Wed, 19 May 2021

  • The late anti-apartheid activist and education specialist Graeme Bloch's family turned down a presidential offer of a state funeral.
  • His brother Lance said they "humbly" turned it down because Graeme's work was never to get recognition for himself.
  • Bloch died on 9 April after a long struggle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

The late anti-apartheid activist and education specialist Graeme Bloch's family turned down a presidential offer of a state funeral for him.

His brother Lance said on Friday they "humbly" turned it down because Bloch's work was never to gain recognition for himself.

Bloch was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and, after a long struggle with the disease which eventually left him bedridden, died at the Constantiaberg Hospital in Cape Town on 9 April.

He leaves his wife, fellow anti-apartheid activist, politician and diplomat Cheryl Carolus, and a large extended family.

Speaking at Friday's hybrid in-church and video-streamed funeral at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, Lance said that among the condolences and tributes that poured in after Graeme's death was an offer from President Cyril Ramaphosa of a 21-gun salute with a state funeral, "... something the family humbly declined as Graeme, a humble servant to the last, fought not for recognition for himself but for others and because it was the right thing to do".

Instead, they opted for a service conducted by representatives of the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Islam, and Judaism - at St George's Cathedral.

WATCH | Struggle activist Graeme Bloch laid to rest

Further detail on this aspect was not immediately available from the presidency.

Bloch said from an early age his brother fought for the marginalised and dispossessed in the, "... jackbooted corridors of power", during apartheid.

He was repeatedly arrested, and beaten up, but it never broke his spirit.

Their family feared that he and Carolus would be killed by the regime before freedom arrived.


He was very upset by the murder of his lawyer and Black Sash activist mother Rosalie and her partner Aubrey Jackson in 2018 - a crime never solved.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga paid tribute to Bloch's "much layered life", from the trenches of the anti-apartheid movement, and his commitment to a better life for all.

"At least he lived to see the fruits of his labour," said Motshekga.

He is indeed one of our national heroes.

Motshekga said Bloch's life included being banned for five years for leading a solidarity march over the 16 June uprising in 1976; becoming a founding member of the detainees support committee, and belonging to the End Conscription Campaign that rejected military conscription under apartheid.

He was also part of the launch of the United Democratic Front in Cape Town, and was arrested and detained several times.

She said Bloch was part of the introduction of the controversial outcomes based education system, but he eventually admitted that it was not suitable for South African conditions at the time.

"What he hated most was the small pace of the implementation reforms. He was offended by maladministration, lethargy and corruption," said Motshekga.

READ | Graeme Bloch: A fighter who stood up against injustice and ignorance

Carolus did not speak publicly at the funeral, but her sisters Bev and Des shared anecdotes of fond moments, and the sadness and distress of his final days when, bed-bound and struggling to breathe, but with his mind still intact, he was rushed to hospital.

ANC stalwarts Trevor Manuel and former "young lion" Henrietta Abrahams were among the pall bearers who also paid tribute to Bloch.

Manuel said Bloch asked him to speak at a University of Cape Town class, and that as a, "... township boy with a huge chip on my shoulder", he was intimidated by the thought of speaking to a class full of people who, "... ate Marx for breakfast".

Bloch helped him prepare and pull it off.

"I think that kind of empowerment belongs with one forever."

During his tribute, former President Kgalema Motlanthe described Bloch as selfless.

ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile gave the folded South African flag to Carolus and the proceedings moved to a private cremation.

Source: News24

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