Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, Pastor Ted Sutton, and Pan- Africanist Congress of Azania seen during Sharpeville rally in Johannesburg, South Africa
Nationwide (BlackNews.com) -- "A long overdue family reunion", is the way Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, National Chairman and organizer of the New Black Panther Party( NBPP) describes the historic meetings of his organization, based in the United States, with 30 national chapters and several international bases, and the revolutionary Pan- Afrikanist Congress of Azania( PAC), whose President is Letlapa Mphahlele, with a steady seat in Parliament of Azania, known by the criminal settler name of South Africa in the Western hemisphere and many parts of the world. The PAC has a lengthy history of struggle at various stages of its existence, going all the way back to the great leadership of the Honorable Robert M. Sobukwe. The connection marks the first time that two revolutionary groups joined forces, to begin what is now known as the "Revolutionary Roots Tour." The main objective of the tour is to connect the African of the Continent with the lost and disjointed African or Black Family of the Diaspora. The circumstances surrounding this historic movement, is a tragic event in time, called the Sharpeville Massacre.
The Massacre at Sharpeville occurred in the black township of Sharpeville in South Africa. This is place where the police fired on a crowd of blacks, killing over 69 of them and wounding some 250 of them. It was one of the first and most violent demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid by definition is a "system of racial discrimination and segregation." Formalized in 1948, this system produced, the base, for political and economic rule by the white settler population, and severely restricted the political rights of the Black African, who are the majority of the population in Azania (South Africa). The African National Congress (ANC) due to ideological shifts has become the primary opposition to the PAC but not sole opposition to the party. The ANC's role in "selling out the people" , and "failing to deliver to the masses of Black people " has left a sour taste in many of the revolutionary PAC cadre.
During the 1960's through 1990, the African National Congress (ANC) and other mainly black opposition political organizations were banned. The National Party headed by F.W. DeKlerk the seventh and last State President of the former apartheid-era- South Africa cracked down on all black opposition to apartheid. Leaders of ANC and PAC and other opposing forces were imprisoned, exiled, or killed.
The Pan-Afrikanist Congress (PAC) came to birth in 1959, and from its inception the organization, focused on the treatment of Black people in Africa. A countrywide demonstration was called by the PAC on March 21, 1960, for the abolition of pass laws in Azania. The demonstration participants were instructed to surrender their passes and invite arrest as the form of protest. 20,000 black protesters gathered near a police station in Sharpeville. In response to the protest approximately 69 blacks were killed and more than 180 wounded,( some studies suggest more) some 50 women and children being among those hurt or killed. A state of emergency was declared in South Africa and more than 11,000 people were detained. PAC became a serious threat to the Apartheid regime, and colonial forces of South Africa. The PAC became outlawed and was fought against at every turn. PAC's organization and the incident helped focus international attention to the South African apartheid policy. Subsequently, President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which, on December 10, 1996, he signed into law the country's new constitution. The PAC rejects any notion that there are strident gains since the release of President Mandela, from prison in the highest seat of the land- The Office of Presidency. The PAC teaches its mission is to," liberate the minds and hearts of African people from white domination, and the remnants of the Apartheid forces. Commander Chris Sankara, a PAC loyalist and Azanian Peoples Liberation commander, said (Azania) remains impoverished, uneducated, and unequal in many areas, while at the same time the rich are continuing to get richer... he adds, "these new age oppressive taskmasters continue to brutalize and murder our people"The complexion of the oppressor has only switched from all white faces, to highly placed black faces."
