Anti-apartheid activist David Webster remembered as a person who broke boundaries of race, culture

2019-05-01 17:17
Gauteng ANC and Ahmed Kathadra Foundation gathers at the West Park Cemetery in memory of anti-apartheid activist David Webster. (Sesona Ngqakamba, News24)

Gauteng ANC and Ahmed Kathadra Foundation gathers at the West Park Cemetery in memory of anti-apartheid activist David Webster. (Sesona Ngqakamba, News24)

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As May 1 marks 30 years since anti-apartheid activist David Webster was assassinated, he has been remembered as a person who had an ability to break down barriers of race, culture, class and geography. 

Webster was shot dead outside his Troyville home in Johannesburg, which he shared with his former partner Maggie Friedman, on May 1, 1989.

"He had the most amazing ability to engage with people. When you met David, he made you feel as if you were important to him," Friedman said. 

Friedman was speaking during a commemoration held in memory of Webster on Wednesday.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, along with the Gauteng ANC and others, gathered at West Park Cemetery where flowers were laid at Webster's grave. Gauteng ANC deputy chairperson Panyaza Lesufi was among those present, as well as other governing party leaders.

Friedman described the 30 years very difficult for her and Webster's family, especially the first 10 years leading up to his killer's conviction. 

"When Barnard was convicted and went into jail, it became much easier after that and it was an indication that just was so important and to have that sort of justice has given me peace," she said. 

Webster's killer, Ferdinand Barnard, was released from prison in April 2019 after spending almost 21 years in prison.

"I must say that I didn't endorse; I didn’t give permission for it (parole), but I just feel that granting of parole is a process and procedure and I personally don’t think that victims should be involved in the process for a number of reasons," Friedman said.

She added that she did not want to put more effort focusing on the release but was moving on happy that Webster's life was celebrated. 

Flowers were also laid at the house in Troyville.

Barnard was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1998 after he was found guilty of several charges, including murder, attempted murder, defeating the ends of justice and the unlawful possession of firearms.

Friedman said it was hard to believe that 30 years had passed since Webster's killing, noting that a lot had changed in South Africa.

"The point is that in 30 years things have changed and it’s such a great pity that David has not been here to influence the course of events," she said.

She added that the internet had now also changed how people interacted and while it should be for the best, it was, however, driving bitterness and exacerbating racial divisions.

READ: Apartheid-era killer Ferdinand Barnard released on parole

"This is the antithesis of the values that were held by David," said Friedman.

He was also described to be a compassionate person who reached out to the poor.

"He had an ability as an advocate for change, he spent many hours writing press statements, participating in debates and interviews on radio and engaging diplomats," Friedman said.


Speaking on behalf of the ANC in the province at the cemetery and David Webster Park in Troyville, Lesufi said the party continued to reaffirm its commitment to non-racialism. 

He said non-racialism is a process that would heal the country. 

"This gesture today is an indication that we remain on course to protect everyone [and] to support everyone, even those who are insulting us and have the nerve to defend the flag that we know does not represent all of us," Lesufi said. 

Lesufi was referring to a case about the display of the old apartheid-era flag, which is currently before the Equality Court. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is calling for the display of the Apartheid-era flag be declared unlawful.

"The good thing about defending that flag is that it exposes those who want to carry that flag and those who want to go backwards while we want to take this country forward," said Lesufi.

Lesufi said all those who were gathered to remember Webster was a sign of affirmation that non-racialism was the future of South Africa. 

"Those who believe they can do as they wish, they must know that we are watching them and they will never defeat us. On May 8, there is only one movement that can grow South Africa, it's the glorious movement called the ANC," he concluded. 

Webster was an anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand. He was also a senior lecturer at the university when he was assassinated. 

Read more on:    anc  |  politics

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