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Sat Sep 20 22:05:00 SAST 2014

In a time of great wrong, Gerwel put us on right track

The Times Editorial | 29 November, 2012 00:34

The Times Editorial: Aman like Professor Jakes Gerwel would, in any country, be a citizen worth having. But in apartheid South Africa, Gerwel was indeed the right man for the right country.

A leading academic born in the Eastern Cape, Gerwel will always be remembered not only for his contribution to South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle, but also his contribution to the birth of our democratic nation.

During the 1980s, when the apartheid regime was at its most repressive in terms of shutting down popular protest, Gerwel, as a lecturer at and later as rector of the University of the Western Cape, demonstrated his belief in a non-racial South Africa.

He was a source of inspiration to many within the coloured community he came from.

Gerwel was, along with leaders such as Cheryl Carolus, Trevor Manuel and Allan Boesak, the antithesis of the other kind of coloured leaders - those who allowed themselves to be co-opted into the National Party's stooge tricameral parliament in the 1980s. Gerwel showed himself as a man of integrity and honour.

The tributes that have come since the announcement of his death yesterday morning attest to the space he occupied in South Africa.

Writing in this newspaper, Professor Jonathan Jansen and Minister Trevor Manuel tell of Gerwel's importance as an academic and the significance of the day when he declared the University of the Western Cape as "an intellectual home of the left".

At a Marxism conference at UWC in 1990, Gerwel gave the opening address. There, he said: "Oor die toekoms kan ons net met verlange praat." (Roughly translated: "We can only dream about the future.")

This was in relation to a future South Africa with equality, justice and belonging for all South Africans. That future did materialise during Gerwel's lifetime. But it is a pity he will not be around to help shape South Africa's future even further. Amandla.

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