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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)

The Pan Africanist Congress was formed by a group of renegade ANC members in Orlando, Soweto, on 5 and 6 April 1959. The breakaway group was led by members of the so-called Africanist movement. Along with the ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress is the only "official" South African liberation movement recognized by the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity.

The Africanists experienced many difficulties with the views of the ANC. They themselves were primarily members of the Youth League of the ANC, formed in 1944 under the leadership of Anton Lembede. Ac-cording to them, membership of the Youth League was open to all who "lived like and with blacks". They felt the ANC had made too many concessions in respect of oppression, and was incapable of promoting black liberation. The Africanists took the view that the Congress Alliance, because of its large number of white members, had diluted the traditional black nationalist position of the ANC. They felt blacks should be in control of their own liberation struggle, and should not be prompted by white liberals, including communists. According to the Africanists, the whites have too much to lose to be regarded as reliable allies.

They also rejected the Freedom Charter, mainly because of the guarantees it contained for minority rights. These guarantees, they felt, would entrench minority domination. The Africanists believed that the land which the white settlers had "stolen" from the indigenous people should be returned to the latter. They also rejected the ANC view that disciplined leadership was necessary for the struggle. Instead, they believed that if the notion of liberation was correctly propagated by the leadership, resistance would be spontaneously created among the masses. For the Africanists the armed struggle is the primary struggle and they support the principle that political power will never be relinquished and must therefore be seized by force.

The Azanian Manifesto which was accepted by the PAC in 1959 includes, among others, the following important aims and principles:

The struggle for national liberation must be against racist capitalism, which imprisons the people of Azania to the advantage of the small minority of white capitalists and their allies, ie the white workers and the reactionary middle-class groups.

Only the destruction of the system of racial capitalism can destroy apartheid.

The black working class, inspired by a revolutionary awareness, is the driving force in the struggle.

It is the historic task of the black working class and its organisations to mobilize the urban and rural poor so that, along with the radical groups of the middle class, they can bring an end to oppression and exploitation by the white ruling class. During this struggle one national culture, underpinned by socialist values, will emerge.

Important principles such as anti-racism and anti-imperialism, non-cooperation with the oppressors and their political instruments, independent working-class organisations, and opposition to alliances with ruling-class parties are part and parcel of the successful execution of the national liberation struggle.

Initially the Pan Africanist Congress had considerable success in mobilizing support. However, this sup-port was not countrywide. The PAC only gained significant support on the Witwatersrand, where its leaders were concentrated, and in areas such as the Vaal Triangle and the Western Cape, which had been neglected by the ANC. By the end of 1959 the PAC membership of 25 000 exceeded that of the ANC. The PAC's success was probably due to the fact that its message was simple and easily under-stood. It also promised to break the stalemate between the state and the black resistance movements. While the PAC tried to evade allegations of extremism and anti-white attitudes, its supporters in the organisation saw the opportunity of retribution for decades of oppression by whites. (In exceptional cases there was cooperation between the PAC and the Liberal Party, probably as a result of the rejection of communism by both organisations. The PAC's breakaway action can possibly be explained in terms of its strong anti-communist beliefs rather than its rejection of the Congress Alliance.)

One of the first campaigns to be launched by the PAC was the "status campaign". It was aimed at weaning the black population of its psycho-logical subservience, embodied in for example blacks' reference to white men as "haas" or whites' condescending reference to blacks as the "boy" or "girl". At the PAC's first annual congress in December 1959 it was decided to launch a positive action campaign to canvass mass sup-port. An anti-pass campaign was announced by the charismatic leader, Robert Sobukwe. With this campaign, he said, the organisation would be crossing its "historic Rubicon". The date for the launch of the campaign was 21 March 1960 to days before a similar ANC campaign was to be launched. There was little support for the PAC campaign in most parts of the country. In some black neighbourhoods there was military and police action Sabre fighter aircraft were even used to intimidate the crowds. In Sharpeville this tactic failed. In the early afternoon of 21 March 1960, 69 people were killed when police fired at crowds. Two people were also killed in the Cape Peninsula when police opened fire at a crowd of 6 000 in Langa.

