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Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau granted special provincial funeral — 4 things you need to know about him

25 March 2021 - 13:50 By cebelihle bhengu
Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau died on Wednesday aged 66.
Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau died on Wednesday aged 66.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has granted struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau a special provincial funeral.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde wrote to Ramaphosa on Tuesday after receiving a request from Esau's family.

“The SA Police Service will provide ceremonial elements while the national flag will be half-masted throughout the Western Cape on the day of the funeral,” the presidency said.

Winde welcomed the announcement in a Facebook statement.

“The announcement by the president will ensure that we can aptly honour his memory and his contribution to the Western Cape and SA as a whole,” he said.

Esau died on March 17 aged 66. His funeral will be on Saturday.

Here are four things you should know about the struggle stalwart:

Son of World War 2 veteran

Esau's father influenced his interest in politics, according to SA History. The war veteran regularly discussed current affairs with his children and bought English newspapers to read to them.

By the time he was in standard 5 (grade 7), he had started listening to radio news broadcasts and was attending political gatherings.

In high school, he and a group of friends founded a discussion group that focused on politics.

The first in the family to attend UWC

Esau was the youngest of four children and the first of his siblings to attend the University of the Western Cape. He was a BA (Law) student in 1975.

In 2007 he obtained his BA honours degree and master's degree in 2007 from the same institution.

University expulsion, political leadership and Robben Island

Esau was an influential student leader at UWC. He joined the student uprising of 1976 to expose the injustices by the apartheid government.

He was expelled from the institution for a year in 1977 and continued to recruit students for the ANC.

Almost a decade later he was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1986 until 1991 for his involvement with Umkhonto we Sizwe, according to the Berkley Center.

Preserving history

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) said Esau was an active member in its Reconciliation and Reconstruction Programme, which later became the Sustainable Dialogues Programme post-1994.

“He travelled across the length and breadth of the country to listen to and capture stories of ordinary people's experiences of living under and with the legacy of apartheid.”

The institute said Esau believed listening to others to understand and not judge, is what fostered transformation, not resistance.