UNISON Scotland is deeply sad to hear of the death of veteran anti-apartheid campaigner and honorary UNISON member Denis Goldberg at the age of 87.
UNISON Scotland, and indeed Scotland as a whole, had a long friendship with Denis and we were continually inspired by him. He was one of those sentenced in 1964 in South Africa alongside Nelson Mandela for their part in the struggle against apartheid. On his release 22 years later, he continued to work to overcome the apartheid regime.
He visited us often and, in Glasgow at the launch of his book in 2008, he said of Scotland: “after being released from prison, my goodness, it was like being at home, of being enfolded by people wanting to help. Which is why I am here today”.
We were proud to support his charity Community HEART, which has contributed to better access to education, HIV/AIDS projects, supporting those affected by violence against women, health projects, and housing projects. As UNISON member and Community HEART director Izzy McVicar explained: “It was not like so many other charities which decide what is ‘best’ for the recipients; this was an organisation that would be shaped by the recipients”
Latterly we called for support for the Denis Goldberg House of Hope arts and culture education centre where he lived in Hout Bay in South Africa. Denis described this as: “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.”
Denis was widely respected across communities and across the world. I saw first hand on a visit with him in South Africa the power of the emotion and respect he generated in those who had come through the struggle against apartheid.
Few of us will have had the fortune to have met and known such a significant figure in the struggle for equality and justice as Denis Goldberg. We will remember his inspiring presence but also his modesty, humanity and warm friendship.
Our thoughts go out to his family and many friends and comrades across the world.