Commander Sankara played a pivotal role in uniting the two Pan- Afrikanist organizations, the NBPP and PAC. He says he stayed in communication with Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz for "well over a year", communicating going back and forth to get the every detail right. Commander Sankara fought against invading forces in the early 90's, via armed struggle and pushed back the criminal settler racist. The Whiteman's Colonial forces caved due to extreme losses and unbeknownst to Commander Sankara and the APLA soldiers, who were in exile in Tanzania, the leadership of the PAC and the colonial forces of the Whiteman came to the table and told PAC members, that both sides called for a ceasefire, which was a total lie and aberration of the truth. The APLA forces were still in combat and unaware of the apparent "Peace Treaty" until much later, after they arrived home from exile. The Leadership of the PAC announced that it would "suspended its armed struggle", and that it would take part in (Azania's) South Africa's first universal suffrage election on April 27, 1994. The South African General Election of 1994 was an election held to " begin the end of apartheid", and was the first to include, what was known as Universal Adult Suffrage, PAC supporters say, " the election was a trick to wrest away power from the masses of African people" . Conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Peace treaty also called for, the Azanian People's Liberation Army ( APLA), In the 1960s, APLA commander Potlako Leballo modeled the APLA on the basis of other indigenous liberation armies, Templeton Ntantala was his deputy. The APLA, then known as Poqo, in 1976, APLA received 500 recruits and carried out missions to defend the people of Azania. The APLA forces adapted the battle cry of "one settler, one bullet" and in the early 90's became known for its willingness to fight the colonial forces at all cost. The mainstream progress of negotiations at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, became a military tactic that by 1994, gained PAC a seat in Parliament but forced APLA to be absorbed into the new South African National Defense Force (SANDF).
Those loyal to the principles of Robert M. Sobukwe refused to accept the agreement and do not view it as valid, whether in the SANDF or not. APLA forces, joined an estimated 10,000-member, multi-party national peacekeeping force within the government, in essence co-opting the struggle of liberation to a position of weakness rather than the position due to the ultimate choice of former PAC Party President Clarence Makwetu. President Makwetu said he made this change because his organizations, "commitment to peace and free and fair elections." A re-newed vision" and "directional change" were what's needed to Commander Sankara as he has seen the effects of the Post- Apartheid era first hand. This became the backbone to the entire tour and the motivation of the trip, which spanned a total of 8 townships and provinces of Johannesburg, South Africa all the way to Zimbabwe to meet with leading officials, from the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu- PF party) led by the Pan- Afrikanist firebrand, President Robert Mugabe.
The 8 person delegation from the United States(U.S.) consisted of high ranking New Black Panther Party Officials, All- African People's Revolutionary Party (GC) represented by Bob Brown, organizer with the Student Non violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC) and Kwame Ture' (formerly Stokely Carmichael), Pastor Ted Sutton, a Baltimore, Maryland based youth pastor, founder of, " The Ministers of Defense" a mentorship program that teaches about self respect, decency, and curbing Black violence among so-called gangs and finally a beautiful, bold, Black woman, from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's, Nation of Islam under the direction of Minister Louis Farrakhan in Phoenix, Arizona, named Sister Khameelah Shabazz who has studied with the Muslims Girls Training Classes(MGT) since 1975. The schedule was jam packed, and O.R. TAMBO or Oliver Tambo Airport, named after a former President of the ANC was the first port of entry into this monumental occasion. From the moment the New Black Panthers and delegation stepped off the plane (piloted and stewarded by Black Africans) into the airport they were greeted and received, with the cheers and applause and embraces of love from our brothers and sisters of the PAC. Family who has waited 400 long years to greet each other now had the chance. The mood was electric as banners of PAC streamed the airport and voices yelling "Welcome Home." Nothing but love, and the 9 member delegation took time to breathe all this in, but there was no time to waste.
The first stop was PAC headquarters to meet with key leadership and time was ticking. The Delegation rushed off into a caravan of cars and trained members of the APLA forces took the lead in ensuring the safety of the NBPP delegation, and its membership, meanwhile, the NBPP was equally watchful of its leadership and delegation as the threats against this united front were flying from all around. Members of opposing White parties threatened to do harm, it was clear the criminal settler racist, were vehemently, concerned with the apparent overthrow of the old slave Apartheid ways. As the NBPP delegation and PAC commanders pulled into headquarters, the African's were everywhere, stunned at the arrival of their long lost brothers and sister, who are now dressed in Black Battle fatigues, berets, and patches that read, "Freedom or Death." Panthers said "hey brother, we missed you" as they got out and walked into the marble tower offices of the PAC headquarters. The office was packed from wall to wall with membership of the PAC, both high ranking and rank and file, all excited to see their African Revolutionary family, whose ancestors left as slaves but have now returned, as warriors for African people.
Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz received standing ovation as he championed the cause of Pan- Africanism and talked about the importance of the serious days ahead. He reminded the audience sternly, "The same rabid dogs that bite you, bite us too, we are one!" It was this attitude that set the tone or the entire tour. The commemoration of Sharpeville (March 21st) is considered a National Holiday in Azania, and it is one that has continued for several years, however the commemoration has not happened without a fight. Segments of the ANC have taken the militant and tragic tone away from the event and now instead of the focus being the massacre at Sharpeville, it has now been reduced to something President Mandela calls "Human Rights Day says PAC organizer Lehlohonolo Shale – Branch Chairman of Pimville/ Klipspruit" Comrade Shale calls this a "tragic departure from the original concept of the commemoration." PAC leadership under the voice of Commander Chris Sankara laugh at this attempt to re-write this tragedy of Azania, and continue to hold their own commemoration independent or the ANC and even some of their own PAC reformist leadership.
Chris Sankara and others like him are hard-line fundamental Pan- Afrikanist revolutionaries; they refuse to allow the mainstream politics of this new ANC leadership or watered down figures within the highest ranks of the PAC to dilute what was started by the venerable founder Robert Sobukwe. They hold their own commemoration every year, and make sure that there is massive support from the staunch PAC members and the downtrodden Blackman and woman in Azania, who want freedom coupled with their land. Thousands pour into the streets shouting "Izwe- Lethu" meaning "the land is ours." Attorney Malik Shabazz and delegation walked to the very spots where members of the Sharpeville Massacre were slain. Attorney Shabazz was shocked, as the ages of the murdered became younger and younger. He hugged, embraced, shook hands, and kissed the hands of the mothers, who lost sons, uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, companions and the like. The delegation could not believe its eyes, as they read the names of those who lost their lives, just for standing up to a brutal color struck regime and those who knew that the pass laws were/ are unjust. At the same time the ANC hosted its own Human rights day, and as they took the stage PAC and the NBPP took to a high stage, with a waterfall behind them to address a massive crowd, which had formed. Attorney Shabazz who stands around 6' 7' inches tall was at an advantage as he was able to be seen from far away, with no microphone, no megaphone, he yelled " Izwe- Lethu" and the massive crowd of thousands yelled in return " I- Africa" meaning "Africa is our Land." With their attention the National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party, and founder of the U.S. based Black Lawyers for Justice went to work and began to talk about the foundational aims of PAC, the position of the NBPP, and a United States of Africa. As he spoke more people came in from the streets, singing revolutionary Azanian songs, and instead of stopping them, Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz encouraged them to sing louder and in his words, "come on with that!" The Atty. Shabazz said, "You give me life with that.", "Even though I don't know all the words, because the Whiteman stole our language, your soul and your spirit gives me life." Atty. Shabazz told the audience this was, "his first time in Africa, but not his last."
The crowd erupted with applause and cheers of "Black Power." As the Delegation made its way through the thousands of spirited Africans, they made their way to the streets, only to be greeted by more members of PAC and community. The Delegation ran in the streets with fist pumping and hearts beating as they made their way to the awaiting PAC Rally "under the tent." This was to bring all the PAC loyalist and top brass together and that's exactly what it did. The tent featured top members of the PAC and veteran freedom fighters of the Azanian stuggle with a banner of PAC in hand; we marched to the Sharpeville cemetery, where the fallen warriors were laid to rest. Delegates we're told to pick up pebbles and place them on the gravesites of those who lost their lives at the hands of the Apartheid regimes. Attorney Malik Shabazz and delegation walked past each of the graves, over 69 in all, and laid pebbles on the headstones. The youngest to be killed was just 13 years old. From there we walked the streets of Sharpeville singing revolutionary songs, only to be greeted by an impromptu African dance/ drum session, by a the PAC youth group, Classic Youth dance Corps. They preformed their hearts out dancing in traditional African attire. They were happy to see the NBPP and delegation, and agreed that wherever Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz and his delegation go in Africa, they want to go also. All who participated where overtaken, by the magnitude of all that gathering. The next day the delegation made its way to Kliptown, a small Ghetto of Azania where some of the roughest parts and examples of the post Apartheid era politics remain. Poverty and need of Blacks run high in this area, as Attorney Shabazz and delegation walked this neighborhood they saw tin houses, impure water, health conditions and looks of despair.
