Anti-apartheid activist Goldberg at 80 | Africa | DW | 26.04.2013
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Anti-apartheid activist Goldberg at 80

Anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg is now 80 years old. But for him, the struggle for social justice in South Africa has just begun.

Denis Goldberg's political life ended at the age of 30 when he, along with Nelson Mandela and 15 other freedom fighters, were arrested by South Africa's apartheid regime.

In 1964, he was in the dock at the infamous Rivonia trial. He was convicted on charges of treason and sabotage and spent 22 years in jail. A qualified civil engineer, Goldberg's urge for justice took him to the Communists and to the African National Congress (ANC). He is an idealist, a dreamer, a class fighter and also perhaps a visionary, despite now living in the up market resort of Hout Bay.

 "I do believe that the critique of capitalism, inherent in Marxism and in communism, is as valid today as it ever was," said Goldberg. "I see naked greed all over the world destroying South Africa. In the sense that the poverty amongst the people is getting deeper and not easier."

"And this is no accident, this is a matter of companies und the way they operate. And it doesn't matter if the owners and contractors are blacks or whites."

Four life sentences

Nelson Mandela and Denis Goldberg +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Dennis Goldberg (right) fought the apartheid regime alongside Nelson Mandela

Goldberg 's involvement with the ANC started back in the 1960s, when the organization under Nelson Mandela changed its pacifist doctrine and turned to armed resistance. Goldberg's skills as a civil engineer were welcomed by Umkhonto we Sizwe ('Spear of the Nation'),  the ANC's military wing.

Goldberg became the technical advisor. In 1963 he was arrested and later given four life sentences. Unlike Nelson Mandela, who was jailed on Robben Island, he was imprisoned in a jail for whites in the capital, Pretoria.

Goldberg took advantage of his time in jail to complete three long-distance learning courses. When he was released in 1985, aged 52, he followed his wife Esme into exile in London. He represented the ANC at the United Nations in New York and in 2002, after Esme's death, he went back to South Africa.

A billboard showing that this area is reserved only for whites

An apartheid-era billboard

No career in politics

 Mandela's successor Thabo Mbeki, appointed him as a consultant in the relatively insignificant Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. But Goldberg did not regard this as a setback. "Politics is really a very difficult art. That's why I am not there. My job was to help to bring a political change. It wasn't for my personal gain. May be I am privileged."

Perhaps, he says, he was lucky to have been married twice, to women who took good care of him. "Or maybe I have got a few principles as well." His two wives, resistance fighter Esma Goldberg, whom he saw just twice while in prison, and the East German journalist Edelgard Nkobi-Goldberg, both passed away relatively early.

Throughout his life, Denis Goldberg has remained true to his ideals and is still eager to learn. In 2009 he was awarded the Albert Luthuli medal for his fight against apartheid and in 2011 the German Federal Cross of Merit first class for his contribution to international understanding.

'The ANC will split'

Crowds at the ANC's 100th anniversary celebrations in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. (Photo:Jerome Delay/AP/dapd)

Goldberg believes the ANC will sooner or later break up and a new party will take over

Goldberg is watching contemporary South African politics with concern. He sees  comrades who are enriching themselves under the banner of the liberation movement  and betraying the ideals for which he risked his life.

That disturbs him, Goldberg says. Nevertheless, he strongly believes that the South African revolution is still in its infancy and that the ANC will probably not remain the leading party in the country .

"The ANC cannot continue forever to be a party for everybody and for every social grouping, labor, capital, professionals, land, landless, employed and unemployed. At some point, and I don't know when, I would expect some kind of break to take place."

According to Goldberg's logic, a leftwing movement should emerge to continue the struggle for social justice in South Africa.

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