Struggle icon Denis Golberg with singer Yvonne Chaka-Chaka at the Hugo Lambrecht auditorium in Parow, where a fundraising concert for the House of Hope was held. Picture: Phando Jikelo/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - Former Rivonia Trial accused and Struggle icon Denis Goldberg is on a mission to become a social cohesion ambassador at the age of 85.

Battling fourth-stage cancer, Goldberg is working against the clock to ensure that his legacy project is implemented in his hometown of Hout Bay, Cape Town while he is still alive to attend the opening.

Goldberg’s vision is to establish an Arts and Culture Education and Training Centre for the disadvantaged children of Hout Bay, many of whom live amid the scourge of drugs and alcohol and have nothing to occupy themselves with over weekends and school holidays.

The Imizamo Yethu township at the entrance to Hout Bay is notorious for drug and child abuse, and has an estimated 70% unemployment rate.

As a long-time resident of Hout Bay, Goldberg has been involved in a number of social upliftment programmes, but has a grand vision of building a House of Hope on the site of the Hout Bay Museum, which the province has already signed off on.

The House of Hope will have an auditorium which will serve as a world-class performance space with acoustics for concerts, as well as a state-of-the-art recording studio, sound-proof studios for dance and music, plus an art gallery and lecture rooms.

“The centre will give the disadvantaged children of Hout Bay an opportunity to learn to play instruments, identify and develop their talents, and, most importantly, it will give them dignity and hope for the future,” Goldberg said from his hilltop house overlooking the glorious Hout Bay harbour.

“People must have hope, and it will be this centre that will bring people together to overcome their divisions, and we will encourage them to speak each other’s languages - be they isiXhosa, Afrikaans or English.”

Goldberg has already been working with a number of NGOs in the Hout Bay area that do after-school work with children and will be able to merge their efforts with the centre.

Goldberg is patron of the Kronendal Academy of Music in Hout Bay, for which he has spent years fundraising. Previously, he set up the Hout Bay Football Club for 100 children, who continue today to spend their leisure time playing soccer on the central field.

None other than South African singing sensation Yvonne Chaka Chaka has thrown her support behind Goldberg’s legacy project, and starred in his recent 85th birthday music concert in Cape Town, which doubled as a fundraiser for the envisioned centre.

Chaka Chaka is so convinced of the merits of such an endeavour that she has offered to perform for free at a concert to be held at the end of the year, which will bring together 1000 South Africans in an extravaganza to raise money for the centre.

When asked why he chose this particular project as his legacy, Goldberg said: “It is nice to have the right to vote, it is nice to theoretically have the right to a job, but our people remain in poverty, and we need to overcome the divisions of apartheid. The whole point about being in power is about people.”

Goldberg remains one of those rare comrades who never sought political power or glory after a life spent in the Struggle - 22 years in prison in Pretoria, to be exact. In 1964, he was tried in the Rivonia Trial alongside Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu.

At the time, he was charged with sabotage and campaigning to overthrow the government through violent revolution. When he was sentenced to imprisonment, he called out to his distraught mother in the courtroom: “It’s life, and life is wonderful!”

Throughout his long and lonely imprisonment, Goldberg’s close friend Hillary Hamburger used to visit him regularly.

She told The Star: “The one thing that really struck me about Denis is that he never wavered in his belief in the reason for him being in prison. He was always totally committed to the correctness of his cause.”

On his release from prison in 1985, Goldberg went to join his wife and children in exile in London, where he later founded a development organisation called HEART to improve the living standards of black South Africans. He also established a branch of HEART in Germany in 1996.

It was following his wife’s passing that Goldberg returned to South Africa in 2002, becoming adviser to Ronnie Kasrils, who was then the minister of water affairs.

Goldberg, who is now in the twilight of his life - once lived in dedication to the cause for freedom and justice in South Africa - is now hoping that South Africans will reflect, on Freedom Day on Friday, on contributing to the type of social cohesion projects that he is establishing.

Perhaps South Africans will take up President Cyril Ramaphosa’s mantra of “Thuma Mina” or “Send Me”, he said.

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