Residents told the delegation that "Politicians only come to see about us for election times." In essence they squeeze the votes out of the people with false promises of improvement only to deceive after the election process is over. The NBPP and delegation stopped by homes in Kliptown along with roadside businesses to give away Rand (South African Currency) worth thousands of dollars in U.S. money, not for fame or fortune- NO, this was done just to pick the people's spirits up and give them the inspiration they need to keep pressing on. From there the delegation walked into a small section of the town that housed a center called Soweto Kliptown Youth orphanage (SKY), this recreational center serves as a home for orphans, some who have no mother or father, or may have lost both. Immediately the entire delegation gravitated to the children who although poor and parentless, had "some of the greatest spirits he had ever seen," Atty. Shabazz recalls.
The orphanage was directed by a young spiritual Blackman named Bob affectionately called "Bo Bo" by the youth. What was next no one could prepare Atty. Malik Shabazz or the delegation for. Brother Bob had the children perform; a musical they created called "The More You Give, The More You Have." It was worthy of a slot on Broadway, based upon their lives and being able to persevere by being good to others. These children although impoverished danced and sang their hearts out, so much so, Atty.Shabazz and his delegation we're up on their feet dancing and singing as well, as the request of some of the performers who wanted them to dance right along with them. Attorney Shabazz and delegation we're so moved, they donated the Rand value of 3,000 dollars in U.S. value to the orphanage and have promised with the permission of the director to adopt the orphanage and financially support it by any means necessary.
As the delegation travel throughout Azania, Attorney Shabazz reminded the delegation, "we are the People's servants", and our people all over the world need service." Every member of the Delegation pledged, to do more about the conditions of our people in Africa, and to do much more for Black people the United States. Another Glaring highlight of the trip was Zimbabwe, as the National Chairman chartered a plane and made his way to the Pan- Afrikanist nation, which is now currently fighting off U.S. sanctions and economic stranglehold, Atty. Shabazz met with key cabinet members including: secretary of publicity and information comrade gumbo, Director of External Relations comrade Jonga, Secretary of woman's Affairs Comrade Oppah comrade Mariaere, director of transportation, Secretary General Dr. Mutassa and Zanu- PF of Azania official Linda Gondo. Atty. Shabazz and delegation were hosted by comrade Chen Chetumengwende, an advisor to President Mugabe and Pan- African organizer. They all were instructed to come representing President Mugabe also, to hear what Atty. Malik Shabazz and the delegation had to say. It was a meeting of the minds as Atty. Shabazz laid out a solid case of solidarity, unity, and comradery.
Atty. Shabazz called for an end to U.S. Sanctions against Zimbabwe, and spoke of the work that the New Black Panther Party and his legal group, Black Lawyers For justice we're willing to do in the United States. He also pledged to help expose the west to the real aims and objectives of the Presidency of Mr. Mugabe, and make Americans aware of President Mugabe, ZANU-PF the great good that they are doing and have done for Zimbabwe and oppressed Black people. ZANU- PF was so overjoyed, that their comrade and brother from the New Black Panther Party, would pledge such solidarity under tough times and economic hardship that they demanded he have a meeting with the President himself. Atty. Shabazz was elated, and was asked to stay another day- which he did.
The next day the two Parties reconvened, and Atty. Shabazz was scheduled to meet with President Robert Mugabe, even receiving word that Mr. Mugabe was asking about him and his Party, however, due to upcoming elections and serious party matters at hand, his meeting with key leaders ran over and President Mugabe unfortunately had to postpone the meeting and attend the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) conference. Atty. Shabazz made it clear, "we strongly endorse President Robert Mugabe in the upcoming elections", "to support this effort we will hold a major webcast within the next 60 days via our website (newblackpanther.com) and other allied sites."
The Chairman also unveiled actual facts on opportunities, for Black people in the West to mine producing diamonds and gold, to work independently for self, as he learned during the course of his visit to Zimbabwe. Atty. Shabazz views the entire trip as a success and says, "this provides a strong beachhead for Pan African relations in Zimbabwe and worldwide." He added, "We have also established the NBPP in Azania and Zimbabwe." Atty. Shabazz and the delegation are eternally thankful to have the opportunity to visit their mother country, and although some never get the chance, or find the means to make such an audacious move, Atty. Shabazz says, "this was the first time for some of us in Azania (South Africa), but it won't be our last."