UCT honours Denis Goldberg

Denis Goldberg will be the recipient of an honorary doctorate at a graduation ceremony at the University of Cape Town on July 12.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) will award an honorary doctorate, DScEng (honoris causa), to anti-apartheid activist and Hout Bay resident, Denis Goldberg, at a graduation ceremony today, Friday July 12.

UCT’s Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said as a UCT alumnus, Mr Goldberg represents the very best of the institution’s values and culture.

“This is in recognition of his courageous and selfless role in the anti-apartheid struggle over decades, which saw him becoming one of the central figures in the liberation of our country. Mr Goldberg is considered a moral beacon for the new South Africa.”

Speaking about his life, Ms Phakeng recalled how he was arrested at Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia in July 1963 and following the Rivonia Trial, was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment in 1964.

“As the only white person convicted, he was isolated from his comrades and imprisoned in Pretoria, while the rest were held on Robben Island.”

During his imprisonment,
Mr Goldberg obtained a degree in public administration (1969), a Bachelor of Arts (1975) and a degree in library science (1981). He was finally released from prison in 1985.

After his release, Mr Goldberg served in the London Mission of the ANC as spokesperson until 1994. He returned to South Africa in 2002 and served as a special adviser to two successive ministers of water affairs.

Ms Phakeng said despite the multiple influential positions Mr Goldberg held in the state and party, he has always retained the ability to be deeply critical of those transgressing what he sees as the core values of the ruling party.

“He has been a fierce critic of state capture by external forces, and of the degrading of the moral stature of the party he joined as a young man – for which he said he was prepared to die.

“Mr Goldberg has made substantial contributions to civil society, most notably by serving as director of the development organisation Community HEART (Health, Education and Reconstruction Training) in London between 1994 and 2002, and now as honorary president.”

Mr Goldberg also received the Isithwalandwe award earlier this year. The award is the ANC’s highest honour, granted to those who have made an outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the liberation struggle.

Mr Goldberg, who has lung cancer, has one more dream – to have an arts and culture centre for the children and youth in Hout Bay where he lives.

“It is a vision that combines the passions of my life: the creation of cohesive, non-racial and non-prejudiced communities, the realisation of young people’s potential and a celebration of creativity and expression.

“Creating a beautiful space for this to happen, where young people, our future, and grown-ups can develop those vital creative and expressive skills will be my lasting contribution to the future of Hout Bay, which has been my home for so long,” he says on the website of the Denis Goldberg Foundation.

Mr Goldberg, who counts Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo among his inspirations “because they were thoughtful, committed leaders who had a great thought, a vision … a vision of freedom from racial oppression by law in the land of their birth … a vision of freedom from want, and respect for the dignity of all people – for without dignity, we are all denied our essential humanity”, will be paid homage to with a special screening of a documentary featuring him, Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes, on Mandela Day, Thursday July 18, from 5pm to 9pm, hosted by UCT’s Development and Alumni Department as part of their Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series.