ANC leader returns to Derry tomorrow for book launch

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A leading member of the African National Congress (ANC) and close ally of Nelson Mandela will visit Derry tomorrow to launch his latest book.

Ronnie Kasrils was a member of the ANC’s leadership for decades and held ministerial posts in the South African government after the end of Apartheid.

He was also a founding member of the ANC’s military wing, MK, and led underground military operations for many years.

He has visited Derry on an number of occasions and has built up close links local groups.

Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ the former South African government minister said he is looking forward to returning to Derry.

“I have been to Derry a number of times and I love the place. I have a great many friends there and I’m hoping to make some more on this visit,” he explained.

Mr Kasrils, a white South African, was converted to the anti-apartheid movement after he witnessed the Sharpville massacre in 1960 when police opened fire on a peaceful protest and killed 69 people. He joined the ANC soon afterwards and a year later he became one of the founding members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) - the military wing of the movement.

His activities led him to be exiled from South Africa for 27 years but he continued to co-ordinate armed attacks from outside the country.

His late wife, Elenor, was also a leading member of the anti-apartheid movement, and Mr Kasrils’ latest book, ‘The Unlikely Secret Agent,’ is about the early stages of the struggle.

“It’s about my late wife, Elenor, who was a member of the ANC and MK. It covers the very eventful period of our lives from 1960 60 1963. Both of us carried out operations, some of them together.

“She was arrested and detained and went through tremendous treatment which eventually saw her going on hunger strike. She eventually managed to escape from custody and went into exile where she continued to work for the struggle,” he said.

The ANC leader said the book is a tribute to his wife’s courage. “She was a remarkable woman. It was a hard period of our lives because Elenor was exiled in London where she co-ordinated cladestine activities and I was busy in other places like Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. She kept the family together while still continuing with her activities.

“She joined me again in South Africa after the ban on the ANC was lifted and I became a minister in the new government. We had 48 years together and I consider myself very fortunate. We were fortunate to have survived through decades of struggle and sacrifice,” he said.

Following the first democratic elections in South Africa, Mr Kasrils became a minister in the ANC government, and he said he believes ex-combatatants have an important role to play in politics.

“When we won the first democratic elections in 1994 that government was full of people who took part in the struggle.

“It is unacceptable that there should be controversy about this in the Six Counties now. It is supposed to be about reconciliation and it is unacceptable there should be protests. Reconciliation occurred in South Africa because people engaged together,” he said.

Mr Kasrils will launch ‘The Unlikely Secret Agent’ and give a talk about his life in the Gasyard Centre tomorrow night at 7.30pm.