After the Sharpeville tragedy and the arrest of most of the Transvaal PAC leadership, the situation calmed down. The shooting incident in the Cape Peninsula had the opposite effect, though. A week of protest and stay-away actions followed and on 30 March 1960, 30 000 blacks marched to Parliament. After negotiations with the police, the crowd dispersed. These events led to a massive government crackdown. All public meetings of more than to people were prohibited and a state of emergency was declared. On 8 April 1960 the PAC and the ANC were banned. (The event had such an impact that the ANC became more involved in the resistance after the Sharpeville incident.) In 196o the entire PAC leadership was sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment on the grounds of inciting violence.

After the banning, the organisation went underground. The leadership was taken over by members of the executive committee who had either evaded the police or been imprisoned for shorter periods. After his release from prison, Potlako Leballo took over as acting president of the organisation. At the same time the PAC headquarters moved to Maseru, capital of Basotholand (now Lesotho).

In the period following the banning of the organisation, militant PAC supporters formed a quasi-military movement, Poqo. (There is no clarity on the meaning of the word "Poqo". The generally accepted ex-planation is that it is an abbreviation of the Xhosa name UmAfrika Poqo, meaning "blacks only".) Initially this movement enjoyed considerably more support than the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. It was also more inclined to resort to violence. Poqo drew most of its support from the Vaal Triangle and the Western Cape. Violence committed by Poqo during the period 1962 to 1963 can be divided into four categories:

The murder of policemen and suspected police informers.

"Terrorist killings" in which whites were indiscriminately killed.

Assassination attempts on the lives of Transkeian captains and chiefs.

Attempts to organise a revolt against the state.

The first three categories were organised and executed by the Eastern Cape members of the organisation, while Leballo attempted to over-throw the South African government from outside the country. One of the most widely publicized attacks by Poqo members occurred on 22 November 1962 in Paarl when a group of Poqo members tried to free their comrades from a Paarl prison. The attempt failed, however. Two whites were killed and four wounded. This is one of the few instances in the political history of South Africa where whites were attacked in their own neighbourhood.

Leballo planned a massive revolt for 8 April 1963, during which thou-sands of Poqo supporters (or sup-posed supporters) were to attack strategic points and kill whites indiscriminately. However, he publicized these plans at a press conference two weeks in advance. The Basotholand police (today the Lesotho police) searched the PAC head-quarters and seized a complete list of Poqo members. The publication of these names enabled the South African police more or less to wipe out the entire organisation. By 1964 nearly 2 000 members had already been sent to prison. Consequently Poqo all but disappeared off the South African scene.

By the mid-sixties the PAC had ceased to be an important participant in South African politics. With the exception of odd attempts by guerrillas to infiltrate the country, the organisation was given little publicity. After 1968 the military wing of the PAC became known as the Azanian People's Liberation Army (Apla). More recently its slogan "one settler, one bullet" has attracted wide publicity. (According to Clarence Makwetu, current president of the PAC, this slogan neither was nor is part of the PACs policy. He stated this during his visit to Britain in April 1991.)

Attempts to form diplomatic and political ties with foreign states have not been very successful. At one stage during the sixties, after receiving aid from the People's Republic of China, the PAC shifted towards Maoism. (The PAC leaders who sup-ported the communist programme suggested that Chinese communists were also "non-white", and that their value system had not been tainted by European thought. This view was adopted to rationalize the former strong opposition to communism in the Congress Alliance.) However, the organisation's ties with China were short-lived and the pro-Chinese members were suspended from the movement.

