Professor Denis Goldberg is a fellow Rivonia trialist of Nelson Mandela.
In Nelson Mandela’s book, A Long Walk to Freedom, he quotes Denis Goldberg in the Rivonia Courtroom shouting, “Life, Life to live!” when Justice de Wet sentenced him and his comrades to life imprisonment for treason.
Denis was convicted in 1964 at the same trial as Nelson Mandela and spent 22 years in a South African prison for fighting apartheid.
He has been a very regular visitor to Scotland over the years and at the launch of his book ‘The Mission – A life for freedom in South Africa’ in Glasgow, he said: “When I came here after being released from prison, my goodness, it was like being at home, of being enfolded by people wanting to help.”
After his release from prison and exile in London, he was a spokesperson for the ANC and also represented it at the Anti-Apartheid Committee of the United Nations. He returned to South Africa in 2002 as a government adviser in and is still involved in ongoing work for freedom causes and is patron of the Community HEART charity he set up in the 1990s. He also has a project in the Denis Goldberg Foundation denisgoldberg.org/about-the-foundation/
He exudes a quiet dignified certainty in his cause which led to a memorable quote at the book launch in 2010 about his treatment at the hands of the Warders in Pretoria jail. He said, “It took them years and years and years and years to learn to respect us”. But he clearly never doubted that, eventually, they would respect these heroes of the struggle.
Denis has often said he is not yet free: “I’m free to be free. I’m not free. To be free you have to advance the freedom of others and respect it. We’re not there yet.”
Denis knows that in South Africa there is still a long way to go and he continues to work within his community, “to try and realise in practice the vision we had that our children shall not be hungry, shall be well-cared for, go to school, have jobs to go to and to be able to laugh a little.”
While remaining a passionate political campaigner, Denis now concentrates on using his skills “to bring together – make people’s lives better – to bring dignity” in local projects.
At an STUC event in 2012, he spoke of initiatives like music project that brings races together to feel joy and achievement they would never otherwise have experienced. A ground breaking psychotherapy project for those, especially children, disastrously affected by the trauma of events.
“After all”, said Denis, “it is all about trying to make life better for people. Is that not what the revolution was about?”