Brian Bunting (1920 - 2008)
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Profile of Brian Bunting
Brian Bunting was born in Johannesburg in 1920. His sharp mind saw him matriculate at the age of 15 at Jeppe High School. He enrolled at Wits University for a Bachelor of Arts degree where his leadership qualities soon surfaced. He ran a campus newspaper called Wu’s Views and a literary magazine, Umpa. He was also elected president of the Wits Student Representative Council.
His love of the written word led him to sub-editing at the now defunct Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. He juggled his writing career while completing his BA honours degree. In 1940, at the age of 20, having observed the inequalities and injustices of the apartheid regime, Bunting joined the South African Communist Party (SACP). In 1942, he joined the army and served in North Africa and Italy as an information officer.
Upon his return, Bunting began to serve as assistant national secretary to the Springbok Legion and he edited its monthly newspaper Fighting Talk. In 1946, he was elected to the Johannesburg District Committee of the SACP, and later served on the party’s central committee.
In the same year, the SACP asked Bunting to go to Cape Town to assist the editor of the Guardian newspaper. He left for Cape Town on the day he married his wife, Sonia Isaacman. He became the assistant editor of the Guardian. Six years later, Bunting became a Natives’ Representative in the House of Assembly for the Western Cape district. He succeeded Sam Kahn and, like Kahn, he was expelled from Parliament because of his SACP membership. He was one of a small group of party members who, in 1953, reconstituted the party underground.
His work in journalism continued until he became the chief editor of the Guardian. He was also involved in editing publications such as Advance, Clarion, Peoples’ World and New Age, which were published in Cape Town. Bunting courageously faced banning orders from 1952. He was detained in 1960 and placed under house-arrest in 1962. The system increased pressure on him by prohibiting him from publishing – at the time Bunting was a writer for the newspaper the Spark.
Bunting had no option but to relocate to London in the second half of 1963. However, relocation did not stop him from active involvement in the struggle. He met other comrades and worked with Dr Yusuf Dadoo in London. In the 1980s, Bunting edited the African Communist. Bunting returned to South Africa in 1991 and in 1994, was elected to Parliament.
His courageous stand against unjust laws did not go unnoticed. Various organisations honoured Bunting for his contribution through journalism and other means. In 1960, Bunting received an award from the International Organisation of Journalists and he also received the Lenin Centenary Medal in 1970. In 2003, he received an award from the newspaper Satyagraha for his contribution to the liberation struggle. At the 10th congress of the SACP held in 1998 he and Billy Nair were the first recipients of the Moses Kotane Award.
Brian Bunting could have chosen to write within the restrictive laws of the land and remain comfortable in his trade. Instead, he chose the hard, long road by engaging and fighting the system. He served on the central committee of the SACP for more than 50 years.
Bunting passed away in Cape Town on 18 June 2008. His wife, Sonia, had died in 2001 and he is survived by three children Stephen, Peter and Margie. He contributed his energy, intellect and leadership skills in devoted service to the cause of South African freedom for more than 70 years. He was prepared to face risk, restrictions, imprisonment and exile for the sake of his beliefs.
Brian Bunting was an outstanding journalist and leader of the SACP, an African National Congress parliamentarian and a mentor to many.