel of us.”
Mapaila also told an anecdote of a granny he met in Bekkersdal, during a door-to-door campaign, whose home was surrounded by sewage waste.
The granny had kept the ANC’s flag she carried at the 1955 Women’s March, said Mapaila. “Despite our ill-treatment of people with poor services, they will never leave the ANC because they come too far with the party,” he added.
“Those of us who have the privilege to be leaders in our movement, we must try our best to serve our people. We are but servants of our people,” Mapaila said.