denis goldberg died
Denis Goldberg passed away on Wednesday night. Photo: FB/Denis Goldberg

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has conveyed his condolences following the passing of Rivonia trialist and Esteemed Member of the Order of Luthuli, Denis Theodore Goldberg.

“My thoughts are with Denis Goldberg’s family and his comrades around the country and around the world. This is a sad moment for our nation and a moment for all of us to appreciate Denis Goldberg’s brave dedication to our struggle and his lifelong activism in the interest of – and in the physical presence of – poor and vulnerable communities around our country,” said the President. (Watch video below.)

Goldberg passed away on 29 April at the age of 87. He lived in Hout Bay, Cape Town.

In his tribute, President Ramaphosa said Goldberg’s first experience of prison was alongside his mother, who had been detained for four months.


“Such experiences failed to intimidate him. Instead, it fuelled his determination that the liberation movement should use all strategies at its disposal, including armed resistance, to end apartheid.

“His commitment to ethical leadership was unflinching and even during his advanced age, he formed part of the movement of veterans of the struggle calling for the reassertion of the moral center of society. He dedicated his life to achieving the better life we enjoy today and his revolutionary contribution reinforced the non-racial character of our struggle and of our democratic dispensation.”

Goldberg received a National Order for his commitment to the struggle against apartheid and service to the people of South Africa.

Upon receiving news of Mr Goldberg’s passing, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCC) observed a moment’s silence in honour of this special patriot.

The life and times of a revolutionary

Born in Cape Town in 1933, Goldberg grew up in an intellectual family and became acutely aware of national, as well as international politics at an early age.

In the early 1950s, Goldberg joined the Congress of Democrats and the Communist Party underground.

His keen sense of justice prompted him early on in life to fight injustices of this country.

In 1963, Goldberg was arrested at the Rivonia Headquarters of uMkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.

He was sentenced in 1964, at the end of the Rivonia trial, to four terms of life imprisonment. He was the only white member of MK to be arrested and sentenced in the Rivonia Trial.

In 1985, after 22 years of imprisonment, he was set free and reunited with his family in London, where he continued to work for the ANC.

“We will hold him in our thoughts and prayers as we say farewell at a time when we are not allowed to gather in numbers to say our goodbyes. May his soul rest in peace,” said President Ramaphosa.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation also expressed sadness at Goldberg’s passing.

“We have been deeply saddened to hear that Denis Goldberg has passed away and send condolences to his family, friends and comrades. South Africa has lost another true patriot, someone who was a friend of Nelson Mandela and a stalwart of struggle,” it said.

The foundation said most of Goldberg’s life was dedicated to the struggle against apartheid and the building of democracy.

“He was our friend. Always supportive, right to the end. We were delighted he was able to attend our events marking the 30th anniversary of Madiba’s release from prison. And always a constructive critic of our work, with insight and that characteristic naughty sense of humour,” said the foundation’s Chief Executive Sello Hatang. – SAnews.gov.za

Refiloe Nt’sekhe – DA National Spokesperson – said the DA was “saddened” and sent condolences to Goldberg’s family and loved ones.

“From a young age, Goldberg was active in politics and was dedicated to the struggle to obtain freedom for all in a free and democratic South Africa.

“Goldberg was among the 16 activists and freedom fighters who formed part of the Rivonia Trial and spent 22 years in jail. After his release, he continued to support the struggle against apartheid from London where he was exiled with his family.

“After the first democratic elections in 1994, Goldberg found the development organisation Community H.E.A.R.T. to improve the lives of South Africans.

“Whether it was during apartheid or in democratic South Africa, Goldberg never shied away from speaking truth to power, even if it would have been easier for him to look away.”

WATCH President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Tribute to Denis Goldberg: