Nelson Mandela Foundation

Denis Goldberg & Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela Foundation / Debbie Yazbek

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.

Most of Ntate Goldberg’s life was dedicated to the struggle against apartheid and the building of democracy. He was a member of a generation of leadership which shaped the country’s history in profound ways. In later years he challenged the direction our democracy was taking, initially critiquing the country’s macroeconomic policies and then challenging state capture during the years of cronyism and looting.

We at the Foundation got to know him through his close contact with Madiba and through his participation in our projects. “He was our friend,” Chief Executive Sello Hatang reflects. “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.”

In Long Walk to Freedom Madiba spoke about that humour manifesting during the Rivonia Trial: “There was a good deal of gallows humour among us. Denis Goldberg, the youngest of the accused, had an irrepressible sense of humour and often had us laughing when we should not have been.” It was Ntate Goldberg who responded to the Rivonia life sentence by shouting to his wife in the gallery: “Life! To live!”

He knew how to live. We honour his many contributions, from the work he did in the formation of MK to his many years of incarceration in Pretoria Central Prison, from his deep reflections on transformation in the democratic era to the many philanthropic causes he supported. He will not be forgotten. “During my very last conversation with him in February,” Hatang continues, “he talked passionately about a resilient inequality as the greatest obstacle to transformation and expressed relief that we again have a leadership in South Africa which is up for the challenge.”

We join with many in saying hamba kahle to an outstanding South African.