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John Kane-Berman mourned

JOHN Kane-Berman. l BONGANI MBATHA/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

JOHN Kane-Berman. l BONGANI MBATHA/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Published Aug 5, 2022

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Durban — Tributes are pouring in for the former chief executive of the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), John Kane-Berman, who died recently.

He was chief executive of the SAIRR from 1983 until his retirement in 2014.

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Francis Antonie, former director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, said Kane-Berman held the position at the SAIRR as a fierce and vocal defender of liberalism.

Antonie said Kane-Berman’s successes were met with hostile criticism from the right of the political spectrum, and later, from the left.

“It was in those years that his liberalism was shaped and given full expression in his defence of the rule of law and in his commitment to non-racialism.

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“Oxford exposed him to some of the economic thinking which he would put to good use on his return to South Africa when he embarked on a career in journalism, writing for the Financial Mail,” Antonie said.

Kane-Berman was described as a brilliant speaker, and his experience with writing completed his education, said Antonie.

“His years as a journalist, coupled with the publication of four books, equipped him to enter national political and policy debate.”

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Kane-Berman’s arrival at the SAIRR coincided with a period of turmoil.

This was the era of the Tricameral Parliament (with its effective exclusion of Africans from the central political structures of the country), of sanctions and disinvestment campaigns, of the emergence of the UDF as a significant political force, of widespread violence, all leading to the imposition of states of emergency, said Antonie.

Meanwhile, the institute was faced with challenges related to the sanctions and disinvestment campaigns.

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Antonie said these were predicated on the belief that apartheid flourished because of the capitalist system in South Africa. To overthrow apartheid, the argument went, it was necessary to undermine its capitalist system.

Kane-Berman was rooted in Johannesburg, He attended Wits University, where he gained a reputation as an inspired, and inspiring, student leader, eventually becoming SRC president, and chairperson of the National Union of South African Students.

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