Prominent anti-apartheid activist and former MP Prof Ben Turok has passed away, his family has announced.
In a statement released on Monday morning, Turok’s family said he had passed away in the early hours of Monday aged 92.
“He was always outspoken and dedicated his whole life to fighting for freedom, equality and social justice in South Africa,” they said.
‘Loyal, lifetime ANC member’
The family added, “He was a loyal, lifetime member of the [African National Congress] ANC, but retained an independent perspective throughout.
“He asked for his death to marked by a private ceremony, rather than anything official or formal, in view of the present predicament facing the country. His wisdom and counsel will be sorely missed.”
Born in Latvia in 1927, Turok and his family emigrated to South Africa in 1934. He became involved in the anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign in the early 1950s.
In 1955, he presented the economic clause of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People.
Arrest, exile and return to South Africa
Turok’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1956 and he became one of the 155 activists in the Treason Trial. He also joined the South African Communist Party (SACP).
In 1961, he became a founding member of uMkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the ANC’s military wing.
Turok was arrested again in 1962 for sabotage and sentenced to three years in Pretoria Central Prison.
He escaped to exile in 1963 and took part in ANC activities in Tanzania and the United Kingdom before returning to South Africa in 1990.
Turok became an MP in 1995 and served for 20 years before retiring. He held an MA in Political Science from the University of Dar es Salaam and was a prolific writer and editor.
In his final years, he was a prominent columnist for Business Day. He was also the director of the Institute for African Alternatives and editor of New Agenda.