Aberdeenshire UNISON

Denis Goldberg - A life for freedom in South Africa

Book launch 28th April 2010
by Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair

Denis Goldberg
Photo by Brian Purdie

I was privileged recently to be sent by the branch to the Scottish launch of Denis Goldberg's book, "The Mission - a life for freedom in South Africa."

Denis was convicted in 1964 at the same trial as Nelson Mandela and spent 22 years in a South African prison for fighting apartheid.

I had met Denis on two occasions before. He is an inspirational and charismatic man, convinced of the justice of his cause and a key figure in bringing down the evil that was apartheid.

That sureness in the justice of his cause - or the mission as his book calls it - led to a memorable phrase in his speech when talking about his treatment at the hands of the Warders in Pretoria jail.

He said, "It took them years and years and years and years to learn to respect us". But he clearly never doubted that, eventually, they would respect these heroes of the struggle.

Of his book, he says, "I hope you will come to know why I was so deeply involved in the struggle to put an end to apartheid and why I am so engaged in community work where I now live back in my home town in South Africa."

He had planned to call his book, Life! Life is wonderful! His cry when the Judge in his trial sentenced him and seven of his comrades not to be hanged, but to life imprisonment.

However, he told of how he wanted to honour his other comrades like Looksmart Ngudle and Chris Hani, who were murdered for their part in the struggle and who did not live to see freedom.

Denis knows that in South Africa there is still a long way to go and he continues to work within his community, "to try and realise in practice the vision we had that our children shall not be hungry, shall be well-cared for, go to school, have jobs to go to and to be able to laugh a little."

I hope that as a branch we will support him in that vision as much as we can!