Interview with Zephaniah Mothopeng

We recently posted the newly released video of the Zephaniah Mothopeng speaking at a rally which the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group helped to organise with member of the Pan-Africanist Congress in London in 1989. Here is a companion video of an interview, recorded by members of the Dutch Azania Komitee, with Zephaniah Mothopeng during his time in London. These edited highlights of a long afternoon of conversations cover a wide range of topics, including: Mothopeng’s childhood and family background, his early politicization and involvement with the ANC Youth League in the 1940s. He talks at length about the reasons why the Pan-Africanist Congress was formed in 1959 and the purpose of their early campaigns, including the campaign against the Pass Laws in March 1960 which resulted in the Sharpeville Massacre. He explains how the PAC responded to being banned through the organisation of POQO guerrillas in the early 1960s. He describes the influence of Pan-Africanism (alongside Black Consciousness ideas) on the generation of young South Africans who participated in the Soweto uprising of June 1976. Finally, he offers an assessment of the balance of forces in South Africa at the time of the interview, and issues a call – to members of the African diaspora, as well as, to progressive white supporters – to not only increase their solidarity with those resisting apartheid, but to prepare to contribute to rebuilding Azania-South Africa, in a Pan-African context, after apartheid.

Given how rarely the voices of leading Pan-Africanists from the apartheid era are heard, this video is a rich resource for anyone interested in Pan-Africanism or the diversity of voices within the global anti-apartheid movement. What feels very current in the interview is Mothopeng’s repeated insistence that opposition to apartheid was not just about civil rights or democracy, but was fundamentally a struggle to decolonize South Africa.

About Gavin Brown

Professor of Political Geography and Sexualities University of Leicester
This entry was posted in Archival research, Dissemination, Popular & Informal Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Interview with Zephaniah Mothopeng

  1. Andy Higginbottom says:

    Hi, thanks for this and related post
    A full and politically sympathetic biography of ZM has just been published, A K Hlongwane ‘The Lion of Azania: A Biography’ Skotaville Publishing. ZM spent all his adult life hands on in the struggle. It gives a good account of the PAC’s break from the ‘charterist’ ANC, and of the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s sectarianism to them, including the rally on 6 July 1989, quoting Carol Brickley’s commentary on the event (pp184-5). The PAC’s general orientation has so sadly been confirmed since.

    • Gavin Brown says:

      Thanks, Andy. Yes, I’ve recently read Ali Hlongwane’s book too. I thought it was really useful and was good to see Carol quoted in it too. I found his perspective on the tense relationship between the London PAC, Cde Keke, and even Gora Ebrahim with the rest of the PAC leadership in Dar really interesting.

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