The 5th of April 2016 marked exactly 110 years since that erudite 24-year-old native of Daggakraal, an area situated in the modern day province of Mpumalanga, delivered his resounding speech at his alma mater Columbia University, in the United States. Amongst the explosive words that were uttered by that great African, Pixley ka Isaka Seme correctly warned the world of the imminent resurrection of Africa, rising to claim her rightful place, a place she once occupied. Dressed in the robes of a prophet and armed with words that can only be capable of rolling from the silver tongues of poets, he calmly cautioned thus: ‘The giant is awakening!’
Acknowledging that while Africa might have momentarily lost her place as the cradle of man and wisdom, Seme insisted that she never completely lost her glory. ‘In such ruins Africa is like the golden sun, that, having sunk beneath the western horizon, still plays upon the world which he sustained and enlightened in his career’, he stated to a spellbound audience. It would take decades before the African continent began to flex her muscles and display her energy to a world misled but Pixley ka Isaka Seme had sparked within his people a hope and the yearning for a better tomorrow. In the late 50s Ghana would free herself from the brutal shackles of colonialism. The rest of other African countries would follow her example and expel the terror of Western thuggery; and despite his home country taking a while before she was free, South Africa would later become a beacon of light within the continent and affirmed Pixley ka Isaka Seme’s prophetic words that indeed ‘the giant is awakening!’
On 5th April 1995, exactly 89 years since Pixley ka Isaka Seme delivered his seminal speech, Nelson Mandela, in his capacity as president of the Republic of South Africa, hosted his then Tunisian counterpart president Ben Ali. As if to honour and echo the words of the founding father of that illustrious liberation movement of the people, the ANC (African National Congress), the movement he was now leading, South Africa’s founding father directed these words of warmth and commitment to president Ben Ali of Tunisia: ‘And so, Mr President, we arrive from opposite ends of the continent at the same conclusion: that Africa must be reborn, that the glory of Carthage must rise again, built by the genius, the devotion, and the dedication of the children of Africa.’ To avoid any equivocation or unnecessary conjecture as to what former President Nelson Mandela might have meant by the preceding statement, his successor Thabo Mbeki, whose days as head of state were almost two years behind him, put it more bluntly on September 6, 2010, emphatically declaring that, ‘Carthage must be rebuilt.’
A decade and five score years after Pixley ka Isaka Seme declared that the African giant was awakening, I am happy to report that the giant Seme so eloquently spoke of is awake and is proudly marching to its former glory. And it is on that note that I should be allowed to borrow a line from Thabo Mbeki’s I am an African, stating proudly that, ‘Today it feels good to be an African.’ Today in 2016, hundred and ten years after Seme urged Africa and her children to claim their former glory, twenty years after Thabo Mbeki stood in the National Assembly, asserting with pride his Africaness, it indeed feels good to be an African.
Just a week ago it was announced that Nkosana Makate, the inventor of the Please Call Me technology, had won his case against the telecommunications giant Vodacom at the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land. David had won against Goliath, a story that would very much be a delight from the pen of Malcolm Gladwell. Makate, who is an accountant by profession had conceived his idea while still an employee at Vodacom in 2000. He would pitch the idea to his manager, who subsequently took the idea to the management. Makate was promised that should the idea be profitable he would be compensated. Greed and excessive hunger for glory, as they would have it, preyed on weaker men. Alan Knott-Craig, the then CEO of Vodacom, is one such weak man. Greed, excessive hunger for glory as well as, I guess, the loathing of Pixley ka Isaka Seme’s descendants, who are inherently mentally inferior, supposedly, would become his undoing. Knott-Craig would for the next 16 years claim Makate’s invention as his own, his unfettered avarice driving him as far as writing a book, pronouncing that the idea was the spark of his ‘spectacular imagination’.
In 2016 the Constitutional Court would finally deliver justice to Makate after spending almost two decades fighting for what is rightfully his. While Nkosana Makate stands to gain billions from this case, making him one of the richest men in the country, material wealth should not be the lesson we draw from this brutal marathon. Instead the lessons we should take from this triumph is that patience, perseverance and justice are noble attributes we should all aspire to have.
A week after Nkosana Makate defeated the Goliath that is Vodacom at the Constitutional Court, a 27-year-old young man by the name of Lehlohonolo Phali graduated with a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the North West University in Mafikeng. Those who know say he is the sole Mathematician in the country to ever receive such a prestigious honour at such a young age. At this stage it is yet to be confirmed if that is true, but what is amazing is that given South Africa’s lacklustre performance in the field of science, it is incredibly remarkable that a young African man raised by a single mother in the township of Sebokeng, south of Johannesburg would achieve such a rare feat. South Africa should be proud of this young chap.
At just a tender age of 16, owing to the indisputable fact that he was a precocious child, Pixley ka Isaka Seme would be uprooted from his homeland of South Africa to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to seek education in the United States of America. There, upon finishing high school, he would attend the Columbia University, one of the Ivy League schools, and later moved to the United Kingdom to further advance his education. In Britain Seme attended Oxford University where he graduated as a lawyer before returning to South Africa in 1910, his native land, where he would forever change the course of history when he founded the ANC almost two years later on January 08, 1912.
When he delivered The Regeneration of Africa in 1906, cautioning of the giant that was awakening, Pixley ka Isaka Seme was not under the potent influence of the plant that caused Moses to suddenly have a picture of an inflamed tree that stubbornly refused to burn manifest before his eyes; he spoke so because that very same giant was awakening within him. Nkosana Makate, Lehlohonolo Phali and many others who are the offspring of Pixley ka Isaka Seme have proved that the African giant is awake. When are you and I following on this rich and proud trail of the children of the African giant that was Pixley ka Isaka Seme? Kgotsong!