The most significant characteristic of the exiled PAC was the devastating conflict between the different factions within the movement. During the sixties and seventies most of the earlier leaders of the organisation were suspended because of their opposition to the dictatorial and enigmatic leadership of Leballo. In 1979 the latter was finally forced to resign, and a group which had broken away from the PAC launched a competitive organisation, the Azanian People's Revolutionary Party. Thereafter a triumvirate took over the leadership of the PAC. The organisation moved its headquarters from Maseru to Lusaka, and from there to Dar es Salaam. During fighting in Dar es Salaam, attacks were launched on the three leaders, after which, Vusumazi Make took over the leadership. After Apla re-fused to execute the decisions of the executive committee, the entire military supreme command was suspended in 1979. This discord continued until John Pokela was appointed leader in 1981. (Pokela had been imprisoned on Robben Island from 1967 to 1980.)

In 1982 a number of PAC members whose political loyalties were suspect underwent "political re-education" in camps in Tanzania. Johnson Mlambo succeeded Pokela as chairman in 1985, and Zephania Mothopeng was elected honorary president in 1986 while still in prison.

After Mlambo took over the reins the Pan Africanist Congress appeared to undergo a revival. Mlambo complained that the Western media were prejudiced against the PAC, alleging that the Western perception of it as an extremist, radical and anti-white organisation lay at the root of the problem. Mlambo tried to change this image. According to him whites were part of the African future and every white who accepts the establishment of an "Africanist, socialist, democratic society" was welcome in a free Azania. Accordingly whites would also be welcome as individual members of the organisation, but joint actions with white groups were still rejected. Since 1986 the PAC has also made considerable progress on the diplomatic front. Late in 1986 and during 1987 the first official con-tact was made with the American and British governments. By 1988 this list had grown considerably. Despite these attempts, the PAC still remained in the diplomatic shadow of the ANC.

Gora Ebrahim, secretary of the PAC's department of foreign affairs, stated in 1988 that the PAC would under no circumstances negotiate with the South African government. This view was confirmed by Mlambo in January 1989. He also indicated that the central committee had decided to intensify the struggle on all fronts, and the armed front in particular. Later in the same year Mlambo criticized "elements in the liberation struggle" that were willing to participate in the negotiation process on the advice of the super-powers.

According to the PAC the only solution to the problem is "the return of the land to its rightful owners". This question of to whom the land belongs remains one of the fundamental differences between the PAC and ANC. While the ANC or Charterists believe the land belongs to everyone, the PAC mouthpiece The Africanist justifies the indigenous black nation's right to the land as follows: "The African people have an inalienable claim to every inch of the African soil. In the memory of humanity as a whole this continent has been the homeland of the Africans . . . Their migration in their fatherland does not annul their claim to the uninhabited parts of Africa ... The non-Africans are guests of the Africans . . . (and) have to adjust themselves to the interests of Africa, their new home."

The PAC was unbanned after F W de Klerk's historic speech on 2 February 1990. This meant that the internal leaders of the organisation were given more clout, and that the external PAC under the leadership of Mlambo in Dar es Salaam retained authority only over issues concerning the armed struggle and was obliged to report all its activities to the internal PAC under the leadership of Zeph Mothopeng, who died in October 1990. The then vice-president, Clarence Makwetu, and general secretary, Benny Alexander, have also served in the organisation for many years. The internal PAC will be responsible for the mobilization and recruitment of members. Clarence Makwetu is currently president and Benny Alexander is general secretary of the PAC.

In March 1990 the PAC publicized its position on negotiations in a letter to the Organisation of African Unity. It included the following points:

That a "one man, one vote" election for a constituent assembly, responsible for drawing up the constitution, should be held.

That the five "political pillars" of apartheid were not negotiable, ie the Population Registration Act of 1950; the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936; the Black Education Act of 1953; the South African constitution of 1983; and the Promotion of Black Self-government Act of 1959.

That the important "levers" in the struggle against apartheid, such as the armed struggle and sanctions, should not be abandoned prematurely.

