Note: This editorial was originally published on the weekend of May 3, when Denis Goldberg passed on.
On Tuesday evening (July 21) the last remaining member of the Rivonia Trialists, Andrew Mlangeni, passed away.
Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba, Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein, Bob Hepple, Andrew Mlangeni, Arthur Goldreich, Harold Wolpe and Elias Motsoaledi.
If ever there was a roll call of titans, this is it.
These men are known as the Rivonia Trialists – that group of revolutionaries who represent the cream of South Africa’s noble freedom crusade. They were not the only ones.
Alongside them were many other women and men who showed equal bravery and selflessness in the face of a brutal enemy that would stop at nothing to promote and uphold an evil system.
The generation to which the Rivonia Trialists belonged was itself the product of earlier generations of selfless and visionary leaders.
In turn, the Rivonia Trialists’ generation spawned others who carried the torch until South Africa became a free republic.
They have been leaving this earth one by one, each departure cutting a deep hole in our collective heart.
Another left us this week.
Goldberg, who, as the only white trialist convicted, had to serve his life sentence in a separate prison from the rest of his comrades – the bizarre trait of apartheid – lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday.
In his final years, Goldberg, like the remaining Rivonia Trialists, had become pained about the rot that had set in in the ANC and with the pernicious influence the party was having on the country.
He, Mlangeni and Kathrada became the loud conscience of a party that had lost its way.
This nation is blessed to have been gifted such incredible leadership.
We are lucky they were around long enough to tell us we were going off-track.
Let us honour them by listening to their voices.
Let us honour Mlangeni, the last of those greats, by striving to be better.
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