'He was my hero' - wife of Cape Town human rights lawyer

2017-03-16 18:26
Peter Williams.

Peter Williams.

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Cape Town - Peter Williams had not yet reached the age of 30 when he started writing his memoirs. His wife, Annastasia, would transcribe his words on a vintage typewriter, setting in motion his dream of telling his story as a student activist and attorney representing victims at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

After Williams died on Wednesday, one year shy of his 50th birthday, Annastasia decided she would finish his biography in memory of his life, which he committed to the defence of human rights.

"Life got in the way," she said in her Pinelands home, days after her husband lost his battle with colon cancer.

"We started his book, but never finished it. But I will be the one who does it for him."

The struggle stalwart often did pro bono work for victims of human rights violations and was highly respected in legal circles for helping those who could not afford representation.

He grew up in Kewtown, Athlone, and was one of the founding members of the Athlone Students Action Committee, which acted as a co-ordinating structure for schools during the 1985 student boycotts.

He helped start the Kewtown branch of the Cape Youth Congress and later the South African Youth Congress in the Western Cape.

'He was my hero'

He studied law at the University of the Western Cape and, with George Bizos, represented the victims of the 1989 Athlone Early Learning Centre bombing at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He started his career at the offices of the late judge Essa Moosa, himself a former human rights lawyer.

Among his cases was a racist attack on Gloria Kente, who was awarded R50 000 in damages from her employer’s boyfriend who called her the k-word and spat on her in 2013.

Annastasia, 47, said her "awesome, amazing and hardworking" husband was always up for a challenge when it came to legal matters.

"He never gave up. He was my hero," she said, blinking back tears.

"He would go the extra mile for anyone and everyone. He would fight to the bitter end."

Following a long cancer battle, doctors last month told her there was nothing more they could do for him.

Mikhail Williams, 14, Faiez Jacobs, Nicole Williams,8, Annastasia Williams, Lynne Brown and Mcebisi Skwatsha. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

"My kids just gave a sigh of relief that their dad is no longer suffering. They loved him very much and we didn’t want for him to suffer as much as he did," she said.

"We were prepared. We can just thank God He took him out of that. I know where my husband is - on the right side of Jesus."

'My friend, lawyer and comrade'

On Thursday, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha and ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs visited the Williams’ home.

Brown described Williams as tenacious, resilient and determined.

"He represented exactly what we are supposed to be. He was a caring person who wanted to build a caring society. In the ANC, Peter joins a long list of people we are very proud of."

Skwatsha said he would always remember Williams as a jeans-clad lawyer, representing Kewtown youth.

"Peter was my friend, lawyer and comrade. He was everything."

It had been 20 years and three children since Williams first attempted to write his book. Annastasia said she would work through her loss by going through his study to piece together the story of her husband’s life.

"I want to take this further. It was his dream [to publish his story] and he would appreciate that."

Annastasia Williams with ANC WC secretary Faiez Jacobs. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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