By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) — Trade unionist, anti-apartheid activist and political organizer Norman Levy, survivor of torture and imprisonment in South Africa before spending two decades of exile in Britain, has died in Cape Town, according to relatives. He was 91.
He became an activist in his teens and joined the Young Communist League before becoming a member of the Communist Party of South Africa.
In the 1956 Treason Trial, Norman, along with his twin brother Leon, stood in the dock with former president Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and other struggle icons, according to South Africa History Online.
Levy was president of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (COSATU), a key organizer of the Congress of the People and drafter of the Freedom Charter. He was nicknamed “Tsaba-Tsaba” by Black comrades, after the dance, for his frenetic energy.
A committed party operative, he was a Defiance Campaign organizer and a leader of the African Education Movement. In his memoir, he described shuttling between his day job as a teacher in a well-endowed white school, and his extracurricular work running “Cultural Clubs” to teach the thousands of Black children segregated by the white supremacist Bantu Education Act.
The clubs were political theatres, workshops and classrooms rolled into one, he writes.
After the banning of the liberation movements in 1960, Norman worked full time as an underground party organizer which led to his arrest in July 1964 and subsequent imprisonment. He spent fifty-four days in solitary confinement, much of it in ‘standing interrogation’ of 104 hours.
Pallo Jordan, a minister in Mandela’s first majority-rule government, described him as one of those who threw themselves body and soul into the freedom struggle to strive for a non-racial democratic order rather than betray their basic principles.
Levy’s autobiography, The Final Prize: My Life in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle (2011), describes the tension involved in working underground in banned political organizations.
In 1996 Mandela appointed him deputy chair of the Presidential Review Commission for the Transformation of the Public Service. He moved to Cape Town, where he became professor extraordinary at the school of government at the University of the Western Cape. He later served on an inter-ministerial committee charged with putting secret apartheid-era documents in the public domain.
Norman Levy leaves three children and four grandchildren. Born August 7, 1929; died July 4, 2021. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 July 2021]
Photo: Norman Levy, who died in Cape Town at the age of 91. Credit: Facebook.
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