Struggle heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and Oliver Tambo would never have allowed the abuse of the poor that occurs in South Africa today.

This is what veteran journalist Benjamin Pogrund, who spent a quarter of a century reporting on and becoming close with those heroes, believes.


The Robert Sobukwe biographer says he expects a resurgence of interest in the late PAC leader for this very reason.

“His qualities of integrity, honesty, commitment are rather lacking today,” Pogrund said, while on a visit here from Jerusalem.

“What I know from that period is the amazing quality of the leadership of the resistance. What distinguished them was their commitment, their belief in freedom.

“There was no thought of a big job at the end of the day, of a fancy car, of a salary, of a big house. It never even arose.

“These were people committed to freedom and they gave of themselves.”

Pogrund said that is what distinguished the leaders of the freedom struggle from politicians today, for whom personal interests appear to override social justice.

“When I look at the situation today I weep. People have forgotten the lot of the millions down below. That’s an enragement to me when I come to this country. The old guys wouldn’t have allowed it.”

The 82-year-old also came down hard on the state of schooling in SA today, calling it an indictment of what’s going on in the country.

When Pogrund first started his career as a cub reporter at the Rand Daily Mail in the late 1950s, black people were not on the news agenda – except as criminals in court cases or victims in mine accidents.

“‘Mr Van der Merwe and six natives died in a rock fall yesterday’. That was the style,” he said.

With the support and guidance of his editor and later close friend Lawrence Gandar, Pogrund covered ANC meetings, service delivery in Soweto and prison conditions around the country.

“You know, South Africa was a mad place. It was total evil and yet crazy things would happen,” he recalls, chuckling.

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