The spirit of Robert Sobukwe

I like Patricia De Lille. Okay, that’s a complete lie – I actually like her party’s ideologies are pretty good and if put into practice, they have the ability to do a lot of good. I still wouldn’t vote for her but that’s not the point of the story. Patricia came to prominence as a member of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, better known as the PAC. Nowadays, this once important party is reduced to, I think, a single member in parliament. This party though did a lot during the struggle that eventually ended Apartheid. It was started by a man named Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe.

Born in Graaff-Reinet, he was a man of high intellect and could be called a founder of black consciousness. His workings influenced Steve Biko and the movements in America. The 2010 World Cup is actually VERY influenced by these principles of having Africa stand on its own two feet thereby gaining the respect of its peers and the world.

Sobukwe has a lot of history behind him – if you don’t know much, I suggest you do a bit of research and learn about this important historical figure. He passed away in 1978 and was buried at the Kroonvale Cemetery in Graaff-Reinet. Additionally, his family lived in the uMasizakhe Township, also in Graaff-Reinet. Seeing that I am IN Graaff-Reinet, I really needed to see these monuments and pay respects to a great man that never did get to see his dreams of freedom realised.

Kroonvale is accessed via the main road of Graaff-Reinet. Go down the road and turn left into Middelstraat. I am guessing this is the centre of town. I must commend the designers on this. Anyway, I drive into Kroonvale with a rudimentary map, knowing my general direction around. Seeing that he was a rather important historical figure, you would expect at least a sign signalling the importance of such a site. No such luck. I drive past the cemetery, which is not in the most accessible parts of this suburb, and struggle to find even an entrance. After driving around (and doing powerslides on the dirt road) for a few minutes, I admit defeat and take solace in the fact that at least I will be able to see his house.

The short story: I didn’t see the house.

The long story: I drive into uMasizakhe, again with a rudimentary map. The map has a few significant points yet I seem unable to locate any of them. Driving along the road that Sobukwe lives, I pass many houses – now brick dwellings made as a result of the low-cost housing scheme. I look around for some sign that a hero of South Africa stayed here. Nothing…

Later that day, I decide to go to a museum in Graaff-Reinet. The town has a LOT of museums showcasing the illustrious history of the town and the surrounds. After being let down by Sobukwe’s shunting, I was in two minds about visiting any of these museums. The museum was the Old Library Building. In one wing, the Karoo Supergroup is showcased. Around 250 million years ago, just before the Permian extinction, the Karoo was home to a myriad of pre-mammals and pre-dinosaurs. A tremendous amount of fossils have been unearthed in the Karoo (and all over South Africa) showing us how life was eons ago. Evidence of enormous Glassopteris forests (that’s a fern) has also been found and these are responsible for our abundant coal seams in Mpumalanga, Northern Free State and the Waterberg.

The other wing is dedicated to none other than Robert Sobukwe! A brief rundown of his life is told through photographs, pictures and personal belongings. Along with this is a picture of his gravesite in Kroonvale Cemetery and a picture of an ordinary white house in uMsizakhe township. I didn’t go back to see them. I still do believe that this country has so many important monuments that are not properly showcased. The monuments of Bethulie were just as badly marked. I hope one day the people in these municipalities realise what they do have there…

After this tour of the museum, I take a drive north on the N9 to an unmarked white building with a security fence promising death to everyone who happens to breath in and around the vicinity of the property. The Karoo is the new home of another legend – tequila.

Actually, just as Champagne cannot be used when describing the stuff JC Le Roux makes, Tequila is a Mexican trademark so this drink has to be called Agave Spirit. Mexicans do speak Spanish and it’s a much more intimidating sounding language than English of Afrikaans so we don’t want to mess with them. The actual company has been formally liquidated but through the protection schemes offered through liquidation (of which I understand absolutely nothing), the company has been “saved” and is soon to be in production again, albeit smaller. At peak, they were producing thousands of litres. I never did ask why they liquidated when production was so high. I think I rather not know.

The gates promise one a swift and speedy death upon unauthorised entry. After dodging a few landmines and killing the level’s boss, I save the princess who gives me the golden key and I’m greeted by Dennis who has been working for the company for nine years. He’s extremely knowledgeable about the entire process and he gives me a very technical overview of the distillation process and about the Blue Agave plant as well. The plant is pretty nifty in that it lives for seven years, then “shoots” out a stalk with flowers that then pollinates others and then this huge plant just dies.

The tour ends with a tasting. The company make three products:
Agava Silver: normal clear tequila
Agava Gold: oak aged tequila
Agava Premium: oak aged for two years
I have a taste of all three. Yes, I TASTE three shots of tequila – not down them and go WOO! Agava Silver tastes better than Olmeca. Agava Gold tastes amazing akin to a medium-aged whisky with the tequila bite. Agava Premium tastes out of this world. The brewing, distillation and aging process means this is smoother than all but the most mature whiskies. I do believe that one could serve this to whisky drinkers and they would compliment you on the great whisky you have given them. I told this to Dennis. He smiled and gave a knowing look. Deep in his eyes, one could see that the stigma behind non-Mexican brewed tequila has meant that this world-class drink has not been given the recognition it rightfully deserves. I get a bottle. All of these cost less than any of the inferior Mexican brands we get here.

I get back home and wonder. In a single day, I’ve had a chance to experience two South African legends – one in the form of a human and the other in a drink. Neither has been given the respect and honour they deserve. It is sad. I then realise I had three tequilas meaning I should be ready to hit the floor. Good times.

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