Sobukwe’s old of­fices jump makeover queue

The Sunday Independent - - News - DON MAKATILE

ONE chap­ter closes as an­other opens. As the blame game con­tin­ues on who should have com­pleted the re­fur­bish­ment of the Ma­jwe­masweu, Brand­fort, house where Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela was ban­ished dur­ing apartheid, the Sobukwe fam­ily seems to have found clo­sure.

The old law of­fices of Robert Man­gal­iso Sobukwe in Galeshewe, Kim­ber­ley, are be­ing ren­o­vated as part of a big­ger project to re­name the lo­cal hos­pi­tal af­ter the late founder of the Pan African­ist Congress (PAC).

Since the death of Madik­izela-Man­dela, a war of words has erupted over the de­lay in trans­form­ing the six-roomed house in the small Free State town into a mu­seum to hon­our her.

For­mer provin­cial Premier Ace Ma­gashule, now ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral, hasn’t been able to pro­vide clear-cut an­swers, pre­fer­ring to give only opaque re­sponses.

He was only able to say that the Man­dela fam­ily had been kept abreast of de­vel­op­ments. The truth was that there have been no de­vel­op­ments since money was first bud­geted for the project.

A lo­cal news­pa­per, the Bloem­fontein Courant, wrote last week: “It is re­ported that close to R8 mil­lion has been spent on the project, which was first ini­ti­ated in 2005 by the govern­ment.

“It re­mains un­clear un­til to­day what hap­pened to all the money that was al­lo­cated to ren­o­vate Madik­izela-Man­dela’s for­mer home, which lo­cals say has now turned into a haven for thieves, drug ad­dicts and pros­ti­tutes.”

New Premier Sesi Ntombela told The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent dur­ing her whis­tle-stop visit to the Ma­jwe­masweu house that get­ting the project off the ground and fin­ish­ing it was a na­tional com­pe­tency as the house was de­clared a na­tional her­itage site.

Ntombela was con­fi­dent that Deputy Min­is­ter of Arts and Cul­ture, Makhotso Mag­gie So­tyu, who also hailed from the Free State, was well po­si­tioned to in­flu­ence get­ting work started on the house.

The Sobukwe fam­ily had to wait aeons to see work com­mence on the Galeshewe build­ing.

But fi­nally ground has been bro­ken to do re­pairs.

Dini Sobukwe said his fa­ther was ban­ished to Galeshewe from his Mo­folo house in Soweto.

Like Madik­izela-Man­dela’s move to Brand­fort, the aim was to com­pletely iso­late Sobukwe by dump­ing him among strangers in the far North­ern Cape.

But through his en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity, who, as in Madik­izela-Man­dela’s case were warned not to as­so­ciate with this new face in their midst, Sobukwe came to be a dar­ling of the masses, his son re­calls.

An ac­tive mem­ber of the Men’s Guild of the Methodist Church, as was Madik­izela-Man­dela in the Women’s Manyano, the ban­ish­ing or­ders meant Sobukwe could not do what he loved, preach­ing the gospel and in­ter­act­ing with the com­mu­nity.

“But slowly peo­ple em­braced him. Many did not even know what the PAC was all about. They were later to take him as one of their own,” Dini said.

While he was de­nied con­tact with the com­mu­nity, Sobukwe took up law stud­ies with Unisa.

“I used to see him study late into the night,” his son said.

Upon com­ple­tion of his stud­ies, Sobukwe did ar­ti­cles with a lo­cal at­tor­ney, a Mr Nz­i­mande.

It was af­ter his time with the at­tor­ney that Sobukwe started off on his own, buy­ing the build­ing he would turn into his law of­fices from a shop­keeper.

But once Sobukwe died and his fam­ily moved to Graaff-Reinet, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind; his of­fice de­gen­er­ated into a lair for van­dals.

It has been in a sorry state un­til re­pairs be­gan re­cently.

“There are peo­ple through the years who made at­tempts to get it fixed.

“Their ef­forts came to nought. I have been there a cou­ple of times.

“As a fam­ily, we – for the sake of our fa­ther and hus­band – are grate­ful that it has come to this. In a large part, it is through the ef­forts of the peo­ple of Kim­ber­ley.

“The hos­pi­tal is also go­ing to be named af­ter him.

“We are glad it is fi­nally be­ing re­stored to its for­mer glory.”

Sobukwe’s widow Veron­ica, who turns 91, in July, said: “This is the best news ever.”

BE­ING RE­VAMPED: PAC leader Robert Sobukwe’s old law of­fices.

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