‘His was a life well lived in the struggle for freedom in South Africa’
SOUTH African anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg, who died late on Wednesday, had an unflinching commitment to ethical leadership and spoke out for it even in his later years, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
Goldberg, who was tried for treason alongside Nelson Mandela and spent more than two decades in prison, died aged 87, having celebrated his birthday earlier this month. He had battled cancer and heart issues.
“His was a life well lived in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. We will miss him,” his family and foundation said in a statement.
Ramaphosa applauded Goldberg’s lifelong activism in the interest of poor and vulnerable communities, in a country where inequalities created by decades of apartheid rule still persist.
“He dedicated his life to achieving the better life we enjoy today and his revolutionary contribution reinforced the non-racial character of our struggle and of our democratic dispensation,” Ramaphosa said in a statement issued by the Presidency.
Born in Cape Town in 1933 and an engineer by training, Goldberg was an executive member of the Congress of Democrats, an organisation allied to the African National Congress from the mid-1950s.
He was prosecuted from June 1963 to October 1964 along with Mandela, who himself died in December 2013, as well as Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and others in the famous Rivonia trial on charges of campaigning to overthrow the apartheid government.
Goldberg, who was the only white man on trial, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Pretoria. He was in jail for 22 years in total before being released in 1985. He spent several years in exile, working for the ANC in London from 1985 to 1994.
Goldberg returned to democratic South Africa in 2002 and was appointed special adviser to then water affairs and forestry minister Ronnie Kasrils.
The ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, bestowed its highest order, the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe award, on Goldberg in recognition of his contribution to the struggle against the racist system.
On Thursday the party’s Western Cape provincial branch hailed Goldberg as “one of the first bearers of the heavy yoke of freedom, among the heroes and heroines whose freedom could never be separated from that of the people”.
“After 22 years in prison, he gave even more of himself, with even greater vigor and determination to the complete liberation of our people. In the latter years of his life he invested once more his time, energy and money on social projects,” it said.
“He loathed those who were self-serving within our movement, those who left the poor by the wayside, and those who had forgotten the struggle we are still in and had grown lazy and lost their consciousness.”
Goldberg was an outspoken critic of Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma, who was forced to step down as South Africa’s president in 2018 before the end of his second five-year term amid allegations of corruption.
“His commitment to ethical leadership was unflinching and even during his advanced age he formed part of the movement of veterans of the struggle calling for the reassertion of the moral centre of society,” Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
– African News Agency (ANA)