Mapaila was the main speaker at a dialogue - attended largely by SA Communist Party and ANC youth - celebrating the Rivonia Trial accused at Liliesleaf Farm, Sandton, on Tuesday.
Launching a controversial attack on the late Sobukwe, a revered figure in the fight against white domination, Mapaila said the PAC founder lived a better life on Robben Island and “cannot be forgiven for that”.
“I’ve never said it anywhere else but it’s important that I say it to you now,” he said.
“Sobukwe left the ANC on the basis of its acceptance of white people. But the thing I said I’m going to speak of for the first time is that when our leaders were in Robben Island they were incarcerated.
“They were ill-treated, treated as slaves. They went to a quarry to crush stones every single day because they were being punished,” he said.
He said the house in which Sobukwe was jailed in solitary confinement on Robben Island was proof that he was given special and better treatment.
It is a known and a historic fact that Sobukwe was kept alone in a prison cell because the apartheid regime feared him for his intellectual prowess, but Mapaila believed this was far from the truth.
“The apartheid government decided to treat Robert Sobukwe as the only political prisoner and others as terrorists. That’s why they built him a house,” Mapaila said.
“That’s why, when you go to Robben Island, there’s a (house) there. Others got cells, Sobukwe stayed in a house. He had a freedom. He had a full house. He had a radio,” Mapaila said.
“He was treated as a political prisoner when our leaders were treated as slaves, terrorists and criminals. That is unforgivable, although we don’t deny that he was a revolutionary. I’m saying this not because he was anti-communist, but that is unforgivable.”
Mapaila also addressed the country’s race issue, reminding his audience that the ANC and its alliance partners subscribed to non-racialism.
“South Africa is not just made up of Africans. At the moment we have no less than 11 million white compatriots. You can’t wish them away. They are here. They have a birthright,” he said.
“One thing you can’t take away from somebody is their birthright. They belong here. We can’t see them as other South Africans or other people. They are part and parcel of us.”