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Mr Godfrey Kenneth Beck (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Mr Godfrey Kenneth Beck (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the fight for liberation and equal rights for all South Africans. He bravely pushed back against the system that promoted inequality.
Profile of Mr Godfrey Kenneth Beck

Mr Godfrey Kenneth Beck was born in Bertrams, Johannesburg on 18 October 1925. He was Secretary-General of the Transvaal Textile Workers Union and a 1956 Treason Trialist. As a political activist and leader, he worked tirelessly to isolate the apartheid regime. He re-established the Danish Anti-Apartheid Movement and was the founder of the National Committee South Africa Action.

He was educated at Siemerts Road Coloured School in Johannesburg and went on to study theology at Rehoboth Theological College in Kempton Park. He was later ordained as a Methodist Priest in Newclare in 1950. His theological studies were associated with human rights and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. He served in the Second World War at the age of 15 in Egypt and in India as a horseman.

After military service in 1945, he returned home under oppressive circumstances and became a political activist in areas such as Noordgesig, Albertville, Benoni, Coronationville, Denver, Fordsburg, Kliptown, Krugersdorp, Newclare, Pretoria, Western Native Township, Riverlea, and Riverlea Extension, which he coined ‘Zombie Town’.

Beck joined the African National Congress (ANC) because he was appalled by the brutal and oppressive nature of apartheid. His religious background and good oratorical skills saw him become instrumental in mobilising the coloured communities in and around Johannesburg. In 1954 he established the Transvaal Coloured People’s Progressive in Johannesburg.

The 1952-1956 Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws – led by the ANC, Congress of Democrats, Coloured People’s Organisation, Natal Indian Congress, Federation of South African Women and South African Congress of Trade Unions – developed tactics that would be employed by South Africans and influenced the mass civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Beck was a member of the Congress of Democrats and assisted with the adoption of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown in 1955. Appalled by the plight of black textile workers, he was pivotal in the formation of the Transvaal Textile Workers Union and became its secretary-general in 1961.

After the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, Beck was arrested along with 1 700 other leaders. Subsequent to his release, he was rearrested without being charged for several periods of 90 days in jail. During his various prison incarcerations, Beck sat on different prison committees to demand better human conditions for political prisoners.

In spite of not having been charged with any crime, he was banned and placed under house arrest in April 1967 under the then Suppression of Communism Act that had just been introduced by the then Minister of Justice John Vorster.

He was restricted to Noordgesig in Soweto and his banning orders were renewed from time to time until his death in exile in 1986. Beck was repeatedly detained and harassed by the apartheid government in the long struggle against apartheid, whether at home or abroad.