Nelson Mandela Foundation

Ben And Mary Turok And Madiba © Nelson Mandela Foundation / Matthew Willman

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is saddened by the news that Ben Turok has passed away. The African National Congress struggle stalwart leaves behind a legacy of courage, sacrifice and leadership.

Professor Turok gave great contributions in drafting the Freedom Charter which was adopted at the Congress of the People at Kliptown, Johannesburg, on the 25th and 26th of June 1955. Professor Turok spent fifty years in the struggle against apartheid, from organising the Defiance Campaign where small groups of mostly black people would sit on benches and use trains designated for white people, to making improvised explosive devices in support of the Struggle.

Professor Turok was the only surviving member of the original leadership of the South African Communist Party whose work sought to change South Africa’s politics in resisting apartheid and building a nation thereafter. The South African Communist Party would continue to do its work in collaboration with other political parties and unions.

Ben Turok was arrested in 1962 under the Explosives Act after his fingerprints were found at a post office. Turok was sentenced to three years in prison at the Pretoria Central Prison and placed under house arrest after his release. He later went into exile for over 20 years, partly in Nairobi, Kenya, leaving behind his wife and three children.

Professor Turok held three degrees – in engineering, philosophy and political science – and held a professorship in economics. He was a member of parliament for the African National Congress from 1995 to 2014 and co-chair of the parliamentary committee on ethics and member’s interests. Ben Turok leaves behind his three children, Ivan, Fred and Neil Turok, as well as his wife Mary Turok.