Struggle icon Norman Levy lived a full life - family

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Norman Levy.
Norman Levy.
  • Anti-apartheid activist Norman Levy, 91, has died.
  • Norman, who was an accused in the 1956 Treason Trial along with late former president Nelson Mandela, died in Cape Town on Sunday.
  • His family said he lived a full, "big life".

Anti-apartheid activist Norman Levy has lost his battle against cancer. His family confirmed the 91-year-old had died in Cape Town on Sunday.

His daughter, Jessica Levy, said her father died of lung cancer after being diagnosed eight weeks ago.

"He died peacefully and at home with his family. Up until eight weeks ago, he was busy, still reading, writing and with an enviable sharp intellect," she added.

Norman, along with his twin brother Leon, stood in the dock with late former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and other struggle icons in the 1956 Treason Trial, according to South Africa History Online.

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Born in 1929 in Johannesburg, Norman and Leon were the last born of four children. He became an activist in his teens and joined the Young Communist League before becoming a member of the Communist Party of South Africa.  

In a statement, the SACP mourned his loss.

The party called on "peace-loving South Africans need to unite behind the national imperative of defending our democracy".

The statement said:

To achieve this aim, we also need to work together to radically reduce unemployment, poverty, and inequality, with the working class building and deepening its unity to eliminate economic exploitation, towards fundamental change. The SACP will strengthen its work to that end, including building a widest possible patriotic front and popular left front.

Norman participated in various ANC campaigns against unjust apartheid laws.

He and Joseph were instrumental in establishing Cultural Clubs, which provided an alternative to Bantu education for families who boycotted government schools.  

Norman was one of the accused in the State vs Bram Fischer and Thirteen Others. In April 1965, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Following his release, he faced banning orders prohibiting him from work and meetings as well as participating in politics and social gatherings. 

After that, he and his family went into exile in the UK. 

While in England, he lectured at the now Middlesex University. He held the position of chairperson of the SACP's Committee for the United Kingdom and Europe until he returned to South Africa in 1991.


He served on the influential Presidential Review Commission for the Transformation of the Public Service under appointment by Mandela. Norman was awarded the title of Professor Extraordinary at the School of Government at the University of the Western Cape.

"Our father had a great sense of humour and was always keen to know what his children felt about everything - ranging from politics to how to choose a ripe mango," his children recalled in a statement.

"He loved to gossip over fish and chips, argue over piri-piri chicken, and, in old age, to relax in the afternoon with a scone and jam while he discussed the current news. It was known in the family that he never sneezed once, nor twice, but 30 times, all the while theatrically waving his handkerchief and demanding that all open windows be immediately closed."

Fellow activist Patric Tauriq Mellet described Norman as "a great comrade, friend and mentor".

"He was a real gentleman who taught me so much. It's very sad as one by one this generation of amazing human beings are passing on," he said.

"Norman lived a full life to the end… Norman never changed and he remained a man of the people. Political snobbery was not part of his DNA."

Norman had a deep love for classical music, his children said.

"[Dad] often conducted Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with his eyes shut, hands in the air. We will miss his concerts in the kitchen! He had a very big life, but he never lost his curiosity about our lives, or the lives of his friends, right to the end."

Funeral details will be released by the family at a later stage.

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