Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

23 June 2014

South Africa: 'So Help Me, Oliver Tambo' - a Tribute to the Life of Michael Coetzee

analysis

At the Memorial Service for Michael Coetzee held in St Georges Cathedral on Wednesday, the heartfelt tributes delivered by every political party made it clear that, as Secretary to Parliament, he played a pivotal role in building this institution of democracy. Less widely understood, however, is just how important a role he played in bringing about that democracy - nor why he inspired the love and loyalty of such a cross-section of activists.

Michael was a remarkable political organiser, strategist and tactician. In the battle of wits that underpinned the struggle against Apartheid, he was in his element. While he never sought the limelight or took on a high public profile, he played a direct and influential role in building the mass democratic movement in South Africa - and in the outcome of many of the political debates that informed its direction.

Michael was involved in a range of catalytic developments in the struggle. He contributed to the ferment of grassroots organisations that took place in the Western Cape in the early 1980's, to building the United Democratic Front in the Eastern Cape, to strengthening the ANC underground, to building national networks inside the country, and to...

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