The gestation period which brought about Somafco in the context of South Africa dates back many decades ago, particularly the 1900’s. Below are but some of the few ‘roots’ that birthed the ‘tree’ that was to be Somafco:

John Langalibalele Dube

Somafco emerged as part of the struggle driven by education through the likes of John Langalibalele Dube, whose formal education began at Inanda and Adams College missionary schools. He later went to America to study at Oberlins College in 1877 and upon his return he became the first known black South African to found a school – the Zulu Christian Industrial School in 1901. The school was effectively a vocational training centre. Amazingly, Dube’s vision was to produce skilled artisans – the very same problem that cripples South Africa today.

His legacy in the education sector continues to live on at Ohlange High School in KwaZulu Natal.

One of Dube’s other notable achievements was his establishment of the iLanga lase Natal newspaper, where he used the publication as a conduit to advocate for equal rights for all South Africans.

Pixley Isaka Ka Seme

Where it not for the brave initiative taken by Pixley Isaka Ka Seme, the leadership and contributions of many others may have been delayed or found a different form. Pixley Isaka Ka Seme is credited with being the foremost founding member of the ANC.

Educated in an American missionary school, like John Langalibalele Dube (brother to his mother), Ka Seme emerged from a humble background and undertook the initiative by proposing an idea whose destiny he probably had never quiet fathomed.

An erudite of note, Ka Seme is credited with having convened other well educated individuals and proposed the formation of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which later became the African National Congress (ANC). When his voice found receptive ears, Ka Seme was elected the first Treasurer General of the ANC and his uncle, John Langalibabele Dube was elected the first President-General of the ANC in absentia.

Sol Plaaitjie

Another erudite and an irrepressible maverick, Sol Plaaitjie is also a product of missionary education. He received his early education at Pniel. At the age of 15, he became a pupil teacher.

He was a distinguished linguist, fluent in various languages to an extent that his career included being a court interpreter. He was also an editor of the newspapers (Tsala ea Becoana and Tsala ea Batho). He is the first known black publisher of a book; Mhudi.

A resourceful individual, Plaatjie managed to visit America and met the likes of Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois. His fetes are recorded in various forms but most importantly, his works remain one of the most interesting endeavours, particularly considering the era in which they where produced, which are still available today.

Plaatjie was a founder member and the first Secretary General of the ANC.

Charlotte Manye Maxeke

The first African woman to attain a degree at Wilberforce University in the USA, Charlotte Manye Maxeke had a great influence in the struggle for a free and non-racial South Africa.

She, like her aforementioned compatriots, was also a beneficiary of missionary education. Upon her return to South Africa, she founded the Wilberforce School in Evaton in the Vaal. The school attracted many aspiring black teachers, some of whom would later become part of the African National Congress and others taught at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College.

Charlotte Maxeke was a woman who went against the odds in a fashion that no man would have. Her achievements cannot be simply attributed to missionary education alone, but more to the power of education as a driving force. Her sheer determination, tenacity and resilience birthed a string of stalwarts and struggle heroines such as Lillian Ngoyi and many others.

Chief Albert Luthuli

Chief Albert Luthuli was greatly influenced by Christianity. He was a respected leader who also honed his leadership skills through presiding over many challenges faced by his community members in Groutville.

Chief Luthuli lived with his uncle Martin Luthuli, who was the elected Chief of the Christian Zulus situated at the Umvoti Mission Reserve. Chief Luthuli completed a teaching course at Edendale and later received a government bursary to complete a teachers’ training course at Adams College, which was headed by Z.K Mathews. After completing his studies, the elders of his clan requested that he become a Chief of the Groutville reserve.

A nobel peace laureate, Chief Luthuli made great contributions to the principles and values of non-racialism. He inspired a great many, particularly his successor, Oliver Tambo.
These individuals (and several others) were gifted and armed with a world-view broadened by their initiatives, and as beneficiaries of missionary and tertiary education, they formed and or strengthened the South African Natives National Congress in and after 1912, to fight for the rights of the increasingly disenfranchised majority populace of South Africa.

These men and women aspired to the highest values of humanity, and the flame which they ignited was later passed on from generation to generation; hence burning racial and gender boundaries.