RICHARD VICTOR SELOPE THEMA
Of all the New African intellectuals, Selope Thema was the most adamant about the necessity of the African people participating in the making and creation of modernity. Although in contrast to John Dube, Solomon T. Plaatje, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, D. D. T. Jabavu, Charlotte Manye Maxeke, A. B. Xuma and a few others, Selope Thema had as yet been in the United States by the end of the 1920s, he seems to have had a deeper historical intuition than the others in recognizing the exemplary nature of New Negro modernity for the creation of New African modernity. Although John Dube can be said to have gone further than Selope Thema in this regard, by establishing the instutional forms of African modernity such as the Ilanga lase Natal newspaper and the Ohlange Institute, both of which were modelled on what Booker T. Washington had achieved in United States, Thema was more conscious than Dube of the undertakings of Washington as an ideological system within modernity. Hence, it is not surprising that Selope Thema was uncompomising in his political position that there must be an absolute between tradition and modernity. Whereas most of his intellectual colleagues sought a median position these two historical constructs or cultural processes, he unreservedly championed modernity. Consequently, Selope Thema aptly titled his autobiographical essay "Up From Barbarism", in emulation of Washington's autobiography, Up From Slavery. Selope Thema also appropriated the 'Wizard of Tuskegee's' conservative political philosophy with dire consequences on the ANC in the early 1950s. But in the 1920s as a corespondent and columnist of Umteteli wa Bantu, he was in the forefront of the New African intellectual avant-garde with his riveting intellectual brilliance. In this decade in this newspaper, he wrote many outstanding articles on the progress of the New Negroes within United States modernity, on the importance of education in the realization of modernity, on the fundamental importance of New African intellectuals in actively participating in the making of New African political modernity, etc. In this extraordinary venture, he was accompanied by the other leading correspondent of Umteteli wa Bantu, H. Selby Msimang. In these particular accomplishments, Selope Thema was following on the footsteps of senior colleague in the newspaper, Allan Kirkland Soga. Soga had been championing the same issues two decades earlier in Izwi la Bantu, but not with same unswerviring ideological commitment. R. V. Selope Thema's achievements in this decade had a profound impact on younger New African intellectuals such as H. I. E. Dhlomo, Jordan Kush Ngubane and others. Ngubane in the 1940s as editor of Inkundla ya Bantu, was to take the achievements of R. V. Selope Thema to a higher intellectual level. Ngubane's judgment in the 1940s that Selope Thema's assumption of the editorial responsibilities of the new newspaper in 1932, Bantu World, was the beginning of his tragic and steep intellectual decline, seems to have been confirmed by posterity.