“Your loving husband, Mangi”

Lie on Your WoundsFrom 1960-1969, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, inspirational political leader and first President of the Pan-Africanist Congress, was imprisoned for his opposition to South African apartheid. In that time, the many letters he wrote to friends and family included touching messages of love to his wife Veronica. Below are excerpts from these beautiful love letters, featured in the collection Lie on Your Wounds: The prison correspondence of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe from Wits University Press.

Robert Sobukwe,
Robben Island,
to Veronica Sobukwe,
22 May 1963 (Bc3)

Darling,

I thought I would wait until I received one from you, informing me about your journey back. But I remembered that your hands are full and so is your heart.

I am still well though a bit lonely. I have derived great comfort and strength from Dr Peale’s book as well as from your visit. Your courage is magnificent, Little Woman. I thank God for a number of things and one of them, an important one for our earthly lives, is that he gave me you for a wife. I mean it. In one of his books, Robert Louis Stevenson writes of his wife that “She was as true to me as truest steel.” That is what I would say about you, too. Keep your chin up, Little Girl, and cling fast to your faith.

Your loving husband,
Mangi


Robert Sobukwe
to Veronica Sobukwe,
29 July 1963 (Bc5)

My darling Mrs Sobukwe,

We’ve been having particularly cold weather this week with overcast, lowering skies, winds that howl like banshees and a tumultuous, obstreperous sea – altogether a picture which should be depressing but one that never fails to touch a chord in my heart.

It is said that our feelings are coloured, if not determined, by the state of the weather. To me, cold and rain have always been associated with a warm fire place and love and laughter. No wonder, therefore, that you have been particularly in my mind this week. And on Tuesday I celebrated your birthday with thanks and gratitude. I shall celebrate Mili’s tomorrow in the same way. I am sorry I could not in person give you a birthday present that will in a very small way convey my esteem for you two girls and my gratitude for your love. I do hope my letter arrived in time to wish you a Happy Birthday.

I received a letter from Fabian last week. He was in great form. I have been harangueing him on the Basutoland elections and the part played by the Roman Catholic Church to ensure the victory of Chief Leabua. I told him a bit about Alice and how I met a certain lady during a [illegible] in 1949. I didn’t tell him, of course, that one evening in the sitting room at Mary Balmer I didn’t hear a word of what my companion was saying because I was listening to a voice behind me! I don’t think they should know that a little skinny girl shook my heart so.

Your loving husband,
Mangi


Robert Sobukwe
to Veronica Sobukwe,
13 November 1964 (Bc21)

Hullo Darling,

We’ve been having married men’s weather for the last three days or so – cloudy with intermittent showers and drizzle. I know I used to be impatient to get home on days like that knowing that we had a fine excuse for remaining in-doors.

Your loving husband,
Mangi

P.S. I love you VERY MUCH. Remember that always. RMS

Featured image: Veronica and Robert Sobukwe, soon after his release from Robben Island. Credit: Ralph Ndawo / Circa 1960’s / Rand Daily Mail / Avusa