Pan-Africanism and the anti-colonial movement in southern Africa, 1950s–1990s

Authored by: Tavengwa Gwekwerere

Routledge Handbook of Pan-Africanism

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367030667
eBook ISBN: 9780429020193
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on historical manifestations, victories, prospects and challenges of Pan-Africanism in southern Africa from the 1950s to the 1990s. The objective is not to compile a historical narrative of Pan-Africanism in southern Africa but to interpret the anti-colonial history of the region with a view to advancing the argument that Pan-Africanism was central to the struggle to decolonize it. Focusing on the solidarity that grew between independent southern African states and anti-colonial liberation movements and the alliances that liberation movements established in order to more effectively challenge colonialism, this chapter argues that Pan-Africanism remains indispensable if southern Africa, and indeed the entire African continent, is to actualize the ideals of African reconstruction as espoused in Agenda 2063. This focus addresses some of the shortcomings in the literature that has developed around Pan-Africanism in southern Africa. In the bulk of this literature, the acknowledgement is seldom made, for instance, that anti-colonial struggles in southern Africa were informed by Pan-Africanism. Where this acknowledgement is made, the literature tends to over-emphasize how Pan-Africanism just could not weld southern African people into perfect unity, creating the impression, in the process, that Pan-Africanism had to be a flawless idea in which the actors and organizations involved should have acted in unfailing accord all the time. This chapter argues that while Pan-Africanism may have had its share of challenges in the unfolding of anti-colonial struggles in southern Africa and has also been taken hostage by black elitist elements that have since inherited power in the liberation movements now functioning as ruling parties in the region, its role in today’s struggles and those of the anti-colonial dispensation cannot be understated without disfiguring history, scuttling the present and placing the future beyond reach.

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