Thursday, 20 June 2002

Best wishes as Denis returns to South Africa
After 17 years in Britain, Denis Goldberg, is going back to his South Africa homeland - not to retire of course, but to become an advisor to the Minister of Water and Forestry.

Denis has won enormous respect in UNISON and has become a great friend of the union, first working for the ANC in London, then setting up Community HEART - the charity working for health, education and reconstruction training in South Africa.

Born in Cape Town in 1933, he became active in the ANC-led Congress Alliance of South Africa in the 1950's, then becoming a technical officer for the underground armed wing, UmKhonto we Swize (Spear of the Nation).

He was jailed in 1964 at the Rivonia trials and while in prison he and Nelson Mandela were adopted as patrons by the United Democratic Front, an alliance of 700 anti-apartheid groups.

Denis spent 22 years in prison and joined his family in exile in Britain in 1985 on his release.

During those 22 years Denis added to his Civil Engineering degree with degrees in Public Administration, History and Geography and Library Science. Anyone who has had the pleasure to hear Denis speak - or better still, sit down and chat with him - knows that measured, quiet but incisive manner that hushes and sucks in audiences to hang on to his every word.

"I could have listened to him all night", said a UNISON member after a meeting on Palestine in Edinburgh last year.

Perhaps a measure of his commitment and courage was that he spoke at a series of meetings backing the cause of the Palestinians just after September 11, creating a much-needed dignified and thoughtful debate when there was danger of anger and retribution.

At a quiet lunch in Edinburgh several years ago, a colleague asked Denis if he was not concerned that the thousands of books he was collecting for South Africa school libraries were in English and portrayed mainly white children. After explaining that culture was hugely important, but that it was better that children had access to something rather than nothing - as well as needing English to empower themselves, Denis said with that familiar mischievous grin, "I went to a white school and ended up in the Spear of the Nation. School is only part of your socialisation, you know".

Asked whether he was able to keep in touch with old comrades in the new South Africa he recalled that Nelson Mandela once complained Denis had not been in touch. "Have you ever tried phoning the President?", responded Denis.

UNISONScotland wishes Denis all the best for the future.

Community HEART has now moved to Manchester from 31 May with ex Glasgow UNISON activist Isobel McVicar becoming President and International Representative. Contact her at Community H.E.A.R.T. 3-5 St John Street Manchester, M3 4DN 0161 254 7505


No comments:

Post a Comment