REMEMBERING A GIANT OF AFRIKAN LIBERATION: THE MEANING OF MUZIWAKHE LEMBEDE 73 YEARS LATER

By: Veli Mbele

African people have been told time and again that they are babies; that they are an inferior race; that they cannot achieve anything worthwhile by themselves or without a white man as their “trustee” or “leader.” This insidious suggestion has poisoned their minds and has resulted in a pathological state of mind. Consequently, the African has lost or is losing the sterling qualities of self-respect, self-confidence and self-reliance.

Even in the political world, it is being suggested that Africans cannot organise themselves or make any progress without white “leaders.” Now I stand for the revolt against this psychological enslavement of my people. I strive for the eradication of this “Ja-Baas” mentality, which for centuries has been systematically and subtlely implanted into the minds of the Africans.’-Muziwakhe Lembede

Yesterday, the 30th of July, marks the 73rd anniversary of the mysterious death of the founding president of the ANCYL, uMkhulu uMuziwakhe Lembede. I doubt there will be any political event of national significance to mark this important and historical moment.

Lembede was without a doubt one of the most gifted Afrikans that ever lived. At 33, he had helped found the ANC Youth League, coherently articulated its Afrikan Nationalist philosophy, which helped shape the basic policies of the ANCYL and later, the ANC’s epoch-shaping 1949 Programme of Action.

Photo: Supplied

His theoretical and ideational contribution didn’t just help radicalise the ANC, but also injected the concept of the Afrikan liberation project into South AfriKKKa, with the long-standing and global radical pan afrikanist ideas of Paul Kufi, Edward Blyden, Martin Delany, Marcus Garvey and others. The influence of his philosophical thought on that of fellow Youth Leaguers like Oliver Tambo, Mangaliso Sobukwe, Rolihlahla Mandela, Walter Sisulu, among others, is indisputable.

This is why it continues to be very odd that many of the people he mentored (ideologically speaking), receive more mention than him in popular political discourse. In fact, Lembede has been reduced to a political footnote. Why is this the case? If you study the essence of Lembede’s thought and outlook you will realise it goes directly against the now dominant liberal ideas that many of his former Youth League League Comrades later adopted.

For instance, Lembede insisted that the leadership of the Afrikan liberation project should be an Afrikans-only affair; that the land belongs to Afrikans and Afrikans alone and that Afrikans must prosecute their liberation project on the basis of indigenous worldviews. Finally, he insisted that Afrikans must be critically suspicious of European worldviews such as communism or Marxism.

Photo: Supplied

A careful study of the basic policy documents of Lembede’s/A P Mda’s ANCYL leads to the conclusion that the adoption of such documents as the Freedom Charter in 1955 (which precipitated the departure of some ANC members to go and form the Pan Africanist Congress), was a direct counter to the growing Lembedean Afrikanist outlook within the ANC.

At the time of his death in 1947, Lembede had acquired 3 academic degrees via UNISA. A BA, LLB and MA in Philosophy. It said he was intending to enrol for his doctorate at the time of his death. This means he was destined to acquire his fourth degree. As a consequence of this debate, our movement, the Black Power Front (BPF), wrote to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to obtain clarity on what process to follow to enable a formal inquest into the death of this great Afrikan liberation fighter.

This process is on-going. Lembede is too much of an important figure for us as Afrikans to allow for his work and legacy to wither away or for him to be demoted to a footnote in our resistance history. This disturbing state of affairs around his contribution and that of others of his calibre like uBaba uSolomzi Mda, should disturb any self-respecting Afrikan and jolt us into acting.

To mark the 73rd anniversary of his death, we as #Mutapa hosted one of the most gifted and energetic Afrikan Nationalist thinkers, writers and activists of our era, Mwalimu Jackie Shandu. Mwalimu Shandu reflected on the life and the meaning of this colossus called Muziwakhe Lembede. It was facilitated and broadcasted live on the Facebook account: Vuyisile Mshudulu. Please check out his account to watch the video.

Camagu ❤🖤💚

#LembedeLives #AfrikanNationalismLives #AfrikaForAfrikans

Veli Mbele is an Afrocentric essayist, political historian, secretary of the Black Power Front and co-founder of #Mutapa.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vernac News.

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