Monday 3 June 2013

An Evening with Denis Goldberg

In an age when the phrase "modern day hero" is often overused, It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet on Friday night, a man who certainly qualifies as one to many people not only in South Africa but across the world.....Denis Goldberg.

At a fundraiser in the City Chambers for his charity, Community Heart, a packed room listened intently to his recollection of the ANC's struggle to overcome apartheid, and the challenges facing South Africa to transform a society and how this can be a long and slow process.

Denis demonstrated his love of poetry and in particular, Rabbie Burns reciting A Mans a man for a' that (one of my favourites).

The discrimination faced by black South Africans in schooling, medical care and housing was highlighted, as well as the campaign called African claims - a forerunner to the UN Human Rights charter.

Denis thanked those around the world for the support and international pressure, which he believes kept him and other ANC leaders alive during the Rivonia Trail - the 50th anniversary of which is this year.  Denis survived 22 years in jail, which he believes was worth it to see the end of apartheid.

He made a statement which has stuck with me since Friday night - Dreams become reality when you mobilise people.

Although he accepts that South Africa faces many challenges, he correctly in my view articulated the advances that have been made in that 90% of South African children go to school (half didn't under apartheid), that universities are now populated by people who under apartheid were denied the choice, the millions of South Africans who now have access to running water, and the massive house building to accommodate its people.  These are huge advances in the lives of South Africans.

He also spoke about the complexity of transforming a country into a functioning democracy and that this would be a long slow process.

The night would not have been complete of course without highlighting the excellent work undertaken by Community Heart, and his encouragement of children to read and to take up music.

I am delighted that Glasgow City UNISON continues to fund these projects, and that the Scottish Government has provided support.

A very serious man, who reminded us all that the roots of injustice and poverty lie in the unequal distribution of reward for those who labour and those who own - and that struggle is universal and not confined to one country.

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