By Buhle Andisiwe Made
Makhanda resident Phumelelo Alcott Blow, an active fighter against the Apartheid regime, was recently awarded an honorary doctorate in Community Development by the Dublin-based Ballsbridge University for his efforts during the liberation movement.
Blow was an active member of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) from the age of 23. Today 86 years old, Blow told Grocott’s Mail he joined the PAC because of his admiration for its founder and first leader Robert Sobukwe – a political revolutionary and freedom fighter who spent nine years in prison in Witbank, Pretoria, Robben Island and a further nine years under house arrest.
Blow felt that the deteriorating state of his country was unbearable and therefore chose to protest against the apartheid government. He said that the white government mistreated them as people of colour during Apartheid and he felt led by the ideals and notions of Robert Sobukwe.
While protesting against apartheid in 1963, Blow was arrested and later jailed for three years on Robben Island after being convicted of sabotage. Being on Robben Island was uncomfortable and challenging, mainly because he was such a young lad at the time of his arrest, he said.
With the Afrikaans phrase, “Tronk toe maak!” uttered by the apartheid police stuck on repeat in Blow’s mind, he continued to utter the words repeatedly throughout our interview as though he were stuck in a loop.
At the time of his arrest, Blow was married to his late wife, Nomendi Ellen Blow neé Mgqwethi,
whom he left in Makhanda during his incarceration. He tells us that she was rather unimpressed
with him being jailed but understood the cause. Blow adds that although he was
detained, his political involvement left him feeling appeased. “Ndiziva ndikhululekile!”, he says, indicating that he bears no malice over his past experiences.
Blow said he was elated by the degree that was conferred on him. Blow now lives a simple life with his two remaining daughters and toddler grandson in his house in KwaThatha, Makhanda. Most days, he socialises with his neighbours and rests outsides to catch the sun’s rays.