Anti-apartheid veteran Paul David dies

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Paul David (Supplied)
Paul David (Supplied)
  • Devdas Paul David, an anti-apartheid activist, died on Thursday.
  • David suffered from pre-existing medical conditions, which lead to his ailing health. 
  • A memorial is being planned for Sunday, via Zoom.  

Anti-apartheid veteran Devdas Paul David died on Thursday, a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

David was an active member of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) as well as the United Democratic Front (UDF) in his days as an activist during apartheid.

READ | Attorney Paul David commemorates 50 years

Speaking to News24, a close friend, Yousaf Vawda, explained that David had been suffering from pre-existing medical conditions, which saw his health decline.

According to Vawda, David lead a life dedicated to civic and political activism.

David was an activist in his university days, during the 1960s, and served on the SRC of the University of Natal with Steve Biko and other acclaimed leaders.

Paul David pictured with Steve Biko and other anti
Paul David pictured with Steve Biko and other anti-apartheid veterans who served on the SRC in 1966/7.

He went on to serve on the executive of the NIC in the 1970s and 1980s, and was chairperson of the Release Mandela Campaign.

David was also part of the British Consulate Six - a group of wanted men who occupied the British Consulate in Durban in 1984 - who had asked for shelter from the apartheid police. 

Archie Gumede, Mewa Ramgobin, George Sewpersahd, MJ Naidoo, Billy Nair and David's stay in the British Consulate would last four months, attracting worldwide attention.

When the day came to walk out, they were immediately arrested and charged with treason - except for Nair. 

Video footage captures the moment when Gumede, Nair and David left the consulate and were immediately confronted by apartheid police. 

David also played a role in the launch of the UDF.

He was also an athlete, representing KwaZulu-Natal in various sports, according to Vawda.

"He came from a family, which has been quite highly politicised.

"His father was a school principal and, from what we understand, quite a disciplinarian. Many of the members of his family became quite engaged in politics… Paul (David) naturally followed in that path," Vawda said.

"He became active in student politics, he became a member of the NIC from the earliest days and then in the real repressive period – in the 70s and 80s – when most of the organisations had been banned, Paul was one of the people who stood out."

Vawda explained his activities in the NIC and the Release Mandela Campaign came at a time when the NIC was the only political organisation which was allowed to operate legally.

"Paul had a great personality in terms of winning over people and his style as an organiser and a speaker was very engaging… The way he chaired meetings, the way he got people to participate in discussions," Vawda remembered.

"When the UDF was launched, Paul was very much involved in that as well, and continued to be active until the time of the elections and, thereafter, he did not take any formal positions in the ANC, although he was a member.

"For a while, he was a councillor in the Stanger area. To the end, he continued to practice law in a very, sort of, scaled down way because of his health issues, and he then lived in Stanger with his daughter, Lisa," Vawda said.

David will have a private cremation, as per his wishes, and a memorial service, via Zoom, is being planned for Sunday.

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