The PAC also called on the OAU to play an active role in the unification of the PAC and ANC to form a "united front". Later in 1990 the PAC also published two "working documents" on negotiation and economic policy. While the PAC's view on negotiation remained more or less the same as set out in its letter to the OAU, there were important shifts in its views on the economy. The "working document", compiled by a committee under the leadership of Professor Sipho Shabalala, included the following aspects:

On the economic front, the state will endeavour to achieve, among others, the following: the redistribution of economic wealth in favour of the indigenous blacks; the creation of new economic activities to oppose established capitalism and market forces; and the location as well as re-location of industrial activities.

The effective restriction of owner-ship of economic resources, and the minimization of the role and influence of international capital.

The "working document" also stated that specific plans had been made to eradicate economic inequalities. But the actions of the state should not completely restrict the market forces, and it was not advisable that the lives of citizens be completely determined and controlled by the state. The forces contra the state, include: multi-parties; an independent and strong workers' movement; effective representation and participation of workers in the state's financing and investment decisions; an independent entrepreneurial corps; strong consumer demands; decentralized public participation and a rotating state leadership. The "conservative nature" of this "working document" elicited a fair amount of criticism from within PAC ranks. The youth wing of the PAC even described it as the "work of an element which is on the CIA payroll".

It is clear that the PAC's strong socialist views have been toned down. Late in 1990 Mlambo declared that the change from capitalism to socialism would not happen over-night. He added that the PAC would not apply socialism just for the sake of it, and that it realized there had to be a transitional period for the redistribution of wealth in South Africa which should be implemented in such a manner as to improve the quality of life of the majority. The logistics involve restructuring the "commanding heights of the economy", now in the hands of seven large corporations which control 8o per cent of all listed companies, through the application of socialism. Medium-sized private companies will also be transformed into mixed private and public institutions through state involvement.

After the unbanning of the PAC, organisers within the movement applied themselves to what they called an "elementary party-building process". As a result of the conflict between the ANC and PAC, sometimes ending in bloody clashes, the PAC decided to challenge the ANC's supremacy in the resistance struggle. The PAC strengthened its infrastructure, which is not as sophisticated as that of the ANC, with the establishment of party branches throughout the country.

In the late eighties opinion polls indicated that the PAC enjoyed limited support as little as 2,4 per cent in urban areas and even less in the rural areas. In certain regions, such as the Western Cape, support for the PAC is considerably higher up to 15 per cent in this area. During 1990, after the unbanning of the organisation, it became clear that support for the PAC was growing. This can mainly be ascribed to the fact that many of the more radical ANC sup-porters, mainly the youth, believe that their organisation is becoming "soft" on its stand against the government, and would therefore rather support the PAC. Some of the joint actions of the PAC and ANC early in 1991 indicated a gradual lessening of hostility between these two organisations.

By the end of 1990 the PAC had a signed-up membership of 25 000. At the PAC congress held in Johannes-burg from 7 to 9 December 1990 a new leadership structure was elected, and policies were re-affirmed. The congress committed itself to the intensification of pressure on the South African government by using all forms of "struggle". It rejected the government's invitation to participate in "exploratory" discussions. Ac-cording to the PAC only a democratically elected constituent assembly would be qualified to draw up a constitution for a free Azania. It is, however, willing to hold talks with the government about the formation of a constituent assembly at a "neutral" venue (in January 1991 the PAC, along with Azapo and the CP, rejected a proposal by the ANC to hold an all-party conference).

The new president, Clarence Makwetu, indicated that the PAC wished to create a forum where all organisations of the oppressed would be consulted to develop a mutual strategy against the oppressors. It would also be willing to participate even if another organisation initiated such a meeting. This united front must subscribe to the following principles:

Apartheid cannot be reformed; it must be completely destroyed.

East-West interests should not form part of the Azanian struggle.

All forms of struggle should be encouraged, with the emphasis on the armed struggle.

The "oppressed, exploited and dispossessed black working class and land-starved smallholder" is the vehicle for change, and not the government.

A democratic solution to the country's problems should be furthered by means of a constituent assembly, elected according to the principle of "one man, one vote".

