Heriot-Watt gives accolade to key South Africa apartheid figure

Freedom fighter Denis Goldberg. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Freedom fighter Denis Goldberg. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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A FREEDOM fighter who helped end apartheid in South Africa and was locked up with Nelson Mandela has been honoured by a Capital university.

Politician Denis Goldberg was a key figure in the anti-oppression movement and the only white man to be convicted at the infamous 1963 Rivonia Trial.

Now aged 85 and living in Cape Town, he received an honorary degree from Heriot-Watt University on Thursday at a ceremony in South Africa.

On receiving the accolade, Mr Goldberg said: “Education is important and I thank Heriot-Watt University for the recognition of the work we did in our prisons to prepare ourselves to build a new post-apartheid society for all the people of South Africa, and support people around the world who struggle for social justice.”

As part of the underground military wing of the ANC he was found guilty of armed resistance and sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment.

He would serve 22 years but helped transform South Africa from an apartheid state.

Sat in the dock with future president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mandela, both men were expecting the death penalty.

When the judge handed down a sentence of life imprisonment instead, Mr Goldberg famously called out in joy to his anxious mother: “It’s life, and life is wonderful.”

While in prison he took 
degrees in Public Administration, History, Geography and Library Science.

He also taught himself German in jail, though he would not hear it spoken until many years later.

Mr Goldberg was half way through a law degree, in 1985, when he was released from prison.

He then became an exile in the UK, living in London before spending sometime in Scotland under the auspices of the Society of Civil and Public Servants.

In 2013, Mr Goldberg visited Scotland to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela being awarded the freedom of Glasgow.

Only last year and despite being diagnosed with lung cancer, Mr Goldberg undertook another campaign, to build a centre for the arts in his homeland.

Called House of Hope, the venture was set-up in his hometown of Hout Bay, near Cape Town.

It will have classrooms and offer free lessons to the town’s most disadvantaged children, plus a small performance room and Goldberg’s own collection of South African art.

Now the renowned figure who helped transform South Africa into a democratic society, has been given an Honorary Degree.
Professor Garry Pender, Deputy Principal and Researcher added: “We’re delighted that Denis Goldberg is receiving an Honorary Degree, he has made an outstanding contribution to the people of South Africa.

“There are relatively few people who have made such a mark on history. Fewer did so in the face of such risk. Along with Nelson Mandela, Denis stands out as someone who set aside personal risk for the wider good. He shared and extended his knowledge to all, exactly what Heriot-Watt embraces.”