Statement on behalf of the ANC’s “London Recruits” on the death of anti-apartheid fighter Denis Goldberg.
We London Recruits, enlisted during the struggle by the ANC and SACP to help with clandestine support within South Africa, wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Denis Goldberg, whose personal sacrifice and contribution to the fight against Apartheid was and remains an inspiration for so many. Some of us had the privilege of meeting him a few years ago. His integrity and strength, generosity and kindness – qualities critical in the fight against injustice – had not diminished with the years but had, rather, been enhanced. He was a man of principle and a man of stature. A man also of humour and good will. We salute him. We think of you all – his family, his friends, his comrades and fellow South Africans – with love and sympathy at this time of loss.
Sean Hosey, Alex Moumbaris, Ken Keable, Mary Chamberlain, John Rose, Tom Bell, Katherine Salahi, Pete Smith, Bob Newland, Steve Marsling, Stuart Round, Ramila Patel, Bevis Miller, Will Gee, Norman Lucas, Gordon Hutchins, Mike Milotte, Denis Walshe, Joy Leman, Eddie Adams, Daniel Ahern, Diana Ellis, Peter Sinclair, Cathy Dolphin, George Paizis, Roger Allingham, Bob Allen.
Alex Moumbaris, who spent over seven years in Pretoria prison, escaping with Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee in 1979, adds his own tribute below.
I would like to join my condolences to those of the London Recruits and to all other comrades and friends who have joined their voices around this sad event, to Denis’s family, but also the organizations to which he was affiliated, especially the Communist Party of South Africa and the African National Congress.
I spent nearly six years in a cell not far from his, in the new European section of what was then the Local Prison of Pretoria. Sean Hosey was in the cell next to mine and he has known him just as well.
In our prison existed an Assembly referred to as the “Fig tree” (there was a fig tree until captain Schnepel, in charge of the gaol, decided to cut it down) where decisions ware taken and two representatives elected for taking up current issues. He was often one of them.
In the years I spent there, Bram Fischer was with us until one day he slipped and fell, fracturing the collar of his femur. He was left without treatment for fourteen days. Six months later he died of cancer to the great sorrow of us all.
I have since met Denis at the Fête de l’Humanité and later on at a reception by the South African Embassy in Paris on the occasion of a meeting with the Rivonia trialists, not so long ago. He led an inspiring life.
A tribute to Denis Goldberg by fellow prisoner Sean Hosey.
Plaudits are rightly flowing for Denis Goldberg in South Africa and throughout the world.
I had the honour of sharing a cell block with Denis for five years, 1973-78, in the Pretoria Central Political Prison. White political prisoners only, black ones were on Robben Island, as befitted the madness of Apartheid.
Many people have recollected Denis’s outstanding bravery and courage before and after his 22 years in prison. I only spent a small proportion of this time as a fellow prisoner with him, but I want to testify that his bravery and courage did not stop at the prison gates.
He demonstrated it on many occasions, in an environment which was hostile, punitive, and dangerous.
I would like to share with you three such examples. They demonstrate his guts, tenacity, and kindness.
1. NEWS FOR POLITICAL PRISONERS
One of the cruellest apartheid prison policies was to deprive prisoners of all current news. No newspapers, news magazines, radio, or any source of current news. Family letters and visits were heavily censored, and not infrequently stopped. Prisoners had to cope with this for many years, with lasting psychological damage, which even now is not fully understood.
For a period of about 18 months, 1976-77, Dennis masterminded a campaign to get this information into the public domain and to try to launch a legal challenge in the South African courts. He battled relentlessly to brief a lawyer on the matter, despite harassment, delaying tactics, and threats from the prison authorities. For a variety of reasons, it didn’t get to court, but it did lead to a considerable easement in news deprivation from about 1978. Many ‘politicals’ would be thankful for that.
2. BRAM FISCHER
Denis and Bram had adjacent cells in Pretoria Central. Bram developed cancer during 1974. Eventually, he was given treatment, which apparently included radiation therapy. On a number of occasions, he was brought back to his cell in a dazed and confused state and left to his own devices under lock and key, with heavy consequences for his wellbeing.
Denis vociferously and consistently raised this with the senior prison officers and complained about Bram’s treatment. After weeks and months of this, Denis was allowed to help Bram overnight, after these treatments, which I know was a comfort to him. Although the vicious regime kept Bram in that cell until days before his death, I believe that Denis’s actions, in the face of threats to himself, helped Bram in his last days.
3. DENIS’S RABBI
Though not a religious man, Denis did, whilst in prison, see a Rabbi about half a dozen times a year. He told me he enjoyed the philosophical debate. However, a bonus to the visits was one of the rare treats that was permitted us – the annual ‘Passover Parcel’.
This was a food hamper of appropriate Passover foodstuffs, all of it a delightful delicacy compared to our prison diet.
Excitement would build for weeks with anticipation, because Denis shared everything the Rabbi brought with the rest of us. I never suggested to him that his ‘philosophical debates’ might have had an ulterior motive!
But that was Denis, generous and always supportive of his comrades.
There are, and no doubt will be, many physical memorials in South Africa to Denis and other comrades of his generation, who gave so much to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
However, from my knowledge of Denis, I believe that he would feel his, and their, memories would be better cherished by the present and future South Africa honouring and implementing the ideas and principles that they fervently believed in and fought for.
Dear comrade Denis, I salute you.
Sean Hosey, 01/05/2020
The London Recruits are a group of people of British and other nationalities, but not South Africans, who were recruited, mainly in the London area, from 1967 onwards, to go into South Africa or its neighbouring states to help Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. Their story is told in the book, London Recruits – the secret war against apartheid edited by Ken Keable. Their story is the subject of a film to be released this year. Most acted under the command of Ronnie Kasrils. Sean Hosey, Alex Moumbaris and Marie-José Moumbaris were arrested and tortured by the apartheid regime. Alex Moumbaris escaped from Pretoria Prison in 1979 along with Tim Jenkin and Stephen Lee.
Contact: Ken Keable 01935 823121 or 07896864925 or +441935823121 or +447896864925