The Robert Sobukwe Walk

The Robert Sobukwe Walk, running between the upper and lower sections of Freedom Square, honours one of Fort Hare’s most history-defining alumni. Noted for his astounding intellect and oratory power, Robert Sobukwe became SRC president in 1949. He was also a leader in Fort Hare’s fledgling ANC Youth League branch, although he later broke away from the ANC to form the Pan Africanist Congress. Sobukwe did not live to see democracy in South Africa, but the Sobukwe Walk preserves his name and legacy, and contributes to the timely resurgence of interest in his life.

Robert Sobukwe (the tall figure in the foreground) leads his Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) comrades in an anti-pass march on 21 March 1960. The apartheid pass laws controlled the movement of black South Africans by requiring that they carry passes at all times. In protest, the PAC had called on its supporters to leave their passes at home on this pre-arranged date and gather at police stations around the country, offering themselves for arrest. Here, Sobukwe and other PAC members are en route to Orlando Police Station in Soweto. On this same day, in Sharpeville, south of Soweto, police would open fire on unarmed protestors, many of them fleeing. Sixty-nine people were killed and 180 were wounded in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. © Peter Magubane / Drum Social Histories / Bailey’s African History Archive / Africa Media Online