January 9: History of the Bantu and the Split of the ANC

Today we first went to the Vooltrekker monument. Then we visited Freedom Park and ended the day with taking pictures at the Union Buildings.

The Vooltrekkers were a group of people who colonized the Zulu tribe in the 19th century. The Zulus and Vooltrekkers had a long history of conflict with each other, yet is was eventually the Vooltrekkers who defeated the mighty Zulu nation.

But although that supports the main purpose of today, it wasn’t what was really meaningful to my research. What was more meaningful was Freedom Park. There we learned about the challenges of commemorating South Africa’s history as a whole by observing all sorts of different perspectives on what the history of the nation should look like. Our tour guide was excellent in facilitating this, and challenged us to not just see history through the lens written by the victors.

This came to a surprise, as the museum was not just a institution glorifying Nelson Mandela and the rest of the ANC during the Anti-apartheid struggle. Rather, this museum gave us a great opportunity to see many important names from around the world in Anti-apartheid and other South African conflicts throughout the nations history. To my surprise many Cuban names appeared, including the controversial leader Fidel Castro. Many names from the United States also appeared, including big names such as Muhammad Ali and W.E.B Du Bois.

In the indoor exhibit of the museum, we took a look at ancient Africa. According to the fossil record, Africa is considered the birth place of humanity, and tons of imperial evidence suggests that humans migrated out of Africa to all other places around the world starting about 50,000 years ago into the Middle East and Asia and finishing around 15,000 years ago to the Americas. After the migrations however, Africa was divided into three separate regions of power. In Northern Africa from Morocco to the edge of the Egyptian region were the Maghreb people. Slightly below them were the Sudanese Sahel. What was amazing to see though was that most of Africa, including South Africa, was made up of the Bantu civilization.

The Bantu civilization embraced a spiritual practice known as “Ubuntu,” which basically represents the virtues of compassion and humanity. When the Europeans first came to Africa, the indigenous people treated them with the principles of Ubuntu. The start of all of the major conflict that would change the course of African History forever was when the Europeans thought of themselves as superior people and fought for African land through imperialism. The Vooltrekkers in particular would use an outlet such as religion, in particular Christianity, to justify their atrocities. Around the world we still see acts of violence being justified through religions and other belief institutions.

So why is that important in regards to my research? Because it seems as if the Ubuntu principles is what eventually prevailed and led to Nelson Mandela’s presidency in 1994. His perspective on handling the struggle was through non violent means, and his parties principles followed the Ubuntu principles.

What I found interesting and eye opening today was the discovery of what the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) principles actually were. Before this exhibition today I had some misconceptions about what the PAC stood for. The PAC split from the ANC in 1959 due to conflicting beliefs about the direction of South Africa as well as the African continent as a whole. Robert Sobukwe, a former colleague of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, also split from the ANC and became president of the PAC. Robert Sobukwe, as we learned during our tour of Robben Island, also turned out to be the most special prisoner on the island.

The PAC proclaimed that the government of South Africa should be run by Africans. But what I didn’t realize was that the PAC accepted anyone who accepted this to be a citizen and an African. Essentially what the PAC wanted was a congress more representative of the African majority rather than the white minority during apartheid. While the ANC probably had hoped to create a more representative government as well, the methods were not as aggressive, and it seems that why the split truly happened.

In 1990 when Mandela was freed from his 27 year incarceration, the ANC was declared a legitimate political party recognized by the state. However at the same point of time, the PAC still was not recognized. The question of debate is, should this have been the case? Mandela wanted political equality, but because the PAC was still illegitimate following his release, was there really full political equality? This is certainly something very interesting to ponder.

Following the trip to Freedom Park we ate lunch and then took pictures by the Mandela statue at the Union buildings.

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