Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau, who died on Wednesday at the age of 66, has been described as ’a gentle revolutionary’ and ’a fiercely committed activist’. Picture: Picture: John van Diemel
Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau, who died on Wednesday at the age of 66, has been described as ’a gentle revolutionary’ and ’a fiercely committed activist’. Picture: Picture: John van Diemel

’We will carry on your work’: Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau remembered for his tireless devotion

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published Mar 19, 2021

Share this article:

Cape Town - Struggle stalwart Cecyl Esau will be remembered for his tireless devotion to a larger cause, as many mourn his loss.

Esau died of natural causes at his Table View home on Wednesday, aged 66.

“The family is saddened, it came as quite a shock, they are working through that right now,” family spokesperson Tamara Snow said.

“They want to say thank you to everybody who has sent out their support and love and wants to contribute in some way to remember him. They are still working on the arrangements for a memorial service where we will celebrate his life,” she said.

The Worcester-born activist was a former UWC student, committed to the freedom Struggle.

This road took him to the United Democratic Front, the armed Struggle as an Umkhonto we Sizwe member, and Robben Island as a political prisoner.

In 1987, the old UWC male and female hostels (built in the 1960s and 1970s) were renamed Cassinga and Cecil Esau – names retained to this day.

“We mourn with our comrade’s family and will always remember and treasure the memory of his fighting spirit and willingness to sacrifice for his commitment to freedom,” the ANC Western Cape said.

Cleric and former apartheid activist Allan Boesak described Esau as: “That rarest of beings: a gentle revolutionary. A fiercely committed activist, one who understood the demands of the revolution with unremitting clarity, and, therefore, understood what was expected of him. Yet a man who was not so blindly loyal to the Cause that he lost sight of the people: their needs, their fears, their joys, their aspirations, their dreams and their hopes.”

Esau arrived as a BA (Law) student at UWC in 1975.

Despite expulsion in 1977 for a year and lengthy spells in detention that scuppered his LLB studies, he recruited many students to the ANC until he was imprisoned in 1986.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on Robben Island.

Released in 1991, Esau later went to work for the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, while furthering his studies at UWC (BA Honours in Development Studies, 1993; MA, 2007).

“Cecyl helped the university find its place in the great struggle for freedom and justice,” UWC vice-chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius said.

“Rest well, Cecyl. We will carry on your work – and remember your name."”

He is survived by five children, a granddaughter, his sister June Esau and two brothers Alexander and Jacob Esau.

Cape Times

Share this article: