Denis Theodore Goldberg (1933 - )
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Denis Theodore Goldberg
Denis Theodore Goldberg was born in Cape Town in 1933. He grew up in an intellectual family, becoming aware of national as well as international politics at an early age. In the early 1950s, Goldberg joined the Congress of Democrats and the Communist Party underground. His keen sense of justice prompted him early on in life to fight injustices of this country. While a student at the University of Cape Town studying Civil Engineering, Goldberg joined the Modern Youth Society in 1953. He continued to be an activist and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe’s (MK) technical office in the early 1960s. Despite being advised to leave the country, Goldberg stayed and became the weapon-maker for Operation Mayibuye.
In 1963, Goldberg was arrested at the Rivonia Headquarters of MK. He was sentenced in 1964 at the end of the Rivonia Trial to four terms of life imprisonment. He was the only white member of MK to be arrested and sentenced in the Rivonia Trial.
He was sent to a white prison in Pretoria where he managed to study for degrees in Public Administration, History, Geography and Library Science. The isolation he felt can be witnessed through his words when he said: Being black and involved in the struggle meant you had the support of many people and it meant you got to be part of a community. Being white and involved meant being isolated.
In 1985, after 22 years of imprisonment, he was set free and reunited with his family in London where he continued to work for the ANC.Not even 22 years of incarceration discouraged Goldberg from continuing to work for the cause. In London, he resumed his work in the ANC office from 1985 to 1994. Goldberg was the spokesperson for the ANC and also represented it at the Anti-Apartheid Committee of the United Nations. A large group of American organisations presented Goldberg with the Albert Luthuli Prize in recognition of his work against apartheid.
In 1995, after the first democratic election in South Africa, Goldberg founded the development organisation Community HEART (Health Education and Reconstruction Training) to help improve the living standards of black South Africans. In 1996, another branch of HEART opened in Germany with the help and support of German friends. Goldberg was also involved in the early days of Computer Aid International in London where he is still the patron and ambassador.
In 1999 the Glasgow Caledonian University awarded Goldberg an honorary doctorate of law in recognition of his work in building relations between Glasgow Caledonian and universities in South Africa. In 2000 Medunsa (Medical University of Southern Africa) awarded Goldberg an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contribution to the liberation and reconstruction of South Africa, especially for his work in the field of education. He was appointed a trustee of the University of Transkei Foundation and as a member of the Board of Medunsa Trust.
Denis Theodore Goldberg consciously disregarded the comfort of a first-world country, choosing to come back to South Africa and work on providing a better life for all citizens. From 2002 to 2004, Goldberg was the adviser to Ronnie Kasrils who was then the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry.
Goldberg was married to Esme and later to Edelgard Nkobi who have both passed on. Goldberg has a son and a daughter. He resides in Cape Town where he continues to work for the betterment of the people of South Africa.