Denis Theodore Goldberg, an engineer by training, was born on 11 April 1933 in Cape Town, Cape Province (now Western Cape). He married Esme Bodenstein, who was born in Johannesburg, on 9 April 1954.
Bodenstein was also a political activist. She was subjected to solitary confinement under the 90 Day Detention Law in 1963 after Goldberg had been arrested and had escaped and been recaptured. For her and their children’s safety, she was asked to go into exile in Britain. While Goldberg was in prison, Bodenstein sustained his mother who helped her to bring up their two children, Hilary and David, in exile. Bodenstein passed away in February 2000.
Goldberg was an Executive member of the Congress of Democrats, an organisation allied to the African National Congress (ANC) in the Congress Alliance from the mid-1950s.
During the State of Emergency Goldberg and his mother were detained for four months. After his release he was dismissed from his job for his political activism. In 1963 he was served with a stringent banning order.
Goldberg was tried from June 1963 to October 1964 in the Pretoria Supreme Court along with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and others in the Rivonia Trial. Goldberg was charged under the Sabotage and Suppression of Communism Acts for ‘campaigning to overthrow the Government by violent revolution and for assisting an armed invasion of the country by foreign troops’. The charge sheet contained 193 acts of sabotage allegedly carried out by persons recruited by the accused in their capacity as members of the High Command of uMkhonto we Sizwe.
Goldberg was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Pretoria Local Prison. From the time of his arrest, Goldberg was in jail for a total of 22 years before being released in 1985.
After his release he went into exile in London where he joined his family. In London he resumed his work for the ANC in its London office from 1985 to 1994. He was a spokesperson for the ANC and also represented it at the Anti-Apartheid Committee of the United Nations. A large group of USA organisations presented Goldberg with the Albert Luthuli Peace Prize in recognition of his work against apartheid.
After the first non racial elections in South Africa Goldberg founded the development organisation Community H.E.A.R.T. in London in 1995 to help to improve the living standards of black South Africans. With the support of German friends he established Community H.E.A.R.T. e.V. in Essen in Germany in 1996.
He was involved in the early days of Computer Aid International in London, and became the organisation’s Patron and Ambassador.
Goldberg returned to South Africa in 2002 and was appointed Special Adviser to Ronnie Kasrils, then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, and Kasrils’ successor, Buyelwa Sonjica.
He moved to live in Hout Bay, Cape Town, where he devoted his energy to supporting and establishing initiatives to expose children and youth to opportunities in the broad field of arts and culture.
Denis Goldberg passed away on 29 April 2020.
You can download a selection of the many tributes written at the time of his death here.
You can watch Denis Goldberg’s online memorial here.
“Denis Theodore Goldberg”. South African History Online. Retrieved 21 February 2017.