PAC must be rebuilt, say mourners at Johnson Mlambo’s memorial

14 January 2021 - 20:04 By Amanda Khoza
It's time for the PAC flag to fly high again was the sentiment of speakers at the virtual memorial service honouring the life of PAC stalwart Johnson Phillip Mlambo on Thursday.
It's time for the PAC flag to fly high again was the sentiment of speakers at the virtual memorial service honouring the life of PAC stalwart Johnson Phillip Mlambo on Thursday.
Image: MOELETSI MABE

Now is the time to restore the Pan Africanist Congress to its former glory.

This was the call made by the party’s national organiser, Chris Sankara, who was speaking during a virtual memorial service honouring the life of Johnson Phillip Mlambo on Thursday.

“Some of the issues that we are going through as the PAC leaders like Mlambo and [Robert] Sobukwe already knew because they were able to analyse situations. We can only get better from here by focusing on the programme of unity which were central to Mlambo and Sobukwe,” said Sankara, who described Mlambo as a “humble yet disciplined” man.

“We are where we are because the system allowed it. We are the only ones that can change the status quo. Let us focus on rebuilding the PAC from the branches to the regions and the provinces and sometimes rebuilding will call for sacrifices to be made.”

Sankara said there was a programme in place to restore the party.

“Let us participate with the masses, let us work with them and, most importantly, let us implement what they want. The programme of the PAC is not about winning the elections, it is about land,” he said.

Unity was the overarching theme of the service as the family prepared to lay to rest the former leader of the PAC’s military, who died of Covid-19 related complications at a Johannesburg hospital at the age of 80.

Speaker after speaker paid tribute to a man who lived a selfless life.

Family representative Charles Mlambo said the family could see that the PAC loved his father.

“We are grateful and we are happy. As you continue to give us words of encouragement, we hope that you will all come together because it is a concern to me and it was a great concern to him.”

A member of the greater Benoni branch said Mlambo’s death was a great loss to the youth.

“One of the things that he loved the most was unity among Africans. It is sad to lose comrades, but we still have comrades who have wisdom and knowledge and, without them, we are nothing.

“My call would be to say that let’s bring back the elders. The party was in tatters because we took advantage of the elders and thought that we knew better. But we have decided to go back to basics and that is going back to our elders to ask for assistance.”

PAC Gauteng secretary Tsietsi Molebatsi said Mlambo had a clear understanding of the PAC’s ideology.

“He was a product of Sobukwe ... When he was elected as chairperson, he continued with the programme of unity. One thing about the PAC is that when you get chosen, it was never about favouritism, it was never about money because the PAC does not have money ... Leaders looked for gifts and talents of their members,” said Molebatsi.

Quoting a saying that personified Mlambo, he said, “When a stalwart dies, a library burns ... because we rely on stalwarts to give us information. History allows us to analyse things.”

What he loved the most about Mlambo was that “he was ideologically strong”.

“He knew that our problem was not just apartheid but the colonial settler. He understood the historic mission of the PAC.

“We will always talk about this man in the present. If there was one legacy about this man it would be that he read the PAC documents, all of them ... without reading you are not yet a member of the PAC. Read. Read. Read,” he said.

A close friend and fellow political prisoner Mike Muendane said Mlambo taught him how to be self-conscious.

“He taught me how to love myself as a black person. He taught me to be conscious of what white people do to us, not to let them walk all over us as black people.”

He added that Mlambo was a “visionary who did not only look at the current situation but looked at how it would impact on the future. He was a rare leader who was compassionate and had empathy.”

Muendane said like Sobukwe, Mlambo was courageous and embodied humility.

“Having humility is not easy, it takes a courageous person,” he said.

Born in 1940, Mlambo was the secretary of the PAC’s Daveyton branch in 1960. After the banning of the party, he became active in the military wing’s activities.

He spent 20 years on Robben Island with his close friend, Muendane.

Mlambo will be granted a state funeral on Saturday which will be observed under Covid-19 protocols.

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