WATCH: Struggle activist Graeme Bloch remembered as 'one of our national heroes'
Cape Town - Struggle activist and education expert Graeme Bloch was honoured and remembered for his bravery, courage and heroism during his funeral at St George’s Cathedral on Friday.
Graeme, who was battling a neurodegenerative disease, passed away last Friday, with his wife activist Cheryl Carolus by his side.
Bloch played a role in the formation of the End Conscription Campaign, later a member of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and was detained and arrested several times for his involvement in the democratic movement.
He was banned from 1976 to 1981.
A graduate of UCT, where he specialised in economic history, Bloch lectured at UWC for several years, and was a ministerial appointment to the UWC Council between 2003 and 2006.
He was a project manager at the Joint Education Trust and an executive member of the UDF and National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) in the 1980s.
Lance Bloch said that he got to know his brother Graeme a lot better after his social media post announcing Graeme’s death went viral.
He added that President Cyril Ramaphosa had also offered a state funeral for Bloch, which the family declined.
“From an early youth, he began to fight for the poor, marginalised, dispossessed. He was a man of bravery and he would not back down.
“He was a man of great courage, even willing to pay with his life rather than betray his principles or his friends. It is true that our family feared that he and Cheryl would be killed by the (apartheid) regime before freedom rang but still they fought on,” Lance said.
“Graham protected and cared for his younger siblings while at the same time not being afraid for himself. He ventured into spaces that white parents had at the time worn their children against.
"Five years ago, before his 60th birthday, he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). As my sister Erica said ’trust Graeme to get something extremely rare and not just do the ordinary’.“
Lance added: “As time went on, as the name implies, this terrible neurodegenerative disease ravaged his body but leaving his mind still intact. He was forced to inhabit a wheelchair and later was no longer even able to speak.
“How hard it must have been just still have a brilliant mind in a wasting body, but Graeme could still hear and his eyes twinkled when listening and his trademark chuckle at jokes and stories never left him even to the end.”
Video: Henk Kruger/African News Agency
The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said Bloch a humble servant of the people “in the literal sense of the word”.
Motshekga added that Ramaphosa, in his capacity as head of the ANC, also wanted her to pass a message of condolences to the family.
“His life mirrored the fortunes and misfortunes of his times. He dedicated his life to the Struggle till the end. He lived freely, he loved openly, he loved heartily.
“His life was multi-layered – an anti-apartheid activist, an education activist, an education policy analyst, an academic and critic,” Motshekga said.
“Comrade Bloch particularly grew up in the trenches of the anti-apartheid movement. At least he lived to see the fruits of his labour – the post-apartheid South Africa of which he played a part.
“For his activism from a very young age until his demise, he is indeed one of our national heroes, and one of greatest such as the likes of the Sisulus, Tambos, and the Mandelas.”
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Finance minister Trevor Manuel were also among those who paid tribute to Bloch during the funeral service.
“To the bereaved families of Bloch and Carolus, we convey our heartfelt sympathies and we ask that you take solace in the knowledge that we share your pain,” Motlanthe said.