Ex-PAC president Pheko was an ardent follower of founder Sobukwe

Honoring the legacy of Dr. Motsoko Pheko, a steadfast advocate for African unity and liberation.

Dr Motsoko Pheko, the former president of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), who died recently, was born in Lesotho on 13 November 1930 – 36 years before the colony of Basutoland gained independence in 1966 and before the imposition of colonial borders between Lesotho and SA that separated African families.

Losing his parents, who died when he was young, compelled him and his brother to move to South Africa.

Ardent follower of Robert Sobukwe

The boys were taken care of by their late mother’s sister Ms EM Moerane. As a trusted, firm and principled member of the PAC, Pheko was an ardent follower of the party’s founding president Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, and wrote several books about him.

Pheko served in several capacities, including organiser, branch chair, country representative and member of parliament (MP). He also served as a representative of the PAC at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, in addition to undertaking additional political work to propagate Pan Africanism in the UK and Zambia.

He was the longest serving deputy president of the PAC, being elected and re-elected from 1995 to 2003. In 2003, at the then Vista University Soweto campus, Pheko was elected to serve as president until September 2006.

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Under his national leadership, PAC re-established and strengthened its relationships with countries such as Libya, Ghana, China and Iran.

After the 2005 national elections the PAC had three MPs, two MPLs [members of the provincial legislature] in Gauteng and Eastern Cape Province with more than 142 councillors countrywide.

Imprisoned for underground activities during the struggle

During the struggle, Pheko was imprisoned for underground activities with the PAC’s armed wing, Poqo (later called the Azanian People’s Liberation Army), and was also detained by the settler colonial states of Rhodesia and Portuguese Mozambique.

In November 1963, Pheko found himself in Swaziland (now eSwatini) as a refugee. Working with the PAC team in exile, led by David Maphgumzana Sibeko, Pheko contributed a research paper that became the primary contributor to the expulsion of the South African apartheid regime from the United Nations.

He called for land repossession and its restoration to the African majority, and equitable distribution of wealth, based on a socialist political economic system.

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Under his national leadership, and in parliament, Pheko consistently highlighted and raised the plight of the landless, downtrodden and African majority with no properties.

Pheko campaigned for free decolonised education

While PAC president, he campaigned for free decolonised education from primary school until university.

He denounced RDP houses as social engineering designed to keep the African people in the socio-economic conditions of social degradation, poverty and servitude.

Pheko belongs to the selfless generation of African revolutionary leaders such as Sobukwe, Zephania Mothopeng, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure and many others.

On his 90th birthday on 13 November 2020, Pheko was humbled to accept and honorary degree from Unisa. He said on that occasion: “This degree is not only for myself, but for the thousands of people who have worked with me, lifted me, shared their stories of injustice with me, and trusted me in various positions of leadership to be a voice that speaks for millions living on the margins of the African society.”

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‘Pan Africanism is the oldest vision in Africa’

Pheko continued to spread the liberatory teaching and that “Pan Africanism is the oldest vision in Africa. No other ideology has successfully challenged Pan Africanism intellectually”.

And that Pan Africanism includes the intellectual, political and economic cooperation that should lead to the political unity of Africa. The Pan African alternative provides a framework for African unity.

It also fosters radical change in the colonial structures of the economy, and the implementation of an inward-looking strategy of production and development. It calls for the unification of financial markets, economic integration, a new strategy for initial capital accumulation and the design of a new political map for Africa.

Pheko was the founder of Daystar University in Kenya, the largest liberal arts college in Africa. He was also founder and chair of Tokoloho Development Association in South Africa, a trust which promotes research of indigenous knowledge of the African people prior to European colonisation.

Kgagudi is Gauteng provincial chair of the PAC