Besides the appointment of Makwetu as the new leader, Johnson Mlambo (chairman and leader of Apla) was elected vice-president and Dikgang Moseneke as second vice-president. Benny Alexander was re-elected general secretary, and Carter Seleke was appointed as his assistant.

The PAC views a constituent assembly as an integral part of the freedom struggle. It rejects the pro-posed all-party conference of the ANC and sees it as an attempt to circumvent the constituent assembly. While rejecting the multi-party conference, it has called for a united patriotic front. The ANC and PAC have already held various talks, which included a meeting in Harare, about forming a Patriotic Front at a conference in Cape Town during August 1991.

After the government's invitation to the PAC to participate in the negotiation process, there was a noticeable change in the organisation's stand on this issue. While insisting that the time is not yet ripe to participate in the negotiation process, and despite the rhetoric, there are signs that it has not totally written off negotiation as a future possibility. The absence of viable alternatives to the armed struggle and increased international pressure have forced the PAC to consider negotiation as an option. It will probably have to follow the same long road as the ANC to overcome problems surrounding the negotiation process. If the PAC does decide to support the negotiation process, it will project itself as a viable alternative to the ANC a party that stands for the actual interests of blacks, but which is also flexible enough to participate in the negotiation process. In the meantime the PAC may still emerge as the winner in the struggle if more militant blacks decide to join the movement in an effort to resist state suppression.

Some of the most important organisations with links with the PAC are:

Azanian National Youth Unity (Azanyu) this organisation, also known as the "revolutionary watch-dog of the PAC", was launched under the flag of the "Africanists" in 1983, and made rapid progress after Mlambo took over the leadership. It can be seen as the youth wing of the PAC. In January 1988 more than 2 000 delegates at-tended an Azanyu conference in Soweto.

All African Student Committee (Aasac) this organisation, which also supports the Africanist ideology, was launched early in 1988. Aasac and its members were restricted a few weeks later.

National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) although this organisation supports black consciousness and the Africanist ideology and attempts to take a neutral stand on the PAC, it is clear that the Africanist group within the trade union is gaining the upper hand. (See also discussion under Trade unions, p 198.)

Pan Africanist Movement (PAM) this organisation was launched early in December 1989 in Johannesburg after the external PAC held a "consultative conference" with Africanists from different organisations in Ha-rare in November 1989. The organisation was launched with the aim of promoting and coordinating the cause of the Africanists, and would presumably cooperate fully with the PAC. Clarence Makwetu was appointed as founder president, while Benny Alexander, a trade union leader originally from Kimberley, was appointed as general secretary. The PAM is in fact none other than an internal PAC PAM leaders were all absorbed into the internal PAC and the organisation also petered out after the unbanning of the PAC in February 1990.

African Organisation for Women (AOW) a women's organisation which strongly identifies with the Africanists, and which participated in the "Sobukwe Cultural Week", held to commemorate founder Robert Sobukwe.

Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) although there is a great deal of overlap between the Africanist ideology and black consciousness, these philosophies are clearly distinguishable. One of the important similarities is that both groups have adopted the name Azania to describe South Africa.

Sobukwe Forum this group, under the leadership of Bhekabantu Ngcobo, is based in London. It op-poses the so-called Dar es Salaam group in the PAC, which it believes has been infiltrated by the Trotskyists and Maoists. The group de-scribes itself as the "true PAC and good nationalists or Africanists". Towards the end of 1990 Ngcobo visited South Africa with a view to forming possible alliances between the Sobukwe Forum, Inkatha Freedom Party, Azapo and the "nationalists" within the ANC. This group rejects the continuation of the armed struggle and is in favour of a negotiated settlement in South Africa. A delegation from this organisation at-tended the peace conference of 24 and 25 May 1991 in Pretoria. The organisation was, however, dissolved in June 1991.

Pan Africanist Students' Organisation (Paso) this student organisation was formed late in 1989, and was initially affiliated to the PAM and later to the PAC. It has branches at all black and some white universities, but does not have the organisational abilities and membership of Sansco, for example.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.