Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede

Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede

Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede

Freedom in Our Lifetime: The Collected Writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede


When a group of young political activists met in 1944 to launch the African National Congress Youth League, it included the nuscleus of a remarkable generation of leaders who forged the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa for the next half century: Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Jordan Ngubane, Ellen Kuzwayo, Albertina Smith, A. P. Mda, Dan Tloome, and David Bopape. It was Anton Lembede, however, whom they chose as their first president. Lembede, who had just begun practicing law in Johannesburg, was known for his sharp intellect, fiery personality, and unwavering commitment to the struggle at hand. The son of farm laborers from the district of Georgedale, Natal, Lembede had worked tirelessly to put himself through school and college, and then to qualify for the bachelor of laws degree. When he began law practice in 1943, he had also earned the respect of his fellows, not only for his intellectual achievements (which were many), but also for his dedication to the causeof freedom,in South Africa. "I am", he explained, "Africa's own child". His untimely death in 1947 at the age of 33 sent a wave of grief through the Congress Youth, who had looked to him for moral as well as political leadership. With the publication of Freedom In Our Lifetime, the editors acknowledge Lembede's early contribution to the freedom movement, in particular his passionate and eloquent articulation of the African-centered philosophy he called "Africanism".


When I reflect on my memories of Lembede, two things stick out in my mind -- his scholarliness and his innovative analysis of the freedom struggle. His dedication to his education brought him spectacular results. When he was young he got a lucky break. He had performed very brilliantly in Standard VI, so he was given a scholarship to further his education at Adams College. And he did well on that scholarship. He laid a good foundation for his later studies. He became a teacher, and this enabled him to work and earn some money -- to support himself and his parents and prepare for his future.

He made rapid strides in his studies -- all through self-study. Once he completed his B.A., he began working towards his LL.B., the Bachelor of Laws. And then he rounded off his education by earning an M.A. degree in Philosophy.

While he was studying and preparing for his thesis for his M.A. degree, we were staying together in Orlando East. We had extensive discussions because he was studying the philosophers from Descartes to the present day. Now that was very fortunate for me because he used to invite me to take part in discussing some of the issues raised by the philosophers. Very often we took opposite positions. I had to defend a certain position while he attacked it.

He wanted to gain some clearer understanding of the subject matter he was studying. He used me as a tool to achieve that goal. And, in this way, he also improved my knowledge. I was argumentative, too. I was a debater. I liked conflict, and he knew I was very stubborn. He was like that, too. He often challenged me. And after explaining to me so and so stood for this and that, he would make a reference to some book. He read to me, and I would read myself. Then we would discuss issues that he wanted to go deeper into. He invited me to take a certain line, an opposite line, so he could give me a chance to go deeper. He learned a lot from controversies because sometimes I attacked his positions just to give him an exercise in refuting my arguments.

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