THOMAS MTOBI MAPIKELA - INTELLECTUAL SKETCH
In his intellectual and biographical profile of Thomas Mapikela, Z. K. Matthews situates him in a wider historical context of modernity: "Some individuals by reason of their personalities and their activities make such a deep impression on their areas in which they live and work and become so closely identified with the area concerned that it becomes difficult to think of the area without at the same time thinking of the individual and vice versa. Rubusana and East London, Pelem and Queenstown, Plaatje and Kimberley, Xiniwe and King William's Town. These were almost inseperable from one another during the life time of the individuals concerned. The same thing may be said about Mapikela and Bloemfontein. . . . When the African National Congress was established in 1912, he was one of the foundation members and his colleagues did him the honour of appointing him as Speaker of the annual conferences which were usually held in Bloemfontein. He was eminently suitable for this position because he spoke both the Nguni and the Sotho languages fluently, had a good command of English and was a firm but tactful chairman. . . . When the Native representative Council was established in 1937, he stood as a candidate and was elected to represent the urban areas of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. In Council debates he was known for the determination and stubborn manner in which he put forward his point of view" ("Mr. Thomas M. Mapikela---'Map of Africa'", Imvo Zabantsundu, September 2, 1961). This role of Mapikela in facilitating the annual meetings of the ANC in Bloemfontein as well as being the chairman of its proceedings assures him a high and permanent in South African political history. He had in a way prepared himself for this important role by his political and social activities in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, for many years preceding the founding of the ANC. In the early years of the century, probably in 1906, he was a founding member of the Orange River Colony Native Vigilance Association (which later became the Orange River Colony Native Association, and later still became the Orange River Colony Native Congress). The fundamental task of the Orange River Colony Native Congress was to safeguard the political, social and religious welfare of the New Africans in the Orange River Colony, which with the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 became the Orange Free State, one of the four provinces. The Congress undertook this task by meeting and petitioning local authorities. Mapikela was central in organising the Orange River Colony Native Congress in protesting the formation of the Union of South Africa because of its disenfrachisement of the African people as well as ignoring their political will. Given this vast political experience, it is therefore not surprising that Thomas Mtobi Mapikela was selected to be a member of the 1909 William Schreiner delegation, included among others, John Tengo Jabavu, Abdullah Abdurahman, Walter Rubusana, Matt Fredericks, which travelled to London to protest to the British government and British Parliament the racist provisions of the draft of the South African Act, that were tragically and unfortunately included in the South African Union Act a year later, a process which brought political union and integration of the previous two colonies and the other two independent republics. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that Mapikela was one of the central members in the founding of the ANC in 1912 (then until 1925 known as the South African National Native Congress [SANNC]). Mapikela was also included in the 1914 ANC delegation to London led by John Langalibalele Dube, which also included Solomon T. Plaatje, Walter Rubusana, and Saul Msane, protesting the Natives' Land Act of 1914 which in effect confiscated land from Africans by making it law that 70% was reserved for Europeans and only 30% for the Africans who then constituted approximately 80% of the population. In 1919 Mapikela assisted in the drafting of the ANC's constitution. In the 1930s and in the 1940s he was political active in both the ANC and the All African Convention. Without a shadow of a doubt, Thomas Mtobi Mapikela was one of the outstanding stalwarts of the ANC from the moment of its founding in 1912 to his death in 1945, just a few years (in 1949) before the ANC Youth League took over the national organization in order to give it a deeper orientantion towards political modernity.