Maimane pays tribute to anti-apartheid hero Edelstein
Friday, 16 June, marked 47 years since the Soweto uprising, and 47 years since the tragic death of Dr Melville Edelstein, a Jewish sociologist who was killed in Soweto during the upheaval.
Edelstein’s family were joined by Mmusi Maimane and some of his followers in paying tribute to their dad at his memorial in Soweto.
Janet Goldblatt, one of Edelstein’s daughters, said the memorial, built in 2016, meant a lot to her and her family as it recognised the work her father had done. “When I went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission years ago, I was asked, ‘What would you like as a family?’ So I told the story of my father, and said that I would like for him to be honoured.
“My father went into Soweto every day in spite of huge risks. It wasn’t about wanting to be seen, he wasn’t a political man. He had one agenda, which was to ensure that all children were able to go to school and get an education, and that they were seen and loved, just as any white person was.”
She said she was grateful for Maimane’s willingness to learn about her father and his story.
“[Dr Edelstein] was regrettably in the wrong place at the wrong time, the angry mob didn’t understand who they were attacking, and South Africa was deprived of one of its great heroes, an ordinary man who just did good in the world,” said Maimane. “His memorial stands a block away from the Morris Isaacson High School, the place where the uprising of 1976 began. It was here that young South Africans refused to be taught in Afrikaans and demanded a better future and education for themselves. Of course, Isaacson himself, who endowed the school, was another Jewish South African who provided bursaries and education to black youth at a time when such activities were not popular. As head of the Jewish orphanage, Arcadia, Isaacson understood the importance of education and the need for children to have a safe environment.
“It has been moving for me to meet the Edelstein daughters and hear their pain,” he said. “Their family epitomises the values of the South African Jewish community, which has done so much for South Africa in human rights, job creation, and poverty alleviation. We cannot forget that apartheid had many victims of all races and all faiths. Dr Edelstein